How some agencies and parastatals imposed unjustified charges and caused Nigerians to pay more for petroleum products has been exposed by the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on the Review of the Pump Price of Petrol.
At a special public hearing on Monday in Abuja, the Lower Chamber identified the offenders as the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Petroleum Products Prices Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration Safety Agency (NIMASA).
The lawmakers noted that the three organisations collectively imposed the sum of 136kobo per litre of petrol as administrative charges on Nigerians thereby compelling them to pay more for the product.
According to the lawmakers, while the NPA collects 84 kobo per litre, PPPRA charges 30 kobo while NIMASA imposed an unjustified 22 kobo per litre. All these avoidable charges, the House lamented are transferred to Nigerians.
The committee headed by Hon. Raphael Nnanna Igbokwe, during the first leg of a two-day public hearing held in Abuja, said that the NPA is not doing enough to justify the 84 kobo/litre it collects from fuel importers.
He said that the NPA would have justified the amount it collects if the seas were dredged and vessels do not have to endure ship-to- ship discharging of products which adds to the costs of products and loss of revenue for the Federal Government.
Igbokwe declared that the Acting General Manager of the NPA, Mr. Ephraim Okoro, lacked the capacity to answer all the prodding questions of the committee and insisted that the Managing Director must be at today’s (Tuesday) session to answer relevant questions on the issue.
The lawmakers established that the 30 kobo built into the template by the PPPRA as “administrative charge” was needless because the National Assembly always approves a separate budget for the same purpose.
Igbokwe tendered a copy of the 2016 Budget as evidence, where the sum of N1.3 billion was approved for PPPRA to cover the cost of hiring six cargo inspectors.
“In the 2017 Budget, which is before us, the PPPRA has a proposal of another N500 million for regulation, monitoring and supply of petrol. These budgetary provisions have taken care of the purpose for which you charge 30 kobo on the template, yet Nigerians continue to bear the burden by paying N145 per litre,” Igbokwe lamented.
He said that though the increase was said to eliminate the payment of subsidy by the government and the attendant fraud, there must be justification for the N145 being charged and if Nigerians are getting value from the agencies who earned income from the price template of petrol.
On the part of the PPPRA, which was represented by its Executive Secretary, Victor Shidok, the agency told the committee that the 30 kobo administrative charge on petrol is for services like data capturing and monitoring by officials deployed in the depots across the country.
The committee however insisted that the agency must present its list of inspectors engaged from 2012 till date, amounts paid, copies of agreements entered into with them and proof of payment.
The agency is also to provide proof of total amount received as administrative charges from 2012 till date.
The Executive Secretary, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Mr. Obafemi Olawore, said the fact that importers pay NIMASA and the NPA in dollar puts more pressure on the Naira.
He said though the NPA’s 84 kobo/litre and NIMASA’s 22 kobo/litre Harbour and Wharfage charges are statutory, they are high.
According to him, NPA’s port charges “are the highest in the West African sub-region.” He also complained over multiple levies by agencies and even some state governments, and pleaded with the committee to intervene.
The President, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Igwe Achese, the President of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Francis Johnson, and Comrade Bobboi Kaigama, President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) warned that Nigerians will not accept another increase in petrol price.