The Minister of State Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, said on Monday, that the federal government has no powers to intervene in the rising price of household kerosene, a major cooking energy for low-income earners and rural dwellers in Nigeria.
The minister, who made the claim at a media briefing in Abuja to unfold the achievements of the Buhari administration in the petroleum industry since the assumption of office in 2015, pointed out that the price of kerosene had already been deregulated and could no longer be controlled by the government.
The minister said: “Kerosene, which is the fuel for the average household, is already a deregulated product. It is not necessarily within the purview of the government but a now a commercial decision. Companies will import and sell kerosene at a commercial rate. It is a deregulated product”.
The latest data from the National Bureau of Statistics shows that kerosene price has risen by 145.86 per cent from N441 per litre in November 2021 to N1,083 per litre in November 2022.
Chief Sylva expressed the hope that Nigerians would see the need for petrol to be similarly deregulated to free up funds for the government to execute other development projects.
The minister explained that it was important for Nigerians to understand that petroleum products prices are market-driven and based on the prevailing exchange rate, adding that petroleum products were still being sold at the cheapest rates in Nigeria compared to its neighbours.
While insisting that the best way to make petrol readily available for all Nigerians was through the removal of subsidies, which is not sustainable, the minister however pointed out that the government is to ensure that the price is market-driven.
“If petroleum product prices are market-driven it would drive a lot of investments. A lot of private investors want to come in and invest in the Nigerian petroleum industry but who would want to invest under a subsidy regime?
“If you build a refinery, how is your refinery going to make a profit under a subsidy regime? But if you have a market-driven situation, a lot of investors will come and the problem of access to petroleum products will be a thing of the past,” Sylva stated.
He disclosed that the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt Refinery was on track, saying the 60,000 barrels per day component of the refinery would come on stream before the end of the first quarter of 2023.
Chief Sylva also expressed optimism that oil production would continue to improve as security in the Niger Delta region is beefed up, insisting that the Federal Government’s target of three million per day production was realisable.
He said the government was committed to the expansion of gas development, adding that the $250 million funding from the Central Bank of Nigeria would facilitate investments into domestic gas usage in Nigeria.
The minister dismissed the notion that the new Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, NNPCL, which was created under the Petroleum Industry Act, PIA, was an independent company, pointing out that it remains under the Petroleum Resources Ministry.
“NNPC is not a private company; it is still 100 per cent government-owned. What has happened is that NNPC is now a commercial company and we allow it to operate commercially but it is still NNPC Limited, 100 per cent owned by the Federal Government of Nigeria and still under the purview of the Ministry of Petroleum,” Sylva pointed out.
Earlier, the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohamed, who coordinated the press briefing, berated those who accuse the Buhari administration of doing nothing tangible since coming into power, pointing out that the administration has left a legacy of achievements in all sectors of the economy.
Mohammed said, “Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, between the last edition of the PMB Administration Scorecard Series on Dec. 22nd, 2022, and today’s opening edition for 2023, a lot of things have happened in the polity.
“But the most significant has been naysayers and the opposition trying to distort the achievements of President Muhammadu Buhari for their own selfish ends.
“While some of the Administration’s fiercest critics said we have achieved nothing, others have admitted, though seemingly tongue in cheek, that it’s only in the area of infrastructure that the Administration has performed.
“Well, I want to say that both groups are wrong, very wrong. Yes, infrastructure development under the Buhari Administration is unprecedented since the nation’s return to democratic rule in 1999, and it has set the country on the path of development. But no, our legacy is more than infrastructure.
“The Buhari Administration is leaving a legacy of a revamped security sector, in the face of unprecedented security challenges in the country. Today, the Nigerian military is being restored to its glorious past, thanks to Mr. President’s foresight and doggedness in re-equipping the various services. And this has made it possible for the military to tackle insurgency and all other security challenges facing the country.
“As you can now see, this military has been recording success after success. Compare this with those who literally passed a vote of no confidence in our military by bringing in mercenaries to fight insurgency. Not only that, they looted dry all the funds earmarked to buy arms and ammunition for the military.
“Some of the alleged looters said they spent billions just praying against Boko Haram! The Nigerian military, which has excelled in global peacekeeping operations since 1960 and has sacrificed a lot to keep our country united, has regained its respect and influence.
“Ditto the Nigeria Police, which is steadily being repositioned to be efficient and well-motivated, and to improve its capacity to face modern-day security challenges. As the Honourable Minister of Police Affairs told us here last month, the Nigeria Police now has a state-of-the-art National Command and Control Centre.
“This is unprecedented. Other security agencies have not been left behind in the area of capacity enhancement through training and modernization of equipment.
“The Buhari Administration is leaving a legacy of inclusiveness, especially in the areas of infrastructure and social development. There is no state in Nigeria that is not witnessing at least a road, a bridge or a housing project. None!
“The Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning has also told us here how Mr President approved tranches upon tranches of funds to states, irrespective of their party affiliation, to enable them to meet their obligations to the people.
“We dare any part of this country to say that it has not benefitted from the programmes of the Buhari Administration in one way or another and we will happily counter that with verifiable evidence,” Mohammed boasted.
50% PoS Operators Close Shops Over Naira Scarcity
Over 50 per cent of Point of Sale operators have closed their shops as scarcity of new and old naira notes bites harder, it has been learnt.
The National Chief Aggregating Officer of the Association of Mobile Money and Bank Agents in Nigeria, Hussein Olanrewaju, who made this disclosure on Monday, said the impact of the ongoing shortage of new and old naira notes had worsened the plight of their members.
While noting that agents should be given preferential treatment in access to the new notes, he lamented that some Nigerians had taken advantage of the situation to charge unreasonable fees.
He said, “Operators are licensed bodies that provide platforms which agents leverage on. Currently, agents do not have any preferential treatment to deliver this service, hence, more than 50 per cent of agent shops have been closed down as we speak.
“Some agents, however, go extreme to buy these monies and those who do not, move from one ATM point to another incurring lot of cost in the process which will also reflect on the service charge.
“It’s worthy to note that some Nigerians have taken advantage of this situation to charge people unreasonable charges.”
Hussein further stressed that the ongoing policy meant to swap cash in unbanked areas might not achieve its mandate due to the low number of agents selected for the scheme.
He added that including more agents remained the best solution to easing the financial stress Nigerians were currently facing.
“As designed by the CBN, the exercise is going as expected. However, it doesn’t really translate to profit for agents. Out of over 1.4 million agents, only 30,000 agents were picked to participate in the cash swap programme, the number is too small and can barely effect any change.
“Agents are the ones available and accessible to ease the financial stress Nigerians are currently facing,” he concluded.
Naira Scarcity: Fashola Advises CBN What To Do
The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has advised the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to review its naira swap policy to reverse its negative impact on Nigerians.
Fashola, who made a live appearance on Channels Television’s The 2023 Verdict on Monday, was reacting to the outcry over the widespread scarcity of the N200, N500, and N1,000 banknotes since they were unveiled on November 23, 2022.
According to the CBN, the old versions of those denominations will no longer be legal tenders after February 10, 2023 as the apex bank targets hoarders of illicit funds in the buildup to the general elections.
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The minister bemoaned the hardship brought on by the directive of the apex bank, saying it was imperative that public officeholders reviewed their policies when they had the opposite effect than desired.
“I empathise with those challenges but some of them are the result of policy and it is the responsibility of public servants, especially those responsible for those policies to look back and say, ‘Did we intend to cause this pain?’
“And if the policy is not working, perhaps you have to readjust and to also ask yourself whether you thought this through. As a public officer, before and now, I have had cause to reverse myself, when I saw that my policies were causing unintended results.
“So, I have no responsibility on those two areas and therefore I cannot speak to the details of the facts that are available to the policymakers but the important thing is that those policies are not yet delivering the results and are delivering a lot of inconvenience for [people],” he said.
Naira Crunch: CBN Monetary Policies Best For Nigeria Economy – Obaseki
Despite criticism, pains and suffering in accessing the naira, Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, on Monday insisted that the Central Bank of Nigeria, monetary policies of Godwin Emefiele’s towards a cashless economy remain the right decision for the nation’s economy.
The Governor, however, called for more enlightenment and patience on the path of Nigerians, even as he urged the apex bank to ensure the availability of naira notes for the citizenry whom he said are going through pains in getting money to spend.
The Governor spoke shortly after he summoned a meeting with senior officials of the CBN and senior management staff of banks in Government House Benin on the difficulty of the people in accessing cash.
He also appealed to the people to take advantage of ATMs, POS and bank wallets for transactions.
He said, “I had to invite the Central Bank and senior management of all the banks in Edo state to come and meet with me in the government house because government is very much concern about the plight and suffering of our people who are worried over the inability to get cash from the banking system in Edo state.
“Haven discussed extensively with the CBN and the bankers that the policy of moving the Nigeria economy to one of a cashless system should be encouraged. It is the best thing for our banking system so the Edo state government has no problem with the policy of the federal government to move our economy to a cashless one.
“However, we want to ensure we do this as painlessly as possible; we have to improve on the communication with our people to reduce their fear. When people go to banks to collect cash because they want to spend it on something, we want to help to inform them that they don’t need to collect cash to spend cash.
“We actually have other means to spend cash without going to the bank to collect cash. From Phones, payment can be made to whomever. For those who don’t have sophisticated phones, with USSID codes you can pay for things as small as N500 without spending cash. So when you go to POS terminals, don’t ask for cash, let them do for you what you want to use the cash for via transfer”.
Director, Risk Management of Central Bank, Blaise Ijebor said they are in Edo to ensure there is supply of naira to everyone on Edo state.
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“We are also here to encourage people to use alternative means to make their payment. If you are able to use your card, app or USSID to pay, you can even go to an ATM that doesn’t have cash to do your transfer from them.
“We are aware a number of ATMs are not paying. We are going to make sure that there is supply in a day or two, we have supply available through your bank branches to give some cash to use.”
He also added that there are monitoring teams going round working with EFCC and ICPC to check any illegal act or collusion with banks.
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