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Petrol pump price fraudulent – Reps tell FG

By The Citizen
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The House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee reviewing 2016 increase in pump price of petrol, on Monday accused some government agencies of complicity in the policy.

The committee headed by Rep. Raphael Igbokwe (PDP-Imo), which commenced a two-day public hearing on the issue, identified Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) as one of such agencies.

It said that NPA did not do enough to justify the 84 kobo per litre of petrol it was collecting from importers.

According to the committee, NPA would have justified the amount it collects, if the seas are dredged and vessels do not have to endure ship- to-ship discharging of products.

This, it said, contributed to high cost of the product and loss of revenue to the country.

The lawmakers expressed displeasure over non-appearance of the managing director of the authority at the hearing, saying that his representative, Mr Ephraim Okoro, an Acting General Manager in the organisation, lacked the capacity to answer the committee's questions.

They insisted that the managing director must be present at Tuesday's session of the hearing to answer relevant questions on the issue.

The lawmakers established that the 30 kobo built into the template by Petrol Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), as 'administrative charge' was needless.

According to them, it was unnecessary since the National Assembly also approved a separate budget for the same purpose.

Chairman of the committee tendered a copy of the 2016 Budget wherein 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, PPPRA has a proposal of another N500 million for regulation, monitoring and supply of petrol.

'This budgetary provisions have already 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,' he said.

Igbokwe stated that though the increase was to eliminate payment of subsidy by government and the attendant fraud, justification had to be given on the N145 being charged.

Mr Victor Shidok, Executive Secretary of PPPRA, told the committee that the 30 kobo administrative charge on petrol was for services.

But, the committee insisted that the agency must present a list of inspectors engaged from 2012 till date, with amounts paid, copies of agreements entered into and proof of payment.

The agency was asked to also provide proof of total amount received as administrative charges from 2012 to date.

On his part, Mr Obafemi Olawore, Executive Secretary, Major Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), said payments made in dollars by importers to the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and NPA constituted strain on the Naira.

He said that NPA's 84 kobo per litre and NIMASA's 22 kobo per litre Harbour and Wharfage charges were high.

According to him, NPA's port charges are the highest in the West Africa sub-region.

He also complained about multiple levies by government agencies and state governments and pleaded with the committee to intervene.

The leaders of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), all kicked against the increase in petrol price.

The unions noted that if refineries were working, the country would not need to import products, with the attendant exorbitant costs.

They pointed out that pump price of petrol had been increased 22 times in the past and warned that any attempt to increase the price further would be resisted. – NAN.