The sustained increase in global crude oil prices has pushed up the landing cost of imported petrol closer to the current pump prices of the product in Nigeria, and appears to have triggered a return to petrol subsidy era,
Since November 13, 2020 when the pump prices of Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) were last increased in the country, the price of the international oil benchmark, Brent crude, has been on an upward trajectory, rising from $41.51 per barrel to close at $51.22 per barrel on December 31.
Fuel marketers had in December expected another upward adjustment of PMS prices to reflect the further rise in crude oil prices.
However, a N5 reduction in petrol price, effective December 14, was announced by the Federal Government – a development that left them reeling in shock and questioning the deregulation of petrol price.
Crude oil price accounts for a large chunk of the final cost of petrol, and the country has continued to spend so much on petrol imports for many years amid low domestic refining capacity.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, had said in September last year that the Federal Government had stepped back in fixing the price of petrol, adding that market forces and crude oil price would determine the cost of the product.
The Federal Government removed petrol subsidy in March 2020 after reducing the pump price of the product to N125 per litre from N145 on the back of the sharp drop in crude oil prices. The price reduction lasted till June.
Nigerians saw increases in the pump prices of petrol in four months, rising from N121.50–N123.50 per litre in June to N140.80-N143.80 in July, N148-N150 in August, N158-N162 in September and N163-N170 in November.
Brent, the international oil benchmark, has risen by about 35 per cent since November 13 when the pump price of petrol was last increased. It closed at $55.99 per barrel on Friday, its highest level in 11 months.
Going by the petrol pricing template of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, the landing cost of petrol rose from an average of N143.60 in December to N158.53 per litre on January 7, with the expected open market price (retail price) being N181.53 per litre.
The product is currently being sold at between N160 and N165 per litre at many filling stations in Lagos.
The cost of petrol quoted on Platts rose to $480.25 per metric tonne (N139.67 per litre, using N390/$1) last Thursday from an average of $430.107 per MT (N125.09 per litre) in December. The cost of petrol averaged $391.75 per MT (N113.24 per litre) in July, according to PPPRA’s template.