Given the bonus the present management of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC had brought to the industry, through its integrity, the faux pas over the reported increase of petrol pump price to N212 per was one that was about questioning all that the Mele Kyari led NNPC leadership had so far harvested.
The integrity question for Kyari arose from his promise just two three weeks ago that there would be no pump price increase in the month of March.
The assurance was based on the NNPC’s reading of the ongoing engagement between the Federal Government and organized labour on the pricing of petrol and other services including electricity.
The fears on an imminent increase in the price of petrol was especially fanned by the upsurge in the prices of crude and also the depreciation in the value of the naira compared to the dollar. The effect of the two was that the landing cost of petrol was bound to increase.
It was upon that assessment that some Nigerian marketers apparently to take advantage of what they saw as an inevitable increase in the price of petrol in the ‘deregulated’ market started hoarding the products to reap mega profit whenever the product price was increased.
It was against the background of the hoarding and the concomitant fuel queues that the Group General Manager, Corporate Affairs of the NNPC Dr. Kennie Obateru in a statement on March 1, 2021 assuring the nation that there would be no price increase in the month of March.
“In spite of the rise in the price of crude oil in the international market, NNPC has ruled out any increment in the ex-depot price of PMS in February, 2021,” he said.
Obateru explained that the decision on no fuel price hike now in Nigeria was to allow ongoing engagements with organised labour and other stakeholders on an acceptable framework that would not expose the ordinary Nigerian to any hardship.
He urged petroleum products marketers not to engage in hoarding of PMS in order not to create artificial scarcity and unnecessary hardship for Nigerians.
He further gave assurance that the corporation had enough stockpile of petrol to keep the nation well supplied for about 40 days.
The assurance from the NNPC came against past actions by the Kyari led management in boosting transparency within the NNPC system. The Kyari led management had last September conducted on live television the bid for the lifting of crude oil.
That was against past actions in the past when contracts were worked out behind closed doors with much room for corruption.
Besides, the NNPC has since the emergence of Kyari regularly published the NNPC accounts in the media including on GWG.NG
It was against this background that a crisis was envisaged when last Thursday, March 11, 2021 that the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) released its template for the month of March. The projection put the price of petrol, at N212.11 per litre in the month of March.
The news last Thursday was one that immediately put the NNPC, Kyari and Dr. Obateru on the spot.
Was it that the all the integrity surplus that Kyari had brought into the NNPC was now turning into a deficit?
Nigerians did not have long to wait as the NNPC quickly came out to clarify that it had not increased the price of petrol.
The minister of state for petroleum, Chief Timipire Sylva also countered the PPPRA on the issue saying that the price of petrol had not been increased.
It was against this background that the reassurance came from the NNPC that it had not increased petrol prices.
The Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division of the Corporation, Dr. Obateru, addressing newsmen in Abuja on Friday said that the ex-deport price had not been altered.
“NNPC stands by that statement that we issued on March 1 that we are not increasing the Ex-depot price in the month of March and that is what it is.
“There is no need for panicking and I can tell you from our own point of view that we will not increase the pump price of petrol and we are still standing by that March 1 decision.
“We have sufficiency of product in the country and there is really no need for the public to panic. Like I have stated, the ex-depot price for the NNPC is still at it is, it has not increase and it will not increase in this month of March,’’ he said.
With the development, the NNPC and nay, Kyari have upheld the integrity they have added to the sector.