Oil marketers have deferred their plans to import Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, as they anxiously await the commencement of local production of refined petroleum products by Nigeria’s refineries from December this year.
Operators in the downstream oil sector said the importation of PMS was no longer a viable business, considering the difficulty in accessing the United States dollar required for imports.
They told our correspondent on Friday that since the government had promised to get the refineries up and running by December, it was best to hold on and source refined petroleum products from the facilities locally.
“If I heard the new petroleum minister correctly, he recently said that by December there won’t be need for importation, which means the refineries will be up and running,” the National President, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chinedu Okonkwo, stated.
He added: “So what we are looking at is availability and if our crude is refined locally in Nigeria, that will be the game changer. Importation (of petroleum products) is not the way to go.
“This is because the pressure to get dollars for importation is high. So if we follow what they (government) have said, importation of petrol should be over by December and we will access products locally.”
Towards the end of August, the Federal Government announced that the Port Harcourt refinery would begin operations by December 2023.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (Oil), Heineken Lokpobiri, had disclosed this in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, during an inspection tour of the rehabilitation work at the Port Harcourt Refining Company Limited plant.
He was quoted in a statement issued by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited as saying, “From what we have seen here today, Port Harcourt Refinery will come on board by the end of the year, Warri will come on stream by the end of the first quarter of next year, and Kaduna will also come on board towards the end of next year.
“If you add that to the Dangote Refinery, we will be able to stop fuel importation, and Nigerians will enjoy the full benefits of deregulation.”
Explaining why refineries should come on stream and the impact this would have on the downstream oil sector, Okonkwo said the facilities would not only create jobs, but would lead to PMS price reduction.
The IPMAN president stated: “It will reduce the dependence on imported products from other countries. It will also create jobs. The jobs that we are giving to other people who are refining our crude will now be done here in Nigeria.
“And ultimately, the transportation or logistics will be cushioned and though the crude is going to be sold in dollars, one thing is certain, that transportation or cost of moving it in and out of Nigeria will now be reduced.
“But moving forward, availability will now be guaranteed and I think it is a welcome development that should be given the desired push.”
On concerns that marketers were currently finding it tough to operate, while some operators of smaller filling stations were considering merger, Okonkwo said,: “Even the rich are now crying.
“The economic crunch is hitting everyone, not only oil marketers, but we are optimistic that there will be improvements, particularly when we start refining locally in Nigeria.”