Also read: NNPC Board not independent, 80% of members lack oil sector experience — Expert Usman said the IPMAN considered reaching the government through the media at this time so as to prevent impending woes the policy would bring untold hardships on the masses who are already groaning under many tedious economic difficulties. He maintained that a stakeholders meeting is most desirable at this time because it would guarantee a smooth policy transition to full deregulation of the petroleum sector and further strengthen the expected derivatives from the proposed Petroleum Industry Bill. Resolutions from such a meeting at this auspicious period, according to the Spokesman, would further enhance the Petroleum Equalisation Fund which happens to be the policy that is most relevant to the downstream sector of the industry.
While stressing the stand of the Independent Marketers on the proposed harmonization of government agencies in the petroleum industry, Usman said, “For us, the Petroleum Equalisation Fund is the most important and very relevant to the current realities in the industry. “Without the PEF, truth be told, the import of PIB will be completely eroded; the PEF is supposed to be the main vehicle that will drive the industry and indicate that the government is really working out the PIB to alleviate the sufferings of Nigerians. “Therefore, if we really want to help the industry and we really want to encourage the stakeholders in the industry, especially IPMAN Members, the PEF must be sustained. This is because it remains the number one cardinal point. “Without the PEF, those nationalistic ideas that made our forefathers like President Olusegun Obasanjo and the Late Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed to establish the PEF would have been killed. “Simply put, scrapping the PEF clearly implies that our present leaders have not appreciated the efforts of those heroes who fashioned the policy as well as those who had sustained it after them. “Also, we need to bring it to the notice of the government that without the PEF, the IPMAN would vacate the stage naturally. We are sure that knowing the role we are playing presently in the industry, the government would not wish to manage the crises that would emanate in the distribution network if the IPMAN is forced out of the industry due to policies that could distabilize the industry. “The PEF has been helping IPMAN a lot to run our businesses in terms of capital that helps us to sustain the business and our outlets across the country. “For us, to say that deregulation has come is a development we would welcome with our whole hearts, but because we are the players in the industry, we have more reasons to table before the government during the stakeholders meeting on why we cannot support the total scrapping of the Petroleum Equalization Fund. “This is so because the PEF as it is very clear in the industry has been supportive, helping not only the marketers and other stakeholders in the industry, the masses of this country have been the greatest beneficiaries of the policy. “It is only when all these stakeholders are relieved that the relief can be translated to the masses in every nook and crannies of this great nation where they interface with us at the filling stations to buy products.. “We thank God that the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, has not yet been passed into law now. So, it gives the government enough time to hold this important meeting with the stakeholders and the decisions can be captured by the new law that is still undergoing the process of becoming law. “We believe everybody must have heard what the government has announced that we are in the era of deregulation. But on our part at the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, yes, we supported the deregulation policy, but for us, it’s not yet time and the realities on the ground now indicate that the time for that is not ripe yet. “There are some factors which are supposed to be considered before the country can carry out the policy. That explains why we have implored the government to call for a stakeholder meeting to rub minds and work out the modalities for a successful operation of a deregulation policy that would not transfer the burden of the policy on any Nigerian in any part of the country that they reside. “If the PEF is scrapped for any reason, we can tell the government that there are many things in the industry that will adversely affect the masses of the country as well as the stakeholders, especially members of the IPMAN and their outlets across Nigeria. “The most important among these factors is that if the government must deregulate, the government would need to call a stakeholders conference with IPMAN and all the other stakeholders in the industry so that for them to evaluate the process and come out with a sustainable transition from where we are now to full-blown deregulation without all the challenges that the meeting would have helped to identify with their workable solutions. “During the meeting, it is very important for the government to inform stakeholders about the future of the Petroleum Equalization Funds policy. It is very important for the government to tell stakeholders about its sustainability or further enhancement because of the pivotal role the policy has continued to play in maintaining a unified price regime across the country.” he maintained. The IPMAN Spokesman further told journalists that the position of the Independent Marketers on the Petroleum Equalization Fund was a consensus reached by Major Marketers as well as all those involved with the distribution of products in the country. In his words, “In the industry, the established distribution channels are the IPMAN, MOMAN and DAPMAN and because we work together in the same country, we are on the same page on this matter, “When I said stakeholders in the industry, I said so because I am aware that the government will do well to invite all of them to the round table that we have proposed.” Alhaji Usman maintained. When asked to highlight the roles the PEF is playing presently in the industry that would warrant its sustenance by government, Usman said, “There are many advantages of the PEF, that made the founding fathers fashion out the policy and it has continued to serve its nu, various purposes in the industry. “The most significant among the advantages of the PEF is that it was originally designed to equalise the pricing regime across the country in such a way that if a marketer sells products for one hundred and forty-five naira per litre in Lagos, another one can also sell it for the same price in Maiduguri. “It is the same pricing challengers that birthed the PPPRA in view of the challenges that emanated in the industry due to the size of the country and many other factors. “We are very sure that the stakeholders meeting to deliberate on the sustenance of the PEF will impact positively on the masses in every part of the country,” Usman concluded.