By Ime Silas, The Profile Newspaper

Worried by the incessant hike in prices of petroleum products in the state, the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, AKHA, has begun moves to check the activities of petroleum marketers with a view to ameliorating the suffering of the populace.

Marketers of petroleum products in the state had, in the wake of the month of March, increased the prices of AGO, popularly known as diesel, PMS which is called petrol, as well as kerosene.

A check by our correspondent at the time of this report show that fueling stations within Uyo metropolis and environs, sell these products at exorbitant rates.

At Earthwell Station, opposite the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, Aka Etinan Road, Uyo, a litre of petrol is sold at N175, while kerosene goes for N250 per litre.

At Rainoil, Abak Road, Uyo, close to the State Secretariat; while their billboard showed N162 per litre, petrol was actually dispensed at the cost of N168 per litre.

The situation was not better at most stations visited; except at Total and Fort Fueling stations along Ikot Ekpene Road, which were dispensing petrol at N162 per litre, respectively, while a litre of retailed Total engine oil was increased to N900 as against N800 sold penultimate week.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, had since issued a press release, in which it stated that it has not increased the prices of these products and warned marketers against any arbitrary increments.

Reacting to the hike, the member representing Ibiono Ibom State Constituency in the State House of Assembly, Hon Godwin Ekpo, who said that the situation, if not checked by them being the representatives of the people, might affect the well-being and livelihood of the people of the state.

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Ekpo in a motion he moved on Thursday, 18th March, 2021, at the Chamber titled “the need to address incessant hoarding and hike in price of petroleum products by Akwa Ibom Petroleum Marketers”, mandated the State Petroleum Task Force to sell off any product hoarded by marketers in the state.

The Motion reads: “This motion is brought pursuant to Order 3 Rules 1 of the Standing Orders of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, 6th Edition.

“This Honourable House: Is aware that it is no longer strange to the people of Akwa Ibom State that whenever there is any slight news or rumor regarding increase in petroleum products pump price, Akwa Ibom petroleum marketers are the first to suspend sales of their products, immediately adjust their pump price and hike prices of petroleum products. 

“Also aware that this nefarious act causes panic buying, black marketing, artificial scarcity and various forms of untold hardships to Akwa Ibom people.

“Frowns at a situation where the state chapter of petroleum product marketers will hold the state hostage by directing its members to sell products at increased prices even when there is no official confirmation or approval by the Government.

“Concerned that if we as the representatives of the people fail to lend our voices on this matter, it is capable of affecting the livelihood and well being of our people as well as create an unconducive business environment in the state.

“Acknowledges with appreciation the effort of the State Petroleum task force and other regulators in their enforcement drive to ensure immediate revert to price normalcy recently.

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“Desirous of an urgent need to address these acts to avoid future occurrences.

Resolves to:

“Urge the Akwa Ibom State Government not to tolerate any form of petroleum products hoarding and price hike by marketers in any part of the State and at any time whatsoever.

“Mandate the State Petroleum task force to sell off any product found hoarded at the prevailing official rate as part of its enforcement drive.

“Urge the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and other regulatory bodies to apply appropriate sanctions to any petroleum marketer found culpable in this regard within the shores of the state.

Mandate the House Committee on Petroleum to ensure implementation.  Mr. Speaker, My Honourable Colleagues, I so move”

….it’s a call to anarchy – Eminence Oil boss

But in a swift reaction to the intervention of the State Assembly, a petroleum dealer in the state, Obong Emmanuel Okon said any such move by the legislature was “…in bad taste…” and tantamount to a “…call to anarchy”.

Okon, who is South/South Chairman, NNPP Mega Filling Station Dealers Association who was quoted by a reporter in a report on Sunday said “The House of Assembly should know that it is only the Directorate of Petroleum Resources( DPR) and the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPRA) that are enabled and vested with powers to regulate and control activities in the sector. Calling on another agency, this time not even an agency but a Task Force, to carry out a duty that is on the exclusive list of the Federal government is to say the least, a call to anarchy and chaos.”

He was further quoted to have said that it was disheartening to note that “the sponsor of the bill, Rt Hon Godwin Ekpo and some of those who supported the bill have had experiences in the field of petroleum marketing and should know better that the sector is a highly regulated one and no Task Force should be encouraged to cause crisis in the sector”

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The Eminence Oil boss further noted “Petroleum marketers sell their products based on the amount they purchased them ex-depot. We don’t just fix the prices arbitrarily. At present, most of our members buy from private depots since there is no government Depot in Akwa Ibom State. And they sell depending on how much they buy from the depots.We believe the House of Assembly should not allow a Task Force take laws into its hand and cause chaos in the sector. We all know how Task Forces operate”

Obong Okon said the House of Assembly should rather work with Governor Udom Emmanuel to actualise his dream of getting a Depot stationed in Akwa Ibom State.

“I urge the House of Assembly to rather dissipate energy in assisting I Governor who is a focused, development oriented and someone who has shown positive bias towards getting the state fully industrialised, to get a Depot set up in the state. In this wise, i must commend Governor Udom Emmanuel for his proactive step in working assiduously towards setting up a Depot for the state at the planned Jubilee Free Trade Zone in Ikot Abasi. When this becomes functional, I believe petroleum marketers in the state will even sell products below the government approved benchmark.”