Deregulation and Commercialisation of the Downstream Oil Sector in Nigeria - IV


Cost of Governance refers to increased recurrent and personnel cost or expenditure of the government. And this has continued to rise  over  the  years  without  corresponding  meaningful development  in  the  country.  A bloated  but under performing public bureaucracy,  an expensive presidential  system  and  some  unviable  sub-national  units conjointly exacerbate the delicate/precarious position on cost of governance in the Nigerian Public Sector.

The  observation  that  over  70  percent  of  the  recurrent expenditure  in  the  2012  national  budget  was  dedicated  to  the maintenance of political office holders in Nigeria is sure to affect development adversely. To support the above view, the Presidency  had a feeding allowance of NGN1  billion ($6.45 million); the  budget for fuel and electricity generating set was NGN 1 billion for  the Presidential villa; two bullet proof cars for the Presidency was NGN280 million (USD 1.8 Imillion); budget for dinning set up was NGN  300  million or USD1.94 million (also  for the  Presidential Villa).  It  has  also  been  documented  that  the  Nigerian  Federal lawmakers  are  about  the  highest  paid  in  the  world,  with  the maintenance cost for each Senator for four years at approximately NGN3 billion or $19.35 million.
Corruption connotes misuse of official powers to obtain personal advantage or favouring  one's  associates. Corruption could also mean betrayal o f trust resulting directly or indirectly from  the  subordination  of  public goals  to  personal interests. These connotations of corruption are conspicuous in public management in Nigeria and underlines elite complicity in resource plunder as corroborated by the  following  examples:  the  Pius  Okigbo  Panel  of  enquiry instituted by the late General Sani Abacha’s military government found  General  Babangida's  military  government  (1985-1993) guilty  of gross  mismanagement  or  outright  diversion  o f public funds  to  the  tune  o f  USD12  billion.  These mismanaged  funds  could have  redressed  infrastructural  deficits, created more jobs for the unemployed, enhance living standard of the  citizenry,  and  lead  to  deceleration  in  the  rate  of underdevelopment.

Commercialisation of the Downstream Oil Sector in Nigeria

Corruption is the primary cause of poverty  in  Nigeria,  and  this  has  become  economically  and socially paralysing despite the production o f two million barrels of crude oil per day, which has the potential of conferring enormous wealth on the country derivable from the export o f oil and natural gas. Nigeria realised USD300 billion or NGN46.5 trillion within twenty years from  the  sale  of crude  oil  in  the  international  market  without concrete development to show for it.  The  KPMG  (audit  firm)  report  revealed that the  cost  of subsidy  payment  on  petroleum  products  not  consumed  by  end users due to losses from theft and those not supplied between 2007 and  2009  amounted  to  NGN 11.8  billion  or  USD76.13  million. These explains the poverty situation in Nigeria (one of the  twenty  poorest  in  the  world)  and  why  the  citizenry  are skeptical  of the  total  deregulation o f the petroleum  sector.  This position was taken further by a UN report that noted:

Seventy percent of the population is classified as  poor,  with  35  percent  living  in  absolute  poverty. Going  by  the  1991  population  figure  o f  120  million, those living below the poverty  line were  84 million.. .if the country's population has grown to 140 million according to the new census figures  o f 2006, then by analogous reasoning, the number o f people  living  on less  than one  dollar in  a day must be  98  million.  This means  that  another  14 million impoverished people have been unleashed on the  country.  This  figure  is  more  than  the  population o f oil producing states o f Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta, and Cross-River States put together  going by the  2006  census  figure.  The  combined population  of  the  Niger  Delta  Oil  producing Region is  $13.85million.

It is obvious from these narratives that corruption is a major drawback and disincentive to development in Nigeria. Crisis of confidence on Government Policies relates to the lack of trust by the citizenry in government decisions and programmes.  Research has  shown that the  failure  of governance  underscores  citizen's distrust in government (Torres, 2005). Successive central  and  sub-national  (units)  administration  in Nigeria,  hardly  keep their ends of the social contract bargain. The attitudinal inclination by  government  tends  to  circumscribe  citizens'  support  for government policies as demonstrated by the six days nationwide strike/opposition  to  total  deregulation  of the  petroleum  sector which was announced by the Federal government (under former President Goodluck Jonathan) on 1S1 January, 2012.
Consequently, the government had to soft pedal after losing many  man-hours  estimated  at  a  cost  of  NGN300  billion  or USD1.94 billion to the strike. Another measure to demonstrate good faith on the part of Government was the announcement of the reduction  of the pump price  of petrol from NGN 141  to NGN97. These avoidable losses to strike could have  been  used  for  infrastructural  development,  employment creation for the unemployed with a trickle-down effect on standard of living, had the government cultivated the trust of the populace through  effective  public  service  delivery  and  better  economic empowerment for Nigerians.

There is no doubt that, though, Nigeria is among the world’s leading oil and gas producing countries of the world, yet has been encumbered in a paradox where fuel and power shortages, have become the order of the day in the midst of plenty thereby negatively impacting on both infrastructural  and  human  capital  developments. It is worthy of note  that a total of 445,000 barrels of crude oil per day are reserved for domestic consumption but the capacity of local refineries stand at 170,000 barrels per day, prompting  a  balance  of  275,000  barrels  difference  to  be  refined  abroad  and  imported  into Nigeria.  Also,  the  four  existing refineries in Nigeria which ought to produce at full capacity at some points became moribund and often times when operational produce below capacity for whatever reasons. Similarly, the dire  need  to  deregulate  the  downstream  sector  became  imperative  due  largely  to  the  very dilapidating  state  of  the  existing  refineries  with  its  attendant  inefficiency  in  refining  and distribution,  ineffective  and  fluctuating  price  of  the  products  as  well  as  the  propensity  forinstitutionalised monopoly  having adverse consequences on the country’s economy. All these have been on the front burner  of national discourse, hence the arbitrary scarcity and the poor pricing mechanism of the petroleum products are said to be fluctuating and skewing against the impoverished Nigerian populace who are supposed to be the major beneficiaries while the state officials in collaboration with their comprador oil cartels/cabals appropriate from the existing arrangements.

There  is  no  gainsaying  the  fact  that  the  intended  objectives  of  the  founding  fathers  of  the subsidy  regime  was  to  alleviate  poverty  by  subsidising  the  private  consumption  of  refined products to maintain some level of stability in the pump price. Rising international prices of crude  oil  and  refined  products,  over  the  years,  have  resulted  in  the  significant  increase  in subsidy payments to fraudulent oil marketers, hence the colossal damage to the country’s ailing economy.  This  has  made  it  difficult  for  the  country  to  meet  daily consumption needs of 40 million litres, and consequently  has resorted to over dependence on importation  of  refined  products  to  meet  the  local  consumption.  Since  the  country  largely depends  on imported refined petroleum products and with a preponderance of a poor population in dire need of the products, successive governments have adopted palliative measures by way of subsidy to ameliorate  the sufferings of Nigerians. Yet, in the face of these measures, there have been monumental perennial scarcity and  arbitrary  price increases of petroleum products in Nigeria since 1999.  This has resulted in  so many stakeholders and researchers  to call  for a complete deregulation of the sector as way of solving the perennial scarcity and arbitrary price increases  of  petroleum  products  even  in  the  face  of  global  fall  in  oil  prices  and  revenues accruable to the country.

The  deregulation  policy  conceived  in  2003  was  not  only  intended  to  remove  regulatory controls on prices of the products but the unbundling of the entire sector to allow  free market economy where new entrants can invest in the refining, sales, marketing and distribution and even  importation  and  exportation  of  petroleum  products[11]. The need to deregulate the downstream sector stems also from the state of Nigerian refineries and the lack of capacity to meet daily local consumption.    It  was  for  these  reasons  the  federal  government  under  President Olusegun  Obasanjo,  on  the  recommendations  of  the  Special  Committee  on  the  Review  of Petroleum  Products  Supply  and  Distribution  (SCRPPSD)  set  up  in  2001  to  review  the challenges  of  the  downstream  sector  of  the  petroleum  industry,  established  the  Petroleum Products  Pricing  Regulatory  Agency[12]  with  a  view  to  beginning  the  process  of deregulation. As recent events unfold in the petroleum industry, deregulation becomes  inevitable as  government  participation  in  the  downstream  sector  was  characterised  by challenges  as:  low  investment  opportunities  in  the  sector,  large scale  smuggling  of  petroleum  products,  pipelines  vandalisation,  low  capacity utilisation  and  refining  activities  in  the  nation’s  refineries,  scarcity  of  petroleum products, mismanagement of revenue from petroleum and high level of corruption in the state-owned petroleum parastatals vis-a-vis political office holders.[13]

Deregulation has brought with it a number of changes in the downstream oil industry in Nigeria. The direction to take is to seek ways it can be duly implemented.  The policy was not the best solution the government could come up with. The  policy  rather  than  improving  the  standard  of  living  up  the  populace has made it worse. The deregulation is associated with increment of fuel prices; marketers have taken advantage of the opportunity. As it is the norm, increase in the price of fuel means inflation in the price of transportation, food, housing and many other necessities of life. Based on these, the deregulation policy was not the best the Nigerian government could have offered its citizens.  There was no functional structure put in place to initiate the policy effectively.

The  following  are  suggestions  to  aid  in  the  implementation  of  the deregulation policy.

  • The establishment of structures to implement the deregulation policy.  This is crucial to the successful implementation of the policy. This includes the formation of a blueprint for the policy; restructuring  of  the  civil  service  to  accommodate  the  changes that  will  come  about,  reformation  of  the  justice  sector  and  a functional legal and regulatory frame work. One of the problems in  the  energy  sector  are  fall  outs  of  the  absence  of  sectorial reform policies. For a successful implementation of the deregulation policy in the downstream oil industry, the inability of the banking sector to provide long term credit for over a period  of five years to the private  sector  and  little  credit  to  smaller  and  medium  sized enterprises needs to be removed. If the inability still exists, then the  private  operators with  licenses  to  build private  refineries  would  find  it  an  insurmountable  task.  The banks  should  be  in  a  position  to  render  soft  loans  to  these enterprises. The  judicial  sector  has  to  be  restructured  to  be  able  to address  the  changes  that  accrue  to  the  implementation  of  the policy.  It should be able to offer efficient enforcement of contractual obligations. In the absence of this, it should be able to encourage alternative dispute resolution and be in the position to enforce the awards. There should be a shift toward alternative dispute resolution techniques in preference to litigation. The regulatory body should be independent in every way. It should not rely on the government for its funds. It should be able to generate its funds on its own.  That  way  it  will  be strong  to  enforce  its  decisions  without  fear  or  favour.  For  the legal  frame  work,  existing  laws  should  be  amended  to  create the necessary investment environment. The Bills that are before both  Houses  of  Assembly  should  be  debated  upon  and signed  into  Law.  An  example  of  this  is  the  Bill  for  an  Act  to amend the NNPC Act CAP 320 so as to deregulate petroleum refinery. Also, new Laws should be drawn up to complete the deregulation process.  An  example  of  such  is  the  Nigeria Downstream  Oil  Deregulation  Act  that  was  proposed  in  the First  Nigeria  Downstream  Summit  on  September  2004. Others  are  a  Competition  Act  to  ensure  that  there  is  a  level playing  field  among  operators;  a  Restrictive  Practices  Act  to ensure that consumer interests are protected and to prevent the abuse of market dominance by any individual company. RPA is required to control cartels and other anti-competitive agreements.  It will establish the office of the Director of Fair Trading.  The Fair Trading Act will control monopolies and mergers that are likely to emerge from privatization.
  • A  Social  Development  Agency  should  be  established  to cushion  the  effect  of  the  increase  in  the  price  of  petroleum products which translates to increase in the cost of everything in the economy. There is need to expand the existing social safety networks with key  elements in providing for direct poverty relief of the weak in the society who have been adversely affected by the increased price regime in the petroleum products. Taking a cue  from  Ghana,  the  Nigerian  government  should  initiate measures  to  mitigate  transport  cost  by  making  available  more public transport at subsidized fares, improve the road networks to  increase  accessibility;  absorb  the  cost  of  public Primary/Junior  Secondary  school  education;  cross-subsidize petroleum products used predominantly by people at the lower end of the social stratum such as kerosene.
  •  Since the deregulation of the downstream petroleum industry will  most  certainly  have  negative  environment  impact,  there should  be  an  establishment  of  appropriate  agencies  for monitoring and enforcing standards.
  • The deregulation policy should be backed by a plan to make sure  that  the  existing  refineries  are  working  while  new  ones should  be  built.  The  need  for  new  and  functioning  refineries stem from the fact that the nation should shift its goal from that of  an  exporter  of  crude  oil  to  exporter  of  refined  oil  products. The  policy  should  encourage  the  domestic  production  of petroleum  products  to  eliminate  their  importation  for  internal consumption. The goal should be to shift from importing refined products to exporting them (as stated above). This will reduce foreign exchange usage; eliminate the freight insurance, interest and commission charges arising from import dependency. In addition, importation of oil comes with inflation and unemployment.
  • The  refineries  and  other  NNPC  subsidiaries  should  not  be privatized but be allowed to compete with other private investors so  as  to  maintain  control;  ensure  stability  and  efficiency  of operators  involved.  This is what is attainable in other oil producing countries.  Privatization of national refineries will lead to total mortgaging of the national assets with its attendant implications on national security and investment.
  • Pipeline capacity should be improved and the incessant problem of vandelization should be tackled. There is a modern technology in existence that protects pipelines from being vandalised. It triggers off an alarm once vandals strike.  This technology can be used on the pipelines.
  • If prices of petroleum products must be deregulated, the refineries should be effectively repaired. If this is not put in place and  the  supply  problem  persists,  the  result  will  be  exorbitant import  parity  for  products  while  the  refineries  are  idle  and wasting.  Price deregulation without local supply will only further encourage import and seal all hopes of ever reviving the refineries and gainfully utilizing the vast assets therein. Also given the volatility of products’ prices in the international market and Naira exchange rates, the unstable exchange  rate  will create double jeopardy and uncontrollable sudden shocks in the system the economy will just get more comatose.
  • The National Assembly should bring sanity to the downstream oil sector through harmonizing and streamlining the regulatory activities of DPR, PPPRA, PEF, the Federal Ministry of Commerce and the Standard Organisation of Nigeria. This will eliminate regulatory distortions as most of their legitimate functions overlap.
  • The  proposed  Nigeria  Downstream  Oil  Deregulation  Act should  include  provisions  mandating  all  Joint  Venture Multinational  exploration  and  production  companies  to  locally refine  at  least  fifty  per  cent  of  crude  produced  and  that  local private  refineries  should  be  guaranteed  domestic  supply  of crude oil.

Scholars have argued that businesses are better organised and managed by the private sector in a development oriented manner.  This line of argument confirms that there is a relationship between deregulation policy and development, and supports the call for government to remove all restrictions to private sector participation in the economy.  Deregulation policy which allows market forces to determine prices and promote efficiency in public sector management is a response to this challenge.  By popular research, deregulation policy and  the  development  nexus  of the  Nigerian  petroleum  sector must be twined to achieve  the goal of development  in  Nigeria. Government at all levels should put  in place  measures  to fight corruption,  reduce  the  cost  of governance and earn citizens' trust in its activities which must be geared towards  effective  service  delivery  as  a catalyst for  the  successful implementation of government deregulation policy in Nigeria.


Successive governments in Nigeria since the inception of democracy in 1999 have faced the challenge  of  whether  or  not  to  adopt  deregulation  policy  in  the  downstream  sector  of  the petroleum industry. In fact, the decision of whether or not to adopt deregulation policy as a panacea  for  remedying  not  only  the  perennial  fuel  scarcity  and  arbitrary  price  increases in petroleum  products  but  the  ailing  economy  and  the  state  of  both  infrastructure  and  human capital has been an albatross around successive governments in Nigeria.  We interrogated the political economy of deregulation policy in the downstream sector of the petroleum industry in Nigeria since inception, hence contend that the subsidy regime of successive governments has not addressed the perennial scarcity and arbitrary price increases of petroleum products in the country let alone the economy.  The fuel subsidy regime has been an instrumentality of corruption as it has failed to address the original intentions of its founding fathers.

The downstream sector of the petroleum industry in Nigeria is one sector too many. The sector touches, to a larger extent, on both the very rich and common Nigerians. As soon as it sneezes, the entire country catches cold at once. Unlike the upstream sector where slight changes could take a while to be noticed by the populace, the downstream nose-dives when once there is a hiccup in the distribution chain. This is why, over time, successive governments have always played safe in matters concerning the downstream sector of the petroleum industry.  Caution has always been the watchword. This is also one sector that  appears to have an entrenched class interest  that  must  be  protected  by  the  managers  of  the  sector  to  avoid  a  backlash  on  their collaborative  economic  motives. This explains why it has not been easy for the ruling elite, over the years, to take decisive steps in addressing the rot they created in the sector. This  is why the  decision  of  whether  or  not  to  implement  the  deregulation  policy  by  successive administrations  in  the  downstream  sector  has  been  very  challenging.  To implement a fully deregulated downstream petroleum economy requires very strong political will on the part of government. It is either they are afraid of the backlash of their actions or inactions from their collaborators or that they are afraid of the political consequences of their actions or inactions as it were.  Far-reaching  measures  that  would  launch  the  country  into  a  fully  deregulated petroleum economy are themselves politically and socio-economically sensitive to handle with a wave of hand by any administration.

The myriad of arguments for and against the deregulation policy is enough to hang a government in the balance in the choice of which policy to pursue due largely to the dire consequences each action or inaction may cause the nation. Whichever way, what is most important  to  the  people  is  what  would  reduce  the  untold  hardship  suffered  by  the  teeming consumers of the products across the country. It is on this note that we conclude that the benefits of a fully deregulated downstream sector of the petroleum industry far outweigh those of  a regulated regime. The earlier the country implements the deregulation policy the better for the economy. And there is no better time to do so than now as it would largely address not only the perennial scarcity and arbitrary price hikes of petroleum products in the country but stimulate the  economy  such  that  the  ailing  physical  infrastructure  and  human  capital  will  be  turned around for better.    The multiplier effects of the socio-economic and political benefits of the deregulation  policy  in  the  downstream  sector  of  the  petroleum  industry  in  the  country  are enormous and should not be sacrificed on the alters of politics and economics.

The future of Nigeria’s downstream sector of the petroleum industry lies in the elite in power especially now that the entire global oil prices have fallen below expectation. Going into full deregulation, though with its initial hiccups and devastating effects on the masses, would have little or no effects as the current international oil prices would have no significant differences and consequences that could ignite the usual mass actions from the civil society organisations and organised labour.  The  deregulation  policy  requires  this  kind  of  subtle  but  far-reaching approach in addressing the long years of disequilibrium in the supply chain of the downstream sector  of  the  petroleum  industry.  Practical steps in engaging critical stakeholders in the sector pursuant to the implementation of the policy is a sine qua non towards a joint identification of social safety net that will cushion the effects of the policy in the event that the global oil prices rise astronomically to avoid a repeat of occupy Nigeria mass action in 2013.

A complete deregulation policy in the downstream sector that will result in government’s outright removal of fuel subsidy  remains the only antidote to addressing the  perennial  scarcity  and  arbitrary  price  increases  in  petroleum  products  by  ambitious petroleum marketers in the country. It is by so doing that market forces shall become the major determinants of the prices and distribution of petroleum products for the teeming consumers in Nigeria. A move that will not only address the country’s economic challenges but will ensure that  savings  that  would  accrue  from  fuel  subsidy  removal  and  other  revenues  from  the stimulated economy could be put into addressing the ailing infrastructure and human capital in the country. The nexus between deregulation policy of the Nigerian Petroleum sector and development is confirmed by data presentation and analysis. The introduction of measures to tackle  corruption,  reduce  cost  of governance,  and  earn  citizens' trust are part of the prerequisites for development in Nigeria. It is through these measures and deliberate efforts at strengthening  institutions,  transparent  and  accountable  public governance that the country can be on its way to development.


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[2] Organisation  of  Petroleum Exporting Countries
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[6] http//
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[8] (National Economic  Empowerment  Development  Strategy)
[9] IMF (2004)
[10]   FGNTA,  2011-2015:6-8
[11]   Nkogbu  &  Okorodudu,  2015
[12] PPPRA
[13] Okugbu and Okorodudu (2015)

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