The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has urged the Federal Government to set up a social pricing window for vulnerable Nigerians to mitigate the impact of deregulation policy.
Mr Muda Yusuf, Director General, LCCI, gave the advice in an interview with our reporter on Monday in Lagos.
Yusuf said the removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit, also known as petrol, would cause some challenges which could be for a short term if the right programmes were put in place.
He said: “I will say that the deregulation policy is something that should be sustained and we should be looking at how we can mitigate the short term challenges on Nigerians.
“In the short term, we can look at a social pricing window for the vulnerable segment of society.
“The way we think this can work is to designate all the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) stations and provide a social pricing mechanism in the NNPC stations alone.
“The Federal Government can set aside a certain amount to subsidise in these windows and it should not be more than 10 per cent of the total consumption of fuel in the short term before we transit into full deregulation.
”For instance, if our total consumption is 50 million litres, we can earmark like five million litres for the purpose of serving these vulnerable groups through the NNPC stations which we have all over the country.”
According to him, the other petrol stations should be allowed to function fully within the deregulation framework and provide services for more economically empowered persons.
“The vulnerable people who can afford to queue for some hours can use the NNPC stations but those who have the ability to pay can go straight to other stations to buy fuel.
”This is a model that we can consider and it will also bring some comfort to the Organised Labour that something is being done immediately to assist the vulnerable groups in society.
“Of course, there will be issues of corruption but we have to live with some of these things in this transitional phase so that we can move forward otherwise government will be seen as being very insensitive.
“That is why I think that we should have that kind of social pricing window to take care of vulnerable Nigerians using only the NNPC stations,” Yusuf said.
He noted that another way to mitigate the impact was to look at the challenges it posed to cost of the transport and energy cost for Small and Medium Enterprises in particular.
Yusuf said: “We need to look at the issue of mass transit once again. We need to ensure that we structure our budgets both at the national and sub-national levels to ensure that we prioritise mass transit.
“We also need to accelerate the process of ensuring that we produce refined petroleum products domestically and in order to accelerate that, this deregulation has to be in place.
“I have heard arguments that we should allow refineries to be working before we deregulate but that is not going to work.
“Unless we have a deregulation policy in place, it will be difficult to attract direct capital into the refineries.
“So, deregulation should come before attracting investment to the refineries because as things stand, we cannot depend on government owned and managed refineries.
“It has been proved that this is not sustainable. We should be looking at how we can incentivise private investment in refineries. We need this policy reform to make that happen.”