The federal government yesterday assured that it has no plan to increase the pump price of petrol from the present N97 per litre.
The government's statement contradicts speculations in certain quarters that it plans to hike the pump prices of petroleum products.
The situation is further compounded by the threat of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) to embark on strike in January over the proposed sale of the country's refineries.
But, through a statement signed by the permanent secretary, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Mr Danladi Kifasi, yesterday, the federal government dismissed the growing fears of impending price hike as unfounded.
Kifasi, who appealed to oil marketers to refrain from hoarding petroleum products, also urged the general public to refrain from panic buying in anticipation of any increase in the pump price.
"It is equally important to state that neither the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources nor any of its parastatals is under any instruction to activate a new pump price regime as being speculated," he said.
He further warned petroleum product marketers to desist from creating any scarcity so as to induce panic in the system in order to exploit unsuspecting members of the public.
"The relevant agencies of government including the Department of Petroleum Resources and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission have been directed to deal with offenders," he stated.
Kifasi further assured that the NNPC and its downstream flagship company, the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company, have made enough arrangements to ensure that the entire nation remains wet with petroleum products round the clock in 2014, just as it has been the practice in the last three years.
Also reiterating the position, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) in a statement by its head of public affairs, Bimbo Oga, yesterday denied plans by the federal government to increase fuel prices this year.
To ensure that some marketers did not cash in on such speculations, he said, the DPR has issued a directive to marketers instructing them to continue to sell products at government-approved prices and desist from hoarding same with a view to causing scarcity and hardship to consumers.
He said the DPR has turned its spotlight on marketers with the aim of fishing out anyone that might play along with rumour-mongers who go about insinuating that government is planning to review upward the pump prices of products.
Oga also assured that there is adequate supply of petroleum products nationwide and, as such, the public should not panic, adding that its offices nationwide have stepped up surveillance and monitoring of all products retail outlets to enforce compliance with the directive, while threatening sanctions on defaulters.
Meanwhile, the chairman, south-west chapter of NUPENG, Mr Tokunbo Korodo, has said that the union would still go on strike if the federal government privatised the nation's refineries.
Korodo told NAN in Lagos yesterday that it was improper for the government to privatise the refineries without consulting stakeholders in oil and gas.
He said: "It is ridiculous that the federal government did not deem it fit to deliberate with our union before it went on air to announce a plan to privatise refineries. When it privatises the four refineries, most of the workers will be thrown into the labour market again.
"The government has not negotiated with the workers on their severance package or what the future will hold for them."
The chairman said that the union had yet to schedule a date for discussions with government officials on the issue, but gave the assurance that NUPENG would not go on strike until it met with government representatives.
Korodo, however, said that the union had already informed members nationwide to proceed on strike if the government began the process of the privatisation.
NUPENG and PENGASSAN had on December 17, 2013, threatened to embark on strike on January 1, 2014, over the federal government's decision to privatise the refineries. The plan was, however, postponed until the unions met the representatives of government over the issue.
Oil Workers' Strike: No plans to sell refineries
The Presidency yesterday refuted the claim that the federal government was planning to sell the four refineries in the country.
The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) had threatened to halt the loading of crude cargoes and shut down oil and gas production if government proceeded with the proposed sale.
This followed the announcement by the minister of petroleum resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, on Bloomberg TV Africa, London, that government was going to sell the refineries.
But the special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Dr Reuben Abati, allayed the apprehension by the unions when he declared on Thursday that the federal government had no plans to sell the refineries.
Speaking to State House correspondents on Thursday, Abati appealed to NUPENG and PENGASSAN not to proceed with their planned strike.
The presidential spokesman said, "Government is not going to sell any refineries. There are no such plans and there is no presidential approval for such. Nobody, not even the minister of petroleum, has powers to sell any government property."
A presidential panel set up to audit the country's refineries led by a former minister of finance, Dr Kalu Idika Kalu, had recommended the sale of the refineries due to inadequate government funding and "sub-optimal performance".
The four refineries located in Warri, Kaduna and Port Harcourt have a combined capacity of 445,000 barrels per day.