Nigerians on Thursday started paying about 10 per cent more for petrol as the government's deregulation policy takes effect.
The Nigerian government has struggled to do away with fuel subsidies and allow private companies import the product, since the first quarter of 2020.
In March, the government announced that it would scrap subsidies on petrol and allow market forces to determine the retail price of the product.
Fuel subsidies have drained billions of dollars from the Nigerian treasury over the past years as the national oil company, NNPC, struggles to maintain supply as the sole importer of petrol.
Millions of Nigerians depend on gasoline for transportation, businesses and self-generated electricity.
But rather than provide the ground for total deregulation, the government, through the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, still determined prices with its routine draft of price control template.
Experts have expressed worry over this development, saying such a move allows the government to control the market price as much as it makes it bear continued costs.
However, since August, the government has not reeled out its monthly price template.
A new announcement on Wednesday pushed the retail price of petrol by about 10 per cent to about N161 from about N145.
The announcement came against the background of the increase in the ex-depot prices of Premium Motor Spirit, otherwise known as petrol, announced by the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC).
Premium Times reported how the PPMC adjusted the ex-depot price of petrol twice within a few hours on Wednesday.
The new price of N147.67 was made public shortly after the agency announced an initial increment to N151.56 per litre from the erstwhile price of N138.62 per litre.
The PPMC is a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and currently imports almost all of Nigeria's petrol.
Details of an internal memo made available to marketers and other stakeholders showed that the new directive becomes effective September 2.
The ex-depot price is the price at which the product is sold to marketers at the depots.
On Thursday, checks by PREMIUM TIMES in major parts of the country showed that independent oil marketers and filling stations adjusted the prices upwards.
In Lagos, Oyo, Ogun and Abuja, the prices varied across filling stations, including outlets owned by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
At the NNPC outlet in Ketu, Lagos, petrol was sold at N160 Thursday morning. Similarly, at YKT Petrol, also in Ketu, the product was sold at N160.
But at the Total filling station located along Ikosi Road, it sold for N161.
In Ikeja, many of the stations sold the product at prices ranging from N159 to N161.
In Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, many independent marketers sold petrol at N161. A resident told PREMIUM TIMES that he however bought the product at N160 at an NNPC filling station in the Oyo State capital.
In Sango, Ogun State, petrol sold for N161 at the Mobil filling station along Ijoko Road. It sold for the same price at three other stations in Iyana-Iyesi, along Idiroko Road.
The pump price of fuel varies in different parts of Abuja, PREMIUM TIMES observed. At Danmarna Petroleum,Wuye, petrol was sold for N160/ltr.
Eterna station at Zone 1 and Bulasala filling station, located inside the National Assembly, sold at N161.
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES, a taxi driver who claimed to have bought fuel for N165 at a filling station on Kubwa express road lamented the hike in price.
He expressed surprise at how people kept paying the new fuel price without protest.
"Until the common man dies in Nigeria no one will care," he said.
"You won't even believe they have increased the pump price until you get there. No queue, no protest... "
He also lamented that the new price would affect his daily income.
"Now having hopes of better returns after a day's job seems to be impossible," he said.
For Seun Adeyanju, a logistics expert, the development was quite shocking even though it was all over social media.
"I still bought for N148 yesterday only for one of my riders to call me this morning to tell me he bought for N165," he said.
"This is really bad for business and it will be nice if the government can reverse it to the amount we buy before now."
Sources within the PPPRA had told PREMIUM TIMES that the authorities envisage a situation where market forces would determine pump price, a fact confirmed by the petroleum minister.
On Thursday, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, said that the Nigerian government is no longer fixing the pump price of petroleum products in the country.
"Government is no longer in the business of fixing prices for petroleum products, we have stepped back," he said.
"Our focus now is on protecting the interest of the consumers and making sure that marketers are not profiteering," the minister said.