The N1.71tn represented 10.75 per cent of the amount spent on all imported goods last year, compared to 2018 when petrol accounted for 22.4 per cent of total imports (N13.16tn).
The decline in the amount spent on petrol imports last year was partly due to the fall in the average price of Brent crude oil, the international benchmark. The price of Brent crude averaged $64 per barrel in 2019, down from $71 per barrel in 2018, according to Energy Information Agency.
Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, relies largely on importation for petrol and other refined products as its refineries have remained in a state of disrepair for many years.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has been the sole importer of petrol into the country for more than two years, after private oil marketers stopped importing the commodity due to crude price fluctuations among other issues.
The refineries, located in Port Harcourt, Kaduna and Warri, have a combined installed capacity of 445,000 barrels per day but have continued to operate far below the installed capacity.
Petrol imports gulped N190.78bn in the first quarter of last year; N572.28bn in Q2; N371.79bn in Q3, and N574.88bn in Q4.
The amount spent on petrol imports rose by 49.75 per cent to N2.95tn in 2018 from N1.97tn in 2017, according to the NBS data.
Petrol imports gulped N1.63tn in 2016, representing 18.4 per cent of total imports.
Latest data from the NBS showed that the country imported a total of 4.87 billion litres of petrol in Q1 2019; 5.61 billion litres in Q2, and 5.09 billion litres in Q3.
The NNPC had said in July 2019 that petrol was being smuggled out of the country to Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali and Cote d’Ivoire as a result of the price disparity of petrol between Nigeria and the other West African countries.
The corporation, through the ‘Direct-Sale-Direct-Purchase’ arrangement introduced in 2016, supplies petroleum products into the country.
Under the DSDP scheme, selected overseas refiners, trading companies and indigenous companies are allocated crude supplies in exchange for the delivery of an equal value of petrol and other refined products to the NNPC.
While diesel and kerosene prices have been deregulated, the government still pays subsidy to make petrol cheaper at the pump.
The PUNCH reported last week that the landing cost of petrol had dropped below the approved pump price of N145 per litre on the back of the sharp decline in crude oil prices.
The international oil benchmark, Brent crude, which has been on a downward trend since coronavirus broke out in China, fell to the $30 per barrel range this week.