Arithmetic of Fuel Subsidy by Wale Majaro

UPDATE : An updated version of this article appears at http://www.vanguardngr.com/2012/01/fuel-subsidy-removal-tips-for-efcc/

As I write this, Nigeria has been paralyzed by a labour strike for the whole of this week. On New Year's day, the government removed government subsidies on petrol, the price went from N65 to N141. Arguments rage about whether or not removing the subsidies is a good idea. A friend of mine has analysed the problem scientifically, please read his excellent piece below:

Arithmetic of Fuel Subsidy (by Wale Majaro)

The Nigerian government claims that Nigerians consume 34million L of petrol per day. Most experts disagree and give a figure between 20ML and 25ML per day. For this write up, I will use the government figure. The government has also said that N141/L is the unsubsidized pump price of petrol imported into Nigeria, with N131.7 the landing price and N9.3 as profit.

Now, the government has made claims of the refineries working between 30% and 60%, depending on whom you listen to. For the sake of argument, I will assume that our refineries don’t work at all (i.e. 0% Production). Thus, my calculation is based on 100% of petrol used in Nigeria being imported, the worst case scenario. If the refineries actually work at 60% as the government claims, they should be processing 270,000 bbl/day of crude. Each barrel of crude produces 75L of petrol. So, if the government is to be believed, the refineries produce 19.5 million L of petrol a day and we should therefore only import 14.5million L a day. My analysis will ignore this completely.

So here is the arithmetic, using the government’s own figures:

Daily fuel consumption/importation: 34million L
Cost at pump: N141
No of days in a year: 365
Total cost of all petrol imported into Nigeria = 34Mx141x365 = N1.75 trillion

Now, Nigerians have been paying N 65/L for fuel, haven’t we? Therefore, cost borne by the consumers = 34Mx65x365 = N807 billion

Cost of the subsidy borne by the government is:

Subsidy = Total cost of import – cost borne by consumers
= N1.75 trillion – N807 billion
= N943 billion

So, even if we believe the claim that we consume 34million L/day and we assume that the refineries don’t work, the government should still not have spent up to N 1 trillion on the subsidy in 2011. How did they manage to spend N1.3 trillion by October? Since N1.3 trillion was spent by October, then the bill for the full year 2011 (assuming a constant rate of consumption) is: N1.56 trillion!

What accounts for the difference between N943 billion and N1.56 trillion? This is a difference of N617 billion that the government cannot explain. Did I hear a government official claim that the difference is what goes to subsidize our neighbours through smuggling? Time for more arithmetic.

Using figures from Okonjo-Iweala’s World Bank, here are the populations of West African countries:

Nigeria: 158.4 million
Benin: 8.8 million
Togo: 6 million
Cameroun: 19.6 million
Niger: 15.5 million
Chad: 11.2 million
Ghana: 24.4 million
The total population of all our neighbours: 85.5 million

Now, let us assume that fully 50% of the petrol consumed in each of these countries is illegally exported from Nigeria. Let us also assume that each of these countries consumes petrol at the same rate the Nigerian government claims petrol is consumed in Nigeria. I have deliberately ignored the ff facts which show that petrol consumption in these countries will necessarily be considerably lower than consumption in Nigeria:

  1. Some of these countries have stable electricity (eg Ghana) and thus do not depend on petrol-driven generators for power.
  2. Ghana, Togo and Benin are much smaller than Nigeria, thus traveling distances will be smaller.
  3. Niger and Chad are mostly desert and cross-desert transportation of goods/people is mostly by diesel-consuming trucks, not petrol-consuming cars.
  4. Apart from Ghana, the car density in each of these countries is much, much lower than the car density in Nigeria. In Nigeria, there are 31 cars for every 1000 citizens. In Togo and Chad, you have less than 10 cars for 1000 people.
  5. Ghana has started to produce oil and will very likely rely less and less on refined products smuggled from Nigeria, once the Ghanaian local refining capacity is built up.

Rate of petrol consumption in Nigeria = Total consumed/total population
= 34ML/158.8M people
= 0.21L/person/day

Rate of petrol consumption in neighbouring countries is assumed to be same as Nigeria = 0.21L/person/day

Petrol consumption by our neighbours = Rate of consumption x total population
= 0.21x85.5M
= 18.35ML per day

Now, we have assumed that 50% of the petrol consumed in each of these countries comes from Nigeria. This value comes to: 9.18 millionL per day.

Let’s pause here. Think about it again. Is it possible for 9.18 million L of petrol to be smuggled out of our borders and the government cannot do anything about it? The biggest fuel tankers in Nigeria have a capacity of about 36,000L. How many of these trucks do you need to smuggle 9.18 ML of fuel? 254! Our government is telling us that over 250 huge tankers pass through our borders everyday and they cannot do anything about it! Wow! Talk about incompetence! This in itself is an urgent security challenge – if you cannot stop 250 tanker trailers from crossing the borders daily, how can you stop importation of weapons or even an invasion by a foreign army?

But that is not all.

Let’s believe the government and assume that about 9.18ML is actually taken to our neighbours everyday and this is all subsidized by the Nigerian government.

How much will this translate to?

Difference between pump price before and after subsidy removal = N141-N65 = N76
Total spent on subsidizing petrol to our neighbours annually = N76 x 9.18ML x 365
= N255 billion

I have assumed that:

  1. There are no working refineries in Nigeria.
  2. Nigeria actually consumes 34ML of petrol per day.
  3. Ghana, Togo, Benin, Cameroun, Niger, Chad all get 50% of their petrol illegally, from Nigeria.
  4. Ghana, Togo, Benin, Cameroun, Niger, Chad all consume petrol at the same rate as Nigeria.

Yet, the government’s figures still don’t add up! There is N362 billion missing. This is the difference between N943 billion and N1.56 trillion, assuming N255 billion is wasted through subsidizing the rest of West Africa. The government should tell us what/who eats up this N362 billion ($2.26 billion).

These figures simply show the incompetence and insincerity of our government officials. The simplest part of the arithmetic is laid down below:

  • NNPC crude oil allocation for local consumption: 400,000 barrels per day
  • Assuming refineries work at 30%, 280,000 barrels can be sold on the international market. (Remember that I assumed that refineries don’t work in calculating our consumption, to give an absolute worst case scenario).
  • Money accruing to FGN, through NNPC on the sale, using $80/bbl: $22.4m a day. Note that the true price is higher, as oil currently sells for $100/bbl and Nigerian crude sells at a premium to the benchmark Brent crude.
  • Annually, this translates to: $8.176bn or N1.3trillion.

What does this mean? The government does not subsidize our petrol imports, at least not from the Federation Account. The same crude that should have been refined by NNPC is simply sold on the international market (since our refineries barely work) and the money is used to buy petrol. The 400,000 barrels/day given to NNPC for local consumption can either be refined by NNPC or sold to pay for imports. The “subsidy” should be funded with this money, not the regular FGN budget. If the government uses its regular budget for subsidizing petrol, then what happens to the crude given to NNPC for local refining, but gets sold on the international market?


Now that the petrol pump price has been hiked by over 100% and resulted in 100-200% increases in the price of transportation, personal electricity generation and foodstuff, what do I advise the government to do?

  1. Revise the petrol price, not to N65, but to an amount which takes inflation into consideration. Cumulative inflation from 2008 to 2011 is about 27%. A new petrol price of N88 should be a reasonable sacrifice for Nigerians, while the government tries to build trust by sorting out the real issues of the midstream/downstream oil industry and cutting down the cost of governance.
  2. Partner with the International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating in the upstream oil sector to carry out the deregulation of the midstream/downstream oil sectors. Refineries are not very profitable compared to other areas in the oil industry; with profit margins ranging from 0-15% (this is why we don’t see companies queuing up to set up refineries). The government needs to give incentives to these companies to set up refineries in Nigeria, in the form of tax breaks, duty exemptions, crude price guarantees, etc. All agreements should be in place, with an enabling law, by September 2012.
  3. The government has already shown and admitted that it cannot manage refineries. All new Greenfield refineries should use the NLNG model, where government owns enough equity to influence strategy in favour of the Nigerian people, but is not involved in the routine management of the company. This is the best way to get the best out of these refineries while protecting the national interest. The new refineries should come on stream by end of 2014.
  4. Sell the existing refineries to the IOCs and stop spending taxpayers’ money trying to revamp them within the current structure. The IOCs have built and currently operate hundreds of refineries across the world, so refining is their bread and butter. ExxonMobil’s Torrance Refinery is over 80 years old, Total’s Port Arthur Refinery is about 100 years old – these companies know how to manage refineries.
  5. The sale of the refineries should be carried out by September 2012. I know the refineries have been very poorly managed, so we should not expect to make tons of cash from selling them. The main advantages of the existing refineries to a buyer are the existing Brownfield facilities (roads, utilities, power), an existing pipeline distribution system and a skilled workforce. The IOCs should be mandated to revamp these new refineries to 70% nameplate production by January 2014 and 95% by January 2015.
  6. Incorporate PPPRA into DPR by December 2012, with an appropriate legislation (I’m not sure whether this is already included in the PIB). Let us have one strong agency to monitor all activities, including product pricing in the downstream oil industry.
  7. Balkanize PPMC and sell it off to private investors, again with the government retaining a non-controlling stake in the new entities. This should be done by September 2012, in parallel with the sale of refineries.
  8. Increase the fuel price in Jan 2014, not by simply jacking up the prices, but by introducing a tax on imported products. The tax should be deducted at source when making “subsidy” payments to the importers. Jan 2014 is chosen because I expect the output from local refineries to improve to at least 70% within 1 year of operations by IOCs.
  9. Introduce a law that any company that will be licensed to import petroleum products from July 2013 must either be currently running a refinery in Nigeria or be in the process of building a refinery in Nigeria (i.e. project has passed FID stage and execution contracts are signed). The total products each individual company can import must not be more than 20% of the company’s total refining capacity (existing + in construction) in Nigeria. This is the only way to break the importation “cabal”.
  10. Immediately, start prosecuting all companies and individuals suspected of involvement in the royal mess that the fuel importation segment has become. Use the same vigour (or more) that was used in the 2009-2010 reform of the banking sector. Also, all companies and individuals suspected of involvement in the refinery TAM contract scams should be prosecuted.
  11. Immediately, tighten the borders to minimize smuggling of petroleum products to neighbouring countries and sack/prosecute the relevant officials if smuggling remains a major issue. Our petrol will always be cheaper than that of our neighbours, especially if/when local refining reaches/surpasses local consumption. As every economist knows, products will always be cheaper in the source location than other places.
  12. Set up petroleum product trading agreements for surplus products in Nigeria to be sold to neighbouring countries in a legal and transparent manner. All agreements should be in place by July 2013, well in advance of additional capacity coming on stream. These agreements will assure companies building refineries that there is an available regional market for them to legally sell products refined in Nigeria.

With all the above, “subsidy” will disappear by Dec 2014, but in a gradual process, ensuring no price shocks (such as the 100% increase of Jan 2012) re-occur and ensuring that the industry is actually sanitized. Of course, the government also needs to keep to its several promises of improving the power sector and revamping rail lines, two critical developments which will reduce our consumption of petroleum products significantly.

Data Sources:

  1. http://www.nigeriafirst.org/article_11527.shtml Para. 14
  2. http://www.nigerianoilgas.com/?p=518
  3. http://www.pppra-nigeria.org/index.asp
  4. http://www.thisdaylive.com/articles/subsidy-deductions-hit-n1-264tr-say-govs/101264/
  5. http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL
  6. http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTPSIA/Resources/490023-1120841262639/Angola_PSIA_vol1_English.pdf
  7. http://www.livecharts.co.uk/MarketCharts/crude.php
  8. http://www.cenbank.org/rates/inflrates.asp?year=2011
  9. http://www.nlng.com/PageEngine.aspx?&id=43
  10. http://www.totalpetrochemicalsusa.com/pdf/F_FactsPortArthur.pdf
  11. http://www.exxonmobil.com/NA-English/PA/about_where_ref_torrance.aspx
  12. http://www.petroleumonline.com/content/overview.asp?mod=8
  13. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/european-refining-margins-negative-in-dec-total-2012-01-05
  15. http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/IS.VEH.NVEH.P3
  16. http://cdn.dailypost.com.ng/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Consolidated-Detailed-Findings.pdf


  1. you have my total respect for this.

  2. nice work. government will claim, some of the subsidy is going to kerosene. I can bet they will declare that we are consuming like 50 million litrs of kerosene and it's subsidised at 100 naira per liter. Jokers. If only our media is not corrupt? Our journalists are lazy and poor thinkers. Why cant a presenter ask this questions? Well done my brother.

  3. Good work.
    The difference may be accounted for by following:
    - NNPC is supposed to pay products within about 45 days, but the never do and for the delay they pay interest penalty. At times the penalties rise to about 50% (more waste)
    - also Nigeria is one of few countries where NNPC also pays the demurrage cost of the importers, and at times some claim to have waited as much as 40 days before being able to offload.

    Once again well done

  4. Well done, and thank you so much for enlightening us!

  5. Welldone!

    Numerical evidence of the inefficiency and incompetency of Government officials and insttitutions; NNPC, DPR and PPRA operated at such high budgets and not GEJ in managing our national resources..but yu must direct ur write-up to the right source titizoma@yahoo.com!

  6. Nice arithmetic work! Yes it is very possible to smuggle 10million litres of petrol by sea, using a ship. That is what they have been doing. They will bring in an empty ship to the jetty and then pump back into the ship instead of trucking the petrol for our use. The ship sails off to neighbour countries to sell the cargo. The effect is that the petrol they take away has already been paid for by government for local consumption. Sometimes, they return the same petrol again, claiming that it is a fresh import and government pays for it a second time.... it is called, "Round-tripping". The network of culprits is very expansive: Security agents, SSS, Navy, NPA, PPMC, NNPC, and a very large group of people who are supposed to be protecting the interest of the masses, they all get a share of this money running into millions of dollars.

    1. You're very much on point. GEJ, SLS, NOI, DAM all know this fact but they cant expose the men behind the masquerade because they're tainted and have benefited massively from the loot.
      Any wonder why OBJ in his 'wisdom' could not tackle the cabal? why does OBJ say publicly that he could be meted the same treatment as Hosni Mubarak?
      I hope Nigerians won't just allow this monumental fraud to be swept under the catalog in the bid for us to 'move' on....
      Lets not leave labor alone to fight this fight on our behalf since they have to make a political compromise so as not to humiliate Mr. President
      God bless Nigeria..!!!

  7. I think ur analysis makes sense n shd b explained 2d govt n every layman. Especially gej who seems 2b out of d loop in dis 1.jus playin som1 else's hand in d game. But wat I don't get is,despite d fact dat u showed nigerians alredi pay 4dia fuel consumption n unsubsidized @dat,u stil say govt shd increase d price 2 N88/L. Pls expanciate. Becos N65 is alredi wit out subsidy. Wat shd b don tho,is restrict d dockin of vessels @d pot until d 1s imported r off loaded dia by makin sure no empty vessel wil offload a full 1 n cause round trippn.it also ensures all d claims made 4late offloadin can b reduced 2d barest minimum. U shd take dat down n include in ur write up.generally,good ryt up but I feel d masses stil shdn b made 2suffer a priAce hike 4somfin dat isn dia fault. So N65 all is it.ameenah

  8. Dear Wale,

    This piece is nothing but magnificent!

    This a beautiful piece!

    Whew, whao, how practical!

    How correct!

    Let's show-case this piece!

    It spells VICTORY for the #OccupyNigeria struggle for a better nation!

    I'm so impressed!

    Whew, thanks a great deal, Wale Majaro!

    Whao, thanks indeed!

    I'll save this and memorize every bit of detail till committed to memory!

    O, that THESE will work!


    Kabolobari Benakole

  9. I am very happy with the indept analysis and workable solutions you proferred. We shall send the links to friends and contacts until it possibly gets to the policy makers. Thanks. God Bless Nigeria. Hafis Bello (hafisbello@gmail.com)

  10. Fantastic analysis brother, ƔU̶̲̥̅̊ should be governon of cbn or world bank president, just hope our law makers are getting this. Bravo Zulu.

  11. This is an excellent write up. Please publish this piece in widely read newspapers to inform Nigerians. Ggovernment deceit & insecerity should be exposed.God bless you

  12. Very very good. A masterpiece worth circulating. However, please what is your view on the actual cost of refined petrol? Nobody till date has confirmed or refuted David-West's analysis of ~N40 or so per liter.

    1. Refining cost plus profit to refiner ranges from $0.22-0.39/gallon (4 liters). The answers are there on the internet and very credible at that



  14. I am proud to be a Nigerian, Nigeria and Nigerians are amongst the leading brians on the face of the earth today, my in depth prayer is that the Good Lord God will lead us all in harnessing our knowledge to the benefit of our mother nation...

    Well done my brother for all the trouble you have gone through in bringing such an in depth annd critical analysis as well as workable solutions to our broad attention. The problem here is that most of our elected readers do not do internet and so this message will have to be delivered to them by hand and read into their ears...

  15. Awesome! Purely simply awesome.. I really wish you would get the job to implement such a strategy. And if you do get the job, Please don't use the same genius to clean us out... Clearly we are underutilizing ou human capital when it comes to ruling this nation. Well done brother

  16. brother, ur calculation ok. it doesnt take harvard certificte to understant simple economics. with my only secondary school economics, i know consumption is not constant, so these idiots led by grand idiot okonjo ''orualla'' kept saying 1.4trillion they will realise from our fuel consumption. who tell them that if u raise the price, consumption wont fall.
    please they should go back to N65 and use their wasteful governance and manage the situation.

  17. I actually don't know what to say, but this is a good and wisdomwise calculation.well done. But there are other issues that still need calculation, as regards to the budget and presidential expenses. Please calculate these too cos I see no reason why 1billion is meant for president to eat in a year, when that money can feed a whole community in a year.

  18. Am impressed.WOWWWWWWWWWWWWW

  19. Interesting take. Well done for your efforts.However some of your assumptions were way wrong if the PPPRA report is anything to write home about. See---->http://resourcedat.com/2012/01/report-on-the-investigation-of-pppras-operation-of-fuel-subsidy-by-nass/

    According to the report of the N3.6tr spent on subsidy since 2006 N800b was subsidy on Kerosene. Also the N1.3tr or so spent between Jan and August 2011 N250b was on Kerosene and included backlog of payments due to NNPC for past years.

    I also do not agree with your conclusion that fuel price should reduce to N88 using inflation as your basis. It sounds too theoretical. Fuel price should revert to N65 as that is what most Nigerians want. Even if they are to reduce subsidy they can reduce from any of the margins and cost elements which is being subsidised. However, they should revert to N65 till the refineries are up and running. Subsequently they can deregulate and let market forces determine prices. This fight is so much about subsidy as it is about profligate government spending.

    All the same, very very good write up.

  20. Good write up but my only misgiving about itis you propose the price of fuel shd be increased to 88 naira when in fact the price ought to come down.

  21. regress argument is what i see up here!any proposition requires a justification. However, any justification itself requires support. This means that any proposition whatsoever can be endlessly (infinitely) questioned, like a child who asks "why?" over and over again. The writer of this article has done an explicit analysis. One thing is clear presently government is on the wrong side of the people and there are people that has been infiltrating the Nigeria petroleum industry with irregularities and financial peculations

  22. Excellent analysis! What would we give to have such sound principles and reasoning prevail at the heart of our Government! We need our prayers to be answered - enough is enough!!

    By the time deregulation comes into play, the price of N88 would have gone down.

  23. This is wonderful,well done,with this it is obvious that an evil virus has eatten up the hearts of our leaders,instead of suffering the masses they should reduce their salaries,allowances,etc then money to pay for subsidy will never be a problem and also service the refineries,that way we can refine and consume as much as we want,lastly if Power Holding can supply light regularly,then we shall consume less fuel.

  24. The fact that (according to you) that the actual subsidy cost is almost N600bn higher than it should be, is one of the reasons the government wants to scrap it. It is riddled with corruption; it is a big scam. And all subsidies are prone to corruption (whether EU farm subsidies or US defence subsidies) and the only way (especially in a weak and corrupt country with weak anti-corruption measures) to avoid the corruption and waste is to remove the subsidy.

    I have an alternative set of figures for you and others to consider:

    1. Fuel (PMS)is the refined product of crude oil.
    2. A barrel of crude oil is currently about $100 (or N16,000 using fx rate of N160).
    3. A barrel of oil contains about 159 litres of oil.
    4. So 1 litre of oil costs N100.6 (i.e. N16,000/159).
    5. So a litre of oil before refining costs N100.

    So my question is - How much then do you think a litre of fuel (PMS) should cost (after refining cost, profit margin, transport costs, etc)?

  25. Hi all, as I have tried to make clear, this article was written by a friend of mine, and not me.

    It's received 16,000 hits in 5 days, which is more traffic than this blog has ever seen !!

    An updated version appeared in the Vanguard newspaper, here is the online link http://www.vanguardngr.com/2012/01/fuel-subsidy-removal-tips-for-efcc/

    For those of you with questions, I hope they are answered there, and if not, feel free to discuss with the author there.

  26. Please who is Wale Majaro? Why is it easier for the proverbial camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for people like Majaro to get into the position of authority in Nigeria? Majaro`s piece has made nonsense of all the professional jargons the likes of Okonjo Iweala,Diezani Alisson-Madueke,Sanusi Lamido Sanusi have bamboozled us with. This shows that one does not have to be a graduate of business from Harvard before they can proffer laudable solutions to the myriad of problems plaguing our economy. If only the so called policy makers could be as astute as this incredible writer,then we would be talking about El Dorado in Nigeria.I commend Wale for this wonderful piece and hope that our leaders will study the piece and be humble enough to consider it for implementation.