Nigeria spent a total of N1.62tn on the importation of Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) from January to September, the latest data obtained from the National Bureau of Statistics have shown.

The country spent N1.72tn on petrol imports in the whole of 2019, according to the NBS.

The data also showed that petrol topped the list of products imported into the country, accounting for 11.7 per cent of the total amount spent on imported products from January to September.

Petrol imports jumped 511.64 per cent to N532.62bn in the third quarter of 2020 from N87.08bn in Q2 and N371.75bn in Q3 2019. In the first three months of this year, the country spent N1tn on the importation of petrol.

Petrol accounted for 73.04 per cent of the N700.46bn spent on the importation of petroleum products into the country in Q3, according to the NBS data.

Fuel consumption and imports plunged to a record low in Q2 2020 amid the lockdown imposed by the Federal Government to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

Data obtained from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation showed that the volume of petrol imported into the country through the Direct Sale Direct Purchase scheme fell from a high of 2.25 billion litres in March to 1.81 billion litres in April and 495.10 million litres in May.

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.

Nigeria relies largely on importation of refined petroleum products as its refineries have remained in a state of disrepair for many years despite several reported repairs.

The NNPC has been the major importer of petroleum products into the country in recent years.

Despite the recent petrol deregulation, most marketers have yet to resume petrol importation due to a lack of access to foreign exchange at the official rate.

In a related development, European petrol cash prices rallied in the week commencing Dec. 14, recovering to levels not seen since the start of the pandemic as crude oil continued to gain momentum despite the poor prompt outlook for gasoline consumption in the United States and Europe.

European petrol prices have made considerable gains this month, with Eurobob FOB AR barges climbing 10.1 per cent in value since the start of December, and 15.7 per cent since the start of the fourth quarter, according to S&P Global Platts.

Road fuel demand in the US and Europe has stabilised in recent weeks but remains around 15 per cent below year-ago levels as spiking COVID-19 infection rates threaten a return of mobility curbs in some regions.