By FESTUS OKOROMADU, Abuja
The federal government, yesterday, assured Nigerians that it is addressing the current fuel scarcity being witnessed across the country, adding that the queues recorded in petrol stations would thin out before the end of the week.
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, who gave the assurance while addressing newsmen in Abuja on Thursday, said the federal government will flood the market with more products to cushion the effect of over-subscription and sharp practices through the Kaduna Refinery, which has started producing about 750,000 litres and the Port Harcourt refinery which would commence production of 2.1 million litres per day in the next one week.
According to him, the NNPC was already taking emergency steps to fill up the gap, adding that four cargoes of fuel are expected in the next four days while about 30 vessels would come in about a week’s time.
Describing the new method to be adopted as a three pronged-strategy, Dr. Kachikwu said the government has charged the regulatory agencies in the industry such as the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), and Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) to apply stricter monitoring of supply and distribution of petroleum products across the country.
The government, the minister said, was also considering additional trucking to major cities by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, using their strategic reserves from Suleja, Minna, Gusau and Gombe. Other states to be fed with large quantity of the product, apart from Lagos, include Abuja, Kano, Sokoto axis and the North-east.
Kachikwu blamed the recent fuel crisis on the inability of independent marketers to import petroleum stressing that the NNPC was the sole importer of the commodity over the last couple of months. “The fact that other petroleum marketers had stopped importing the commodity, leaving the NNPC to fill in the gap.
“What the buying public is expected to see over the next week is a significant improvement in Lagos. Lagos has already started thinning out, and it is expected to get better by Friday.
“Abuja queues are also expected to thin out completely by weekend, while the Kaduna areas are to be served by the refineries and strategic reserves from the Suleja depots,” he said.
Kachikwu further disclosed that the NNPC had been directed to look for emergency fuel supply from any available source to fill up the gap and also track its cargoes to know their expected time of arrival.
Speaking of the long term strategy being deployed, Kachikwu said the emphasis would be on the revamp and upgrade of the country’s refineries, noting that efforts are on to ensure that the process for the award of the contracts for the refineries are concluded before the end of the year, while work on them commences in earnest January next year.
He explained that investors with the requisite financial capability would be encouraged to invest in modular refineries, while the petroleum policy approved by the Federal Executive Council would be implemented, especially as it is a major enabler for downstream sector investments.
Government’s explanation is coming on the heels of recent accusation by Alhaji Balogun Alanamu, Chairman of Lagos Zone of Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), who said that the NNPC management should be blamed for the ongoing fuel queues across the country.
Speaking to newsmen in Lagos on Wednesday, Alhaji Balogun attributed the current fuel scarcity to the NNPC’s inability to pump petrol to the depots.
According to him, the management of NNPC only allocated 20 trucks to marketers on daily basis out of 150 trucks expecting to load daily.
All the depots that are serving the South West Nigeria, which include Mosinmi, Ejigbo, Ibadan and Ilorin depots are loading an average of 50 trucks per day as against over 500 trucks per day, usually when there are enough products and all infrastructure are working optimally, he stated
“We really do not know why they are deliberately giving us inadequate supplies and supplying the private depot owners.
“These people are selling to us above the recommended ex-depot price of N133.38 kobo per litre.
“NNPC officials are collaborating with the private depot owners to create artificial scarcity.
“They give the products to them; the private depot owners in turn sell to middlemen in bulk, who will later sell to independent marketers at N143 per litre,’’ Alanamu said.
According to him, they are hiding behind these marketers to defraud us.
“Meanwhile, they said they gave the products to private depot owners at N117 per litre ex-depot price.
“We expect they will sell to us at N133.38 per litre but they are not and NNPC is not doing anything about it.
“We raised this issue at a recent seminar two weeks ago where the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Dr Maikanti Baru, was represented.
“We implored him to investigate if we were lying. We also presented him with evidences, yet, nothing happened,’’ he said.