NLC President Responds To Ongoing Scarcity

The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, in response to the ongoing fuel scarcity, said yesterday in Abuja that the various excuses given by government, as reasons for the fuel scarcity are not acceptable.

He said: “The NLC considers this scarcity as an act of cruelty and sabotage from which a few privileged are benefitting. The timing of this artificial scarcity is not lost on us, as it is intended to maximise pain and profit, since it is a well-known fact that the Christmas season witnesses the biggest movement of people, goods and services.”

Ayuba reiterated that the congress equally considers the scarcity as an insult to the collective pride of all good Nigerians. Also, NLC General Secretary, Dr Peter Ozo-Eson, said that the confusion in the downstream sub-sector of the Nigerian oil and gas sector was established when the price modulation based on petroleum products import regime was introduced.

“Nigerians will be bear us witness that we canvassed against the introduction of price modulation; we said it was going to fail. Our argument then was that there was no way a price modulation regime can work in an environment that is import dependent. It would be recalled that the NLC staged protests against the move, but we were ignored. Today, we are back to the same turf. The scarcity we are witnessing now is not new. It started two years ago technically.”

The Executive Secretary of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), Abdukadir Umar, said there are no plans to increase fuel price.

“We want to use this medium to assure all Nigerians that there is no need for apprehension or panic buying. We are confident that the NNPC, being a major supplier of petroleum products into the system and the supplier of last resort, can ensure uninterrupted supply of petroleum products into the market and the corporation has given assurances in that regard.”

Persisting Fuel Scarcity, PDP National Chairmanship, Southwest Integration and Other Newspaper Headlines Today

The annual ritual of persisting fuel scarcity in the year end is back again but with twists and turns from stakeholders across the country with the Federal Government giving a marching order to the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu to end the rising issue by weekend. Here are how some National Dailies captioned it today;

Starting with the Nigerian Tribune with the Headline, FEC to Kachikwu: End fuel scarcity this week with council ordering both the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu and the Group
Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation NNPC, Dr Maikanti Baru to end fuel scarcity by this weekend.

The Guardian reports the story with the headline; FG blames fuel scarcity on external demand with the government blaming the situation on increased demand by nations in temperate regions.

Away from Fuel matters, The Independent has it that EFCC Plans to Pick Four Chair Aspirants at PDP Convention writing that the party is seriously worried that the planned arrest is being planned by the anti-graft agency to take place at Eagle Square on Saturday.

Daily Sun also has an headline on the PDP with the caption; PDP Chair: North dumps Southwest with the riders Uche Secondus is top runner as Ladoja looks good for deputy chairman, Makarfi, Okowa, others meet IBB in Minna.

Still on Politics, Vanguard leads with Why I’ll Win Again In 2019 – Buhari. Moved by the outpouring of affection from the people of Kano State at the beginning of a two-day official visit, President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday vowed to overwhelm any opposition to his undeclared 2019 re-election prospects.

Finally from The Nation Newspaper comes a double banner headline of Southwest States United On Constitution Amendment as Governors Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Akinwumi Ambode (Lagos), Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo) and Ayodele Fayose (Ekiti) met in Ibadan to ratify their common stance on all issues billed for amendment.

Fuel Scarcity: Senate To Undertake Nationwide Inspection Of Filling Stations, Summons NNPC GMD

 

The Senate Committee on Petroleum Downstream says plans have been concluded for it to conduct nationwide inspection of filling stations over recent fears of fuel scarcity in the country.

Committee Chairman, Senator Kabiru Marafa stated this at a news briefing shortly after an investigative hearing on the matter on Tuesday in Abuja.

Marafa said the Senate would not watch some unpatriotic persons put Nigerians through any form of hardship, particularly during the Yuletide.

He noted that although the Senate had adjourned to commence budget defence, members of the committee would take time out to embark on the oversight.

According to him, the committee members would be regrouped into sub-committees to make it possible to visit all the states.

“First things first, this season a lot of Nigerians will be travelling to reunite with their love ones.

“We will take time out to embark on a serious oversight. We will break into sub-committees to be able to cover the entire country.

“We have already mandated the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to furnish us with the daily distribution list.

“This is to enable the sub-committees to be armed with detailed evidence of which filling station was given what quantity of fuel.

“We will also get these details from the filling stations to ascertain when last they got supplies and the quantity sold.

“We will not stop at that. We will also inspect tanks in filling stations to ensure that Nigerians are not taken advantage of,’’ he said.

Meanwhile, the committee has summoned NNPC Group Managing Director, Maikanti Baru to appear before it on Thursday, having failed to appear on Tuesday.

“Immediately the issue came up, we contacted NNPC to know the situation of things and we were told that the rumours were unfounded and that they have written rejoinders to that effect.

“However, given the seriousness of the matter, we decided to invite the GMD to come and brief us on the development and to enable Nigerians know the situation of things.

“Unfortunately, he wrote informing us of his inability to honour the invitation.

“We hope he will be back by Thursday to tell Nigerians the true situation. Even if he cannot make it, he can send people that are in good authority to speak on his behalf.

“There is an Executive Director in charge of Downstream who oversees the downstream generally. There is also the Managing Director of Petroleum and Product Marketing Company.

“So, whatever it is by next tomorrow (Thursday) we will be able to tell Nigerians what the situation is like and what the Senate is going to do in the event of any eventuality,’’ he said.

He warned filling stations in the habit of hoarding fuel to inflict untold pains on Nigerians to desist as it would not be business as usual.

He assured that the Senate would work with relevant agencies of government to punish any filling station found wanting.

Looming Fuel Scarcity and Other Newspaper Headlines Today

Away from the #EndSARS and Atiku Issues, Nigerians woke up on Wednesday with the news of the looming fuel scarcity in the country as national dailies caption it in different ways.

The PUNCH captions it; Consumers Groan In Lagos, Abuja as fuel scarcity worsens with the rider, Senators to inspect filling stations, summon NNPC boss as reports have it that many of the private depots in Apapa, Lagos, where many marketers get petroleum products from for distribution to other states, did not have PMS while those who had were doing “skeletal loading.”

It is however cast on The NIGERIAN TRIBUNE with the story reading IPMAN blames NNPC, accuses it of favouring DAPPMA- As long queues resurfaced in the country on Tuesday, marketers have blamed the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for the situation.
The GUARDIAN also reports the fuel scarcity story as Stop Panic Buying, NNPC tells Nigerians as queues persist with the NNPC urging fuel consumers across the country to desist from panic buying, assuring that it has enough stock to meet the needs of consumers.

 

Moving away from Fuel Issues, The NATION has it on its front page that PDP Governors Plan “Unity List” to stop IBB, Jonathan. Part of the story reads; To have a rancor free convention and install the national chairman, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors will compile a “unity list” of candidates who delegates will vote for.

Fuel Scarcity Impedes Southwest

The Southwest branch of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) has threatened to withdraw services, following the introduction of Bulk Purchase Agreement (BPA) fee by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

If the marketers make good their threat, it will spark another round of petrol scarcity in the region.

The association yesterday lamented the introduction of BPA, noting that petroleum marketers were usually exempted from payment of such fees.

It warned that the introduction of a five-year BPA fee by NNPC may set it on a collision course with its members.

The Chairman, IPMAN Ibadan Depot, Raheem Tayo, confirmed the development to Osun Defender , adding that the NNPC’s decision was unacceptable.

 

Source: The Nation

Ambode Appeals To Residents Over Fuel Scarcity, Power Outage

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State on Wednesday appealed to residents to bear with government over the lingering fuel crisis and power shortage across the state.

This is contained in a statement issued by the state’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Steve Ayorinde.

“Lagos State consumes more than 40 per cent of the fuel and energy needs of the country and therefore appreciates that the impact of the scarcity would be felt more in the state,” Ambode said.

He urged residents to remain calm, orderly and law abiding, assuring them that government was doing everything possible within its power to find an immediate solution to the crisis.

According to the Governor, “I share the pain and discomfort of Lagosians.

“I assure them that the Federal Government is deeply touched by the situation and is working round the clock to alleviate the suffering of the people.”

NAN

Fuel Queues To End In Lagos, Abuja, By Thursday – Kachikwu

The Minister of Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu on Tuesday assured residents of Lagos and Abuja that the long queues being experienced will disappear Thursday.

Kachikwu, who spoke when he visited the office of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, in Abuja, also added that the situation in Sokoto, Warri and Port Harcourt will improve by weekend.

The minister stated that efforts were ongoing to end the lingering fuel scarcity in the country.

“We have to take the right policies to see that things are done well,” he said.

“I hope that tomorrow slash Thursday, queues in Abuja must have cleared. Hopefully the same thing will happen in Lagos. By weekend, we will see same in Sokoto, Port-Harcourt, Warri and others.”

DPR Announce Arrival Of Petroleum Products Order For NNPC, Marketers

The Director of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) Mordecai Ladan, yesterday raised Nigerians’ hope on availability of petrol with the announcement that consignments ordered by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and major oil marketers had started arriving the nation’s ports.

Major Marketers had withdrawn from the importation of products as a result of difficulty in accessing foreign exchange until the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) collaborated to give them easier access to FOREX.

He broke the news to reporters after inspecting an NNPC affiliate station in Gwarimpa and the Oando Petrol Station on Obafemi Awolowo Way, Jabi, beside Karimo Road fly over in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The director also shut down the Oando Petrol Station over suspected adulteration of its fuel.

Ladan had led the enforcement team of the department to the station after a tip-off that it had refused to sell its product.

On arrival, the DPR team discovered that although the station had about 9,000 litres of petrol, it refused to sell to the long queue of motorists that had spent the whole night at the filling station.

But the station’s attendants complained that their pumps were faulty and could easily pack up after dispensing product for a few minutes.

Following the inspection of the pump and the content available at the station, Ladan sealed the station up, saying: “For this station, we have almost 9,000 litres underground but the pumps are not responding to drawing this fuel from the ground. That means that there is a problem.

“The problem is that adulteration is suspected. That is why we are calling on the pumps to withdraw from this station pending when we carry out our investigations.

“We have sealed it. It is going to be quarantined until the necessary inspection and assessment is done and we know how to go from there.”

According to him, the product must have been mixed with extraneous substances that were heavier and affecting the pump.

Most of the motorists who had queued for fuel overnight lamented that the station was playing pranks, adding that it was in the habit of selling fuel above the recommended pump price to black marketers at night.

One of the motorists, who identified himself as Tosin Bright, said: “I came here at 4.30 am. Look at the time; it is now 2.30 pm but I have not gotten fuel while those that came with plastic cans between 9 and10 am have bought fuel.”

Another customer, Adisa Olutayo, said “once it is night, they adjust the pump. They sell to kegs and in the morning they revert to the normal pump price.”

Commenting on the fuel situation, Ladan said: “In the first stations we visited, which is NNPC in Gwarimpa, they have more than enough products to last for four days. From the inspection we carried out, they have more than 200,000 litres; that could last into Monday next week.

“We are appealing to the public that they should not panic because these products are already arriving and lifting is going on from the coastal depots into the hinterlands. So very soon, the situation is going to normalise. “There is more than enough that the government has ordered, both by the NNPC and the marketers.”

Fuel Scarcity: We Will Soon Overcome The Challenge – Lai Mohammed

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed has asserted that Nigerians did not elect President Muhammadu Buhari to give them excuses.

Mohammed made this assertion on Friday, while in Adamawa State as part of the presidential entourage led by the Vice President Prof. Yemi Osibanjo, attending the wedding of the son of the Adamawa state Governor, Sen. Mohammed Jibrilla Bindow.

The minister reassured Nigerians that the ongoing nationwide fuel crisis would soon be over.

“Yes, we appreciate the feelings of Nigerians. We also go through it, because we are not immune to it. As a responsible government, a government that was propelled to power by the votes of the people, we cannot give excuses but empathise with them. And this government is working 24 hours to ensure that this problem is resolved,” Mohammed said.

The minister who said Nigerians did not elect them to give them excuses however stressed that the All Progressive Congress led administration as a responsible government was doing everything to ease the current suffering resulting from fuel scarcity.

He said the federal government was working to ensure that in two weeks time the commodity was made available in all parts of the country and alleviate the sufferings of Nigerians.

According to him, the government had already taken some steps in that direction.

He said, “some short term, some medium term and some longer term, because the question will be what are we doing to alleviate this problem, because that is what concern Nigerians.”

Some of the measures he highlighted included the government’s appeal to oil majors to make forex available to their companies operating in the downstream sector of the oil industry, adding that the difficulties encountered in getting foreign exchange was partly to blame for the fuel crisis.

He added that once the government got this done it would solve the problem of the fuel hiccups.

Tinubu Blasts Kachikwu Over Fuel Scarcity

National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, yesterday ruled the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Ibe Kachikwu, out of order for saying he should not be expected to conjure magic in resolving the current fuel crisis in the country.

He said the minister strayed from the progressive calling required of the Buhari administration by making the statement attributed to him.

Kachikwu who doubles as Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had said, in reaction to public criticism of his handling of the fuel scarcity, that Nigerians should count themselves fortunate that the NNPC under his stewardship has been able to bring in the amount of fuel it is currently doing.

Tinubu, in a statement, threw in his lot with Nigerians who, according to him, were “as right to feel insulted as the minister was wrong to have said such a thing.”

He said those charged with the responsibility of running the affairs of the country should learn to do things creatively and away from past practices.
Kachikwu, NNPC GMD

His words: “The art of governance is difficult and complex, especially during trying times. The steep reduction in global oil prices from over 100 dollars per barrel to roughly 40 presents a hard challenge. “We can no longer afford past practices. Nigeria now requires creative reform, materially changing the substance of national economic policy as well as the objectives of that policy and how the policy is presented to the people. Therein lies the essence of progressive democratic governance.

“The Buhari administration represents the last best hope we have to install such governance in Nigeria and avert the catastrophe that would have befallen us had the prior government remained in place. Had the nation continued with the spendthrift corruption and vagabond economic policies of that administration, we would have soon experienced such a collision with the harsh consequences of that government’s malign ways that our very institutions of government may have been distorted beyond fixture and repair.”

Asiwaju Tinubu added, “In this effort, there may be no economic matter more difficult to unravel and more sensitive to the purse of the average person than the current fuel scarcity. Even here I am confident of progress because I know the commitment of the president to resolving this matter. I make no attempt to hide it. I am an avid and partisan supporter of this government and of the progressive policies of the party, the APC, upon which this government is based.

“With that I do reserve the right and the duty as a Nigerian to voice my opinion when I believe a member of this government has strayed from the progressive calling required of this administration. I do this because my greater devotion and love are for this nation and its people. Party and politics fall secondary.

“Much public ire has been drawn to the statement made by Minister of State (Ibe Kachikwu) that he was not trained as a magician and that basically Nigerians should count themselves fortunate that the NNPC under his stewardship has been able to bring in the amount of petrol fuel it is currently doing.

“Perhaps the statement by Kachikwu was made in a moment of unguarded frustration or was an awkward attempt at a joke. Whatever the motive, it was untimely and off-putting. The remark did not sit well with the Nigerian people; they were as right to feel insulted as the minister was wrong to have said such a thing.

Tinubu at Uniabuja Convocation

“The fuel shortage is severely biting for the average person. They are forced to remain in lines far too long, for too much time, to pay too much money for too little fuel. This is no joking matter. Livelihoods and people’s welfare are at stake. With so much on the line, Kachikwu’s flippancy was out-of-line. He was basically telling Nigerians that they should be lucky that they are getting the inadequate supply they now suffer and that they should just be quiet, and endure the shortage for several weeks more.

“Kachikwu’s intervention was unhelpful. It panicked and disappointed the public as to the duration of the crisis. It insulted the people by its tonality. He spoke with the imperious nature of a member of the elitist government the people voted out last year and not the progressive one they voted in.”

He reminded the minister “that he was not coerced to take this job. He accepted the job and its responsibilities knowingly. He also must remember that he does not own NNPC. This also is not a private company that owes nothing to the public except the duty of fair dealing. He is a public servant. The seat he sits upon is owned by Nigerians not by him. The company he runs is owned by Nigerians not by him. They are his boss. He is not theirs. Power is vested in the people. He is a mere custodian or agent of their will. In talking to us in such a manner, he committed an act of insubordination.

“If he had talked so cavalierly to his boss in the private sector, he would have been reprimanded or worse. If wise, the man should refrain from such interjections in the future.”

In defending and asserting the rights of Nigerians to complain, Tinubu averred that “As his ultimate bosses, the people have a right to demand the requisite performance and respect from him.  He should apologise for treating them so lightly in this instance. His portfolio being a strategically important one, he needs to reestablish the correct relationship with the public. They no longer feel he is working for their optimal benefit as their servant. Instead, he seems to be standing above them, telling them to take it or leave it.

“For his policies and stint in office to be successful and a help to this government, he must have the support and belief of the people at this tough time. He must talk to them in a way that they believe he seeks their best interest and understands the hardship weighing upon them. He must ask them to work with him and perhaps to endure a bit longer but with the knowledge that he is working to resolve this matter as fast as he can and as permanently as possible. That he is dedicated to the position that once these current lines are gone that never again shall they reappear as long as he has any influence in the matter.

“To do this, requires no magic nor training in that strange craft. It requires empathy, compassion and the willpower to forge a better Nigeria. These must be the common trademarks of those serving in a progressive government for these attributes are integral parts of the spirit and ideals upon which the APC was founded. Upon such notions was this administration voted into office by the Nigerian people in the operation of their sovereign will to seek a national leadership that would pursue their interests to the utmost and give them every fair chance to live in a better Nigeria.

“Even though times are hard we must all realise that they would  be even harder and much darker would be the immediate horizon had we allowed the venal, kleptocracy of the PDP to continue to lord over the land solely for their selfish benefit and not for the common good.

“I am confident that President Buhari and this government can resolve the issues that press us. From establishing full security and safety to staking a claim to true economic prosperity and fairness, this government shall salvage our national pride and purpose,” Tinubu concluded.

Kachikwu Says Fuel Scarcity’ll Linger Till May

The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Emmanuel Kachikwu, on Wednesday, said despite the efforts being put in place by the Federal Government, fuel queues might not be completely eliminated until about two months.

He said since he was not a magician, the fuel queues could not be eliminated with a magic wand.

He however said he and members of his team were working hard to resolve the fuel crisis.

The scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly known as petrol, has lingered since January as hundreds of motorists besiege few filling stations that dispense the product on a daily basis.

Kachikwu’s comments have, however, drawn heavy criticisms from various stakeholders, including the organised labour, petroleum marketers, oil industry workers, manufacturers and experts in the oil sector.

The Trade Union Congress specifically asked the minister to resign instead of giving Nigerians excuses on why it would be impossible to get fuel easily in the country before June.

Kachikwu, who is also the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, spoke with State House correspondents shortly after he led a joint delegation of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria and the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He said with the reality on the ground, it was by sheer magic that the country had the amount of products it currently had at the filling stations.

He said, “One of the training I did not receive is that of a magician, but I am working very hard to ensure some of these issues go away.

“And let us be honest, for the five or six months we have been here, NNPC has moved from a 50 per cent importer of products to basically a 100 per cent importer and the 445,000 barrels per day that were allocated were to cover between 50 and 55 per cent importation.

“So it is quite frankly by sheer magic that we even have the amount of products at the stations. We are looking to see how to get foreign exchange input; the President and I discussed extensively on how to get more crude directed at importation.

“His Excellency (Buhari) will rather have less crude but have individuals in the society suffer less with inconveniences than have more crude and have them continue to suffer.

“So we are going to put a new model to enable us to increase the pace and actually get majors as part of the crew of those to bring in more products so that the NNPC will sort of go back on the capacity of what it used to do and the majors will take over the balance of importation.

“I think if we do that, although I don’t want to put a time frame, but I will expect that over the next two months, we should see quite frankly a complete elimination of this (fuel queues).’’

Kachikwu said government’s strategy was that whatever was produced in the refineries would not be sold but be kept in strategic reserves.

This, he explained, was because the major problem was that there was no reserve anytime there was a gap in supply.

Kachikwu said the meeting Buhari had with the unions was to review the oil industry, especially as it concerned areas that the President himself was finding solutions to.

He said the union leaders agreed to collaborate with the government.

When he was asked to be specific on some of the concerns raised by the union leaders, Kachikwu mentioned the Petroleum Industry Bill, refineries and the issue of fuel scarcity.

He said, “I will probably highlight a few areas of concern. On the PIB, the union wants us to obviously work harder than we do and try to get the PIB passed as soon as possible.

“They are worried about the fuel scarcity issue and want a long time solution to finally resolve this issue.

“They are worried about the refineries and are thankful we did not sell the refineries without looking to work collaboratively with them to see how to make the refineries work.’’

The National President of NUPENG, Igwe Achese, described the meeting with the President as a successful one.

“We tabled the issue of fuel scarcity, the quick passage of the PIB and to see how the sector can bounce back economically and to make Nigerians smile again. Clearly, we talked more on the corruption in the oil and gas sector, product allocations.

Also, the President of PENGASSAN, Olabode Johnson, said the President told them that he created the NNPC and he was emotionally attached to the firm.

Johnson quoted Buhari as saying that everything that was going to happen in NNPC must follow due process.

He added, “The President said he is concerned about what Nigerians are going through and he bears their pains and whatever he is going to do, he will do it with their support so that Nigerians can enjoy the benefits of the NNPC.’’

But the Nigeria Labour Congress described as unfortunate Kachikwu’s statement that it would take more than two months for the current fuel queues to clear.

The General Secretary of the NLC, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, said in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents that it was wrong of any agent of government to resign himself to a position that would subject Nigerians to months of long fuel queues.

Ozo-Eson believed that it was the responsibility of the minister to ensure the removal of the factors responsible for the current queues at the filling stations and to save Nigerians from the painful wait to get petroleum products.

He said, “As far as we are concerned, one day of queues is unacceptable to Nigerians, and the hardship Nigerians have been subjected to, through the queues over a long period now, is actually something that should be condemned.

“Apart from the hardship to Nigerians, the cost of these protracted queues on an economy that is already in crisis is enormous, and actually makes the issue of the revival of the economy even more difficult.’’

The TUC, through its President, Mr. Bala Kaigama, called on Kachikwu to resign to give room for a better person to be appointed if he lacked the capacity to solve the current problem.

Kaigama said the positions occupied by the minister were too demanding for him and urged Buhari  to appoint a group managing director for the NNPC.

Kaigama stated, “If he is not a magician, he should resign now. What we are saying is that Nigerians are getting impatient with him.

“So, if he has no quick fix to it, he should just quit. We are getting impatient. He is moving from one unpopular policy to another, yet we cannot see any quick fix.’’

Also, workers in the oil and gas sector on Wednesday said they were at a loss as to what was really the cause of fuel scarcity in the country.

The workers, who spoke under the aegis of the PENGASSAN and the NUPENG, stated that the minister should be questioned on the development.

The National Public Relations Officer, PENGASSAN, Mr. Emmanuel Ojugbana, told The PUNCH that the association was becoming confused as to why the country was still experiencing fuel queues despite a series of promises by the minister and the NNPC.

Ojugbana stated, “The issue of fuel scarcity or queues has become almost a recurring issue nowadays that sometimes, you wonder what actually the problem is.

“NNPC will tell you it has sufficient fuel but if you go to the filling stations, you won’t find the product. Also in most of the filling stations, you can’t find fuel at the regulated price. So, it is really a problem.”

When contacted, the Group Chairman, NUPENG, NNPC Branch, Mr. Odudu Udofia, told one of our correspondents that his union was mainly concerned with staff welfare.

He, however, stated that the petroleum minister and the NNPC management should be interrogated on the issue.

Udofia said, “As for us, we are more interested in staff welfare at the moment considering the restructuring and other issues at the NNPC. But as for petrol scarcity or fuel queues, the minister and the NNPC managers should be called to explain why.”

In his own reaction, the Chairman and Managing Director, Mobil Oil Nigeria Plc, Mr. Tunji Oyebanji, in a telephone interview with The PUNCH, noted that there was a supply problem.

He said, “People are no longer buying the normal quantity. Some people want to buy and keep; so, the demand has gone up artificially during this period. But at the same time, the supply is not necessarily available and then it takes time to order the fuel, maybe about six to eight weeks between your order and when it comes.

“In order to now increase supply to meet the increased demand, it is getting tight to get those cargoes because of the time of the year. Cargoes are not really available at this time of the year because this is winter period. Many refineries in the Europe, because this is not the peak driving season, they do not produce so much gasoline (petrol). So those cargoes are few and far between, and they are at a premium.’’

Oyebanji said the foreign exchange challenge, which had hampered fuel importation, was also contributing to the supply problem.

The Chairman, NUPENG, Lagos Zone, Alhaji Tokunbo Korodo, said, “For the first time in the history of Nigeria, we have an official of the government accepting governemnt’s failure. I have said it several times that they have been rationing, and it is going to linger.

“But they shouldn’t allow it to get worse beyond this current situation,” he said, adding that tanker drivers were being subjected to unnecessary workload.

“They will say, ‘Discharge one compartment at Apapa; second compartment at Agege, and the third at Abeokuta. So, the job the truck driver is supposed to do within an hour, he may end up doing it for two days.”

Korodo said the pipelines to the nation’s fuel depots were being regained gradually, adding that if the pipelines came back on stream, it would help to curb the supply challenge.

Also, manufacturers said the fuel scarcity was posing a lot of challenges to the sector.

Reacting to the admission by Kachikwu that the current fuel scarcity would persist for another two months, players in the sector said the prevailing situation had impacted negatively on productivity in the manufacturing sector.

The President, MAN, Dr. Frank Jacobs, said workers turned up late for assignment and spent more on transportation, adding that it also cost operators more to buy fuel from the black market.

Jacob believed the Central Bank of Nigeria should make foreign exchange available to marketers so they could import fuel.

He said the government should build more refineries and boost local fuel production both for consumption and export as a long term solution.

The Director-General of MAN, Mr. Remi Ogunmefun, while noting that marketers of petroleum products battled the same challenge of forex scarcity, urged the Federal Government to focus on the development of the real sector as a solution to the forex situation.

He said, “Government should concentrate on improving the real sector and the non-oil export sector so that we can export and earn enough foreign exchange to import what we need.”

In a similar vein, the Director-General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Muda Yusuf, noted that the situation had a negative impact on productivity, particularly for small business owners,  who needed fuel to power generators and spent more to buy from the black market.

Yusuf blamed the situation on what he called “over centralisation of the petroleum sector,” adding that deregulation would solve the problem.

He said, “Our appeal is that the government should quickly deregulate the sector completely.

“The supply of petroleum product is too centralised and the downstream sector is overregulated. Right now, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation accounts for about 70 per cent of the total supply.

“The current arrangement is not sustainable. If the sector is deregulated, it will solve the problem of supply. It will reduce the pressure on our foreign reserves because, right now, about 35 per cent of our forex is going to the importation of petroleum products.”