Hope that Nigeria’s fuel crisis, which virtually shut down the entire economy, may soon be over, beckoned Monday after the Federal Government and oil marketers agreed to work towards the immediate restoration of normal supply of fuel throughout the country.
For most part of last week, and particularly the weekend, the country was virtually grounded, as scarcity of petroleum products at filling stations across the country took a toll on normal businesses in all sectors of the economy.
At the end of a meeting convened by the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Upstream and downstream) to resolve the crisis, Executive Secretary, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Obafemi Olawore, said all parties agreed to ensure that normalcy was restored in fuel supply in the country as soon as possible.
On the part of the marketers, Mr. Olawore said its members, consisting Oando, Conoil, Forte Oil, MRS, Total and Mobil Oil, agreed to commence lifting and distribution of fuel immediately from the stock to be allocated by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) at depots across the country.
“What we agreed at the meeting was that all the products the NNPC would give, oil marketers would be ready to load and distribute them to all parts of the country,” Mr. Olawore said.
To give the marketers confidence in the terms of their agreement, the MOMAN scribe said the outgoing Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, also agreed to give a ‘letter of assurance’ to the marketers.
The letter, he said, would be to reassure the marketers that government had recognised the request submitted for the payment of all outstanding debts owed for subsidy and bank interest rate differentials.
Although the marketers are asking for the payment of over N200 billion as outstanding claims, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said on Saturday that only N159 billion was acknowledged as acceptable.
Before payment, the Minister said a reconciliation committee, consisting the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Debt Management Office (DMO) and Ministry officials would review and confirm the claims.
Mr. Olawore said the marketers were demanding that the committee completes its investigations quickly by verifying the figures submitted to ensure that all confirmed figures were honoured and settled.
He said NARTO members also gave their commitment during the meeting to call off their strike and begin lifting and distribution of products immediately.
Apart from the Petroleum Resources Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, who travelled abroad last week, others present at the meeting included Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, as well as representatives of the PPPRA and, NARTO.
Others were from the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Depot and Petroleum Marketers Association (DAPMA), Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) and the Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD).
The crisis followed the unsettled N21 billion debts allegedly owed the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) by the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) on the one hand , and the disagreement between MOMAN and the federal Government, on the other hand.
However, the crisis worsened on Tuesday following the commencement of a nationwide strike by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Corporation (NPDC) chapters of the oil workers’ unions.
The situation worsened the following day when the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) chapter of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigerian (PENGASSAN) joined the strike.
The workers were protesting against alleged irregular transfer of the operatorship of the oil mining lease (OML) 42 vacated by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in 2011 to an indigenous oil and gas firm, Neconde Energy Limited.
Capital Oil and Gas Ltd had on Sunday commenced the loading of 13 million litres of petrol from its depot in Apapa for distribution to the various states to reduce the current scarcity.
The Chairman of the company, Ifeayi Ubah, told journalists in Lagos that more than 2,000 trucks would be loaded before May 29 to boost the country’s economic activities.
He said the company’s facilities had the capacity to load 13 million litres of the product within the period.
“This comes to approximately 500 trucks of petroleum products on daily basis. With this, it is our belief that once again our citizens will begin to smile and return to normal family and work life.
“We call on other petroleum marketers to follow suit and save our nation from this impending economic and social crisis,’’ he said.