The Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, has apologised to Nigerians for his comments last week that the current petrol scarcity will continue till May, and that only “magic” could bring a quicker end to the crisis that has already stretched beyond a month.
Speaking to journalists last Wednesday at the presidential villa, Mr. Kachikwu had said he had no “magic wand” to make fuel available overnight. The minister said the scarcity may persist for two more months as oil produced in the refineries would not be sold but kept in a “strategic reserve”.
“One of the trainings I did not receive is that of a magician, but I am working very hard to ensure some of these issues go away,” Mr. Kachikwu said.
He said the government was already working magic to make limited quantity of fuel available in the country given the foreign exchange crisis.
“So it is quite frankly sheer magic that we even have the amount of product at the stations,” he said. “We are looking to see how to get foreign exchange input.”
Mr. Kachikwu came under fire for his comments, drawing scathing criticisms from many Nigerians, including a senior leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, who said the comments were “insulting” to the Nigerians facing hardship daily to get petrol.
Many Nigerians also backed the minister for delivering a frank message that lacked the usual political pretence.
At a meeting with the Senate Committee on Petroleum on Tuesday, the minister apologised for his remarks, the News Agency of Nigeria reports.
He also assured that fuel queues will disappear across the nation by April.
Why we don’t have fuel
The minister said while fuel scarcity will “definitely” end by April, Nigerians may have to wait till May for “major revolution” in the availability of the products.
Explaining why there is no immediate solution to the fuel scarcity, Mr. Kachikwu said 90 per cent of Nigerian depots were not functional.
“Most fuel products into Nigeria come from Europe and it takes 14 days for fuel to land here,” he said.
On how to improve the productivity of the depots, he said the government would engage consultants to manage the depots.
Advertisement to engage the consultants for management of the depots would start soon, Mr. Kachikwu said.
He said the NNPC had doubled its usual supply to Abuja but scarcity remained.
Mr. Kachikwu emphasized that refineries must function optimally in order to achieve efficiency in distribution.
“Refineries in Nigeria are old and dilapidated but with appropriate funds and retooling they will be revived to full capacity,” Mr. Kachikwu said.
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