The federal government has constituted a committee to review the current fuel scarcity across the country and suggest solutions to prevent such occurring in the future.
The committee is headed by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu.
The committee was constituted at the end of a meeting of key players in the downstream sector of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The meeting, presided by the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, had in attendance the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Maikanti Baru, and Director General of the State Security Service, SSS, Lawal Daura.
Others include Chairman, Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria, DAPMAN, Dapo Abiodun; President, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, Chinedo Okonkwo; and head of Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, MOMAN, Obafemi Olawore.
Addressing State House Correspondents at the end of the meeting, Mr. Kachikwu said it was informed by the need to get together to review and analyse the circumstances that culminated in the current fuel crisis.
“We needed to come together to analyse what really went wrong. Like you know, for over two years, we have been out of this fuel crisis. Everything has been working well. NNPC has been managing the situation properly. And suddenly there was this gap.
“So, we wanted to put heads together to find out what went wrong. It is not a fault finding meeting. How do we take corrective measures to avoid it, and what are the things creating the difficulties in the system,” he explained.
“At the end of the meeting, we set up a committee, which I will head,” Mr. Kachikwu said. “Members include the GMD of NNPC, most of the parastatals in the ministry (of Petroleum Resources), DAPPMAN, IPMAN, MOMAN, and Labour unions.”
He said the committee is expected to commence work immediately, with its first meeting scheduled for Wednesday in the minister’s office, to dig deeper into the
“We want to find lasting solution to the problem. That is what the committee will come out with in its resolutions tomorrow,” Mr. Kachikwu said.
He said every participant had an opportunity to contribute ideas on how to solve the problem, which the NNPC blamed on the illegal activities of the marketers.
The marketers have since rejected the accusation. They in turn pointed accusing fingers at the NNPC for assuming the role of the sole importer and supplier of petroleum products, despite owning less than 20 per cent of oil depots.
In his contribution, the NNPC GMD, who gave the industry scenario, said the intervention of the corporation had resulted in removing the long queues at filling stations across the country.
Mr. Baru said the next challenge the NNPC was facing was to find the long term solutions to the crisis based on the contributions of every interest group.
On sanctions against alleged erring marketers, Mr. Kachikwu said even Nigerians who suffered during the crisis would want to be sure a lasting solution was found to the crisis, by finding evidence upon which to punish people.
The minister expressed sympathy for the painful experience Nigerians went through during the yuletide period, assuring that government was determined to find lasting solutions to the problem.
On those allegedly responsible for the crisis, the minister said they would be identified, with specific names to be put on the table, and those found to have gone against the rule in certain activities would be punished.
“You cannot prosecute except you have evidence. So, we will need to find that evidence. We will definitely punish those who were involved in things that are wrong. But, more fundamental and more importantly is that we want to find lasting solutions and we all want to work more collaboratively,” he said.
The chairman of DAPPMAN, Dapo Abiodun, said the meeting was important, as it gave all participants opportunity to find out what really caused the scarcity.
Mr. Abiodun said the marketers did not only make their idea of the problem known to government, but they also emphasised that the crisis was not marketer-related and there was no hoarding by any marketer.
“Marketers are your brothers, they are Nigerian citizens, they are businessmen, no marketer makes money from hoarding petroleum products, our business is to take petrol and sell,” he said.
He blamed the crisis on the crude oil price between January and December 2017, which remained relatively stable following the hurricane Katrina in the month of September and October, which left marketers unable to import products and sell at government controlled price of N145 per litre.
On subsidy, the DAPPMAN leader said at the moment there was no subsidy to marketers, as government decided to cap the fuel price at N145 per litre.
“This is a government of the people and they believe Nigerians should not be made to buy fuel for more than N145. So, if that is to remain, then we have to find other ways to manage the situation so that we will continue to sell fuel at N145.
“As far as we are concerned, there is no subsidy in the budget. Marketers cannot import and sell at N145. So, government has to find a way and ensure that marketers import alongside NNPC and still sell at N145,” Mr. Abiodun said.
On his part, IPMAN President, Chinedu Okoronkwo, said he was hopeful that the committee would arrive at the way forward, to allow the major and independent marketers participate in importing the products.
Another IPMAN leader, Aminu Abdulkadir, said he was optimistic that there would be full disclosure on plans and ways of augmenting marketers shortfall, to enable them resume importation of products, since NNPC alone did not have all the capacity to handle the situation.