Govt to clamp down on depot owners for diversion of products
Ajumogobia insisted that there is availability of fuel, but distributing the product is the challenge being faced by the oil marketers, noting that the strike by tanker drivers, clash with security operatives and pipeline vandalisation stalled free flow of distribution across the country.
The minister, after the inspection, exonerated the private depots used by the Pipeline Product Marketing Company (PPMC) of any illegal dealings, adding that there was no reason for fuel scarcity.
On the industry reforms, the minister said there was no going back on the Petroleum Industry Bill, as it would be passed soon.
On the alleged plans by some of the oil multinationals to dump Nigeria, Ajumogobia said Nigeria is a sovereign state and has its methods on how to regulate the petroleum industry.
Besides, he warned that if any oil firm leaves, others would fill the vacuum. He noted though that he was yet to get any report from any oil firm that it was relocating abroad, adding that the reforms would be to the benefit of all stakeholders.
Meanwhile, Petroleum marketers under the aegis of Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), yesterday said inadequate planning was responsible for the perennial fuel scarcity.
The group said the timing of issuance of licences to import petroleum product was flawed, while some other technical impediments such as financial hiccups in the banking industry and remittance of the backlog of the Petroleum Support Fund (PSF) were contributory factors.
Addressing the press in Lagos yesterday, Executive Secretary of the Association, Mr. Obafemi Olawore, bemoaned the sharp practices and artificial price hike by fuel dealers, adding that members of the association were committed to ensuring availability of petroleum products at affordable prices, but their hands were tied by these impediments.
Olawore said the major marketers yesterday discharged 18 million litres of petrol at Apapa jetty while it expects about four more cargoes before month end. He said its members’ stock in Apapa has now improved from three to five days, which amounts to about 49 million litres.
The product is expected to be extended to Oando, Mobil, Total, African Petroleum (AP), Nipco, Chevron and Conoil filling stations any moment from the discharged period, he said.
Refuting the statement of the NNPC blaming the crisis on marketers, he said the corporation was not facing the reality on ground as it was making conflicting statements.
His words: “They claimed to have enough stock that would take us till January ending, so why are they now changing the statement that the scarcity is because people are not importing? The truth is that I don’t believe they have the acclaimed 41days stock. If you look at the situation within NNPC depots, you will find out that besides the coastal depots, there is no depot in the North that works, so if they have 41 days product, where are they keeping it? And if they have stocks on the high sea, that should not be counted as holding stocks, because it is yet to arrive.
On other technicalities of importation, Olawore explained that “normally, approval to import are given before the beginning of any quarter, which means that we should have received the approval to import for the fourth quarter sometimes in September, to be able to plan for importation, but we never got the approval until sometimes middle of November.”
He said they needed to secure approvals of PPPRA, permits from DPR to proceed on importation. These processes, coupled with other technical processes of importation take about four weeks, which he said was too late for the targeted period.
Besides, Olawore said the crisis in the banking industry is also contributing to the problem as well as backlogs of Petroleum Support Fund, (PSF) owed by the Federal Government.
He said the marketers are now finding it difficult to secure loans from banks to carry out importation business, while the Ministry of Finance still owes its members huge sums of money that could have helped in the process.
Olawore however expressed hope that the ministry would live up to its promises to clear the arrears before the end of the year.
Meanwhile, the Lagos Zonal Chairman, NUPENG, Mr. Tokunboh Korodo yesterday told The Guardian in a telephone interview that the Lagos arm of its crisis has been resolved with the interference of the Naval Commanding Officer, but the national problem is yet to be solved, as they awaited payment from the Ministry of Finance.
“The National issues is still on, if by the end of today (Monday), the Federal Government is yet to pay, whatever happens is not our fault, but if they pay, no cause for alarm,” Korodo said.
NUPENG had earlier gven the Federal Government December 21 ultimatum for the debt to be settled or embark on nationwide strike, an action which will worsen the fuel supply situation.
Also speaking with The Guardian yesterday, Manager, Public Affairs Department of the Pipeline and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), Mr. Ralph Ugwu, said efforts were ongoing to resolve the disagreement between the striking tanker drivers at Apapa, Lagos and Naval officers.
He said: “Efforts are currently on to ensure that the disagreements between tanker drivers and Naval officers are resolved amicably. The supply chain of petroleum products is interlink. That is why the disruption in Lagos is easily noticeable in other parts of the country and most especially Abuja. The situation is not totally helpless, we are sure that by the end of the week, the situation would have been brought under control.”