12 March 2014, Abuja – Coontrary to denials by the Presidency, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Deziani Alison-Madueke, said on Tuesday that the privatisation of the nation’s refineries remained the best way to tackle the problems in the petroleum sector.
Alison-Madueke stated this when she appeared before the Joint Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream, Downstream and Gas) to defend her ministry’s 2014 budget estimates in company with senior officials of the ministry and heads of agencies under her supervision.
She, however, said the Federal Government was continuing with the rehabilitation of the refineries, improvement of facilities and provision of enabling environment for operators in both the upstream and downstream sectors.
The minister said the process of privatisation would have been concluded if the various trade unions within the petroleum industry had not kicked against the action.
“The way forward is the privatisation of the refineries because the government should not be involved in the business of fuel sales,” she said.
The minister assured Nigerians that the Federal Government would in the next few weeks flood filling stations with petrol in order to arrest the current scarcity.
Alison-Madueke also said punitive measures would be taken against owners of filling stations either diverting or hoarding the product.
She said, “I wouldn’t call the current fuel shortage a recurring development because there has been no shortage in the last three years until two weeks ago. The shortage has a lot to do with a number of issues.
“First, there seems to have been some scare or rumour that the Federal Government wants to increase the pump price of petroleum products and I have said it categorically that the government has no intention of increasing the pump prices of petroleum products anytime in the near future. That is for certain.
“Secondly, whether it is as a result of rumour or supply issue, there was a certain level of burden and we found out too that there was a certain level of diversion of petroleum products as well.
“We are trying to ensure that they are brought to an end in this period. And as a result, I have been going out to monitor fuel distribution and talk to petrol station owners in Lagos and to consumers as well, just to get an understanding of where they have the worse shortages over the last couple of weeks. But it is coming under control now.”
On the 2013 budget, the minister said her ministry performed fairly well with about 87 per cent implementation based on the actual releases.
For 2014, she said, “We have a budget figure of about N60bn for the entire ministry, both recurrent and capital expenditure.
“Unfortunately, recurrent takes a lot out of every budget in the system. The capital is much less but we intend to move forward as much as we can by ensuring that all the ongoing projects are completed, while new projects like LPG framework are carried forward.”
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream), Senator Emmanuel Paulker, asked the ministry to provide written details of how its officials spent N521m to carry out enlightenment campaigns on the Petroleum Industry Bill.
– The Punch