13 March 2012 — With the worsening fuel scarcity facing Nigeria’s economy amid forex crisis, it appears effort by the government to revive the economy is not yielding positive results. In some areas of Lagos, fuel scarcity is biting very hard as transportation fare has increased by 50 percent.
When Sunday Vanguard visited some areas of Lagos metropolis, it was observed that many filling stations were under lock and key, while the few outlets selling under-dispensed the product to the detriment of customers.
From Lagos-Ibadan-Expressway, to Ikorodu road, Alapere, Western Avenue, Oshodi up to Greek road at Apapa areas monitored by Sunday Vanguard, the only stations founding selling products were, Capital oil, Total, Mobil, Conoil and Fort Oil, while others were locked with only areas boys selling with jerry-cans in front of their premises.
At Cele area of Oshodi-Apapa road, area boys were seen collecting money from people before allowing them access into the only filling station selling fuel there.
In an interview with Sunday Vanguard, the South-West Chairman, National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Alhaji Tokunbo Korodo, spoke on the move by the Federal Government to restructure Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, persisting scarcity of petrol and forex crisis in the country.
The move to restructure NNPC shows that government is already yielding to the call by many experts to demystify the oil and gas sector of the economy. What is your take on this? This is our problem with this government.
It is wrong for government to conclude arrangement on restructuring of NNPC without carrying relevant stakeholders along. Government did not consult us.
In fact, we only heard it suddenly in the media that government has concluded plan to restructure NNPC, that was why we had to disagree with government on this issue.
If they had carried us along at the initial stage, we would have offered meaning suggestions to what government should do about restructuring the Corporation to ensure that workers are not thrown into the labour market.
NUPENG in collaboration with Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria PENGASSAN suddenly called off the nationwide strike embarked upon to prevent government from restructuring NNPC.
What informed your decision? Well, we have suspended the strike because they still rushed to meet us. We had to let government realise that they needed to carry us along in the whole exercise. For instance, they did not pass the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, that has been in the Senate since 2008, but they suddenly decided to take one aspect of restructuring NNPC, and they did that without wide consultations with stakeholders in the sector.
The lingering scarcity of petrol has taken another dimension as the product is now being sold in some areas of Lagos at the black market rate of about N250 per litre, instead of the official pump price of N86.
What measures should government put in place to tackle this problem? Well, if you have been following the trend, your will realise that fuel scarcity has been a recurring phenomenon in Nigeria.
The reason is because NNPC imports about 75 percent of the product, while oil marketers import only 25 percent. Also, NNPC does not have the capacity and the facilities to distribute the product adequately to end users.
Therefore, after importing fuel, NNPC still makes use of independent oil marketers to distribute the product across the country.
As such, the independent oil marketers often capitalise on this to sell the product above the official pump price. So, what government can do to curtail scarcity are, to tackle pipeline vandalism and fix the distribution facilities of NNPC, in order to prevent independent oil marketers from selling the product above the official pump price.
Also, NNPC should create the same template for major oil marketers and independent oil marketers to get fuel at the same rate.
For example, ex-depot price of N77 applies to major marketers and NNPC depots, while the private depots price is between N95 and N100, and independent marketers often load product from private depots.
So, major marketers have many opportunities that independent marketers do not have. Another thing is that the forex crisis now has affected importation of fuel, because the independent oil marketers who ought to import at least 25 percent of the quantity of fuel required in the country cannot get forex to carry out the importation.
Talking about scarcity of forex, government said top officials of CBN may be investigated on this issue.
Do you think government is taking the right decision? When government is talking about forex scarcity and probe, they should also turn attention to those people who stole from the country’s reserves.
This is imperative because many people stole huge sums from the reserves and stockpile the dollars in their houses. Such individuals and organisations must be investigated.
The CBN recently disclosed that about $20billion in Nigerians domiciliary accounts are lying fallow. Should such funds be utilised especially now that forex is scarce? For such individuals it is easier for the authority to let them know that they cannot get their money back in hard currency now.
But the issue is, CBN through the commercial banks knows that such amount is in domiciliary accounts of some Nigerians. But those people who stole from the country’s reserves and are keeping the money at home, why can we know what amount they have without their disposal?
So, like I said earlier, something must be done about such individuals. So far, why will you assess the administration of President, Muhammadu Buhari? The reality is that Buhari meant well for Nigeria.
He came with a good intention to reposition the nation’s economy, but from the look of things, his strategic plan to revamp the economy is bastardised. That is why I talked earlier about carrying stakeholders along in what he is doing. He should have carried the stakeholders along from the beginning, but his problem is over confidence.
*Udeme Clement – Vanguard