28 November 2015, Sweetcrude, Abuja – Worried by the lingering fuel scarcity across the country, the senate has given the Minister of Petroleum Resources, President Muhammadu Buhari, two weeks to end the problems causing the scarcity.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), Senator Uche Lilian Ekwunife (PDP Anambra Central), gave the ultimatum during the committee’s meeting with top officials of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources at the National Assembly in Abuja.
Senator Ekwunife’s order came on the heels of revelations. by the Managing Director, Pipeline Products Marketing Company, PPMC, Mrs. Esther Nnamdi-Ogbue that Nigeria has lost 531 million litres of fuel worth N50 billion in the last 10 months to petroleum pipelines vandalisation in some parts of the country.
The Committee chairman insisted that the Petroleum Minister with the cooperation of the permanent secretary and heads of agencies under the ministry, must not only end the scarcity within the stipulated time, but ensure that the premium motor spirit, PMS, otherwise known as petrol in particular, was sold to the public at the government’s controlled price of N87 per litre.
Issuing the directive to the stakeholders, Senator Ekwunife noted that what Nigerians needed at this point was to see an end to the menace, and not to listen to stories from stakeholders.
“Nigerians want to see the immediate end of this fuel scarcity and also the uniformity of the price of the product across the country. As a Committee, our target is that scarcity and discrepancies in price must stop and it must be done.
“Therefore, we are mandating the Minister, the Permanent Secretary and other relevant agencies in the sector, that fuel scarcity must stop in the next two weeks, and must be sold at the uniform price of N87 per liter everywhere in the country,” she ordered.
She added, “We are giving a target now, we don’t want to know how you would achieve it, but it must be stopped. This is a critical period, in the next few weeks, there will be Christmas, Nigerians want to see an end to this scarcity and be able to buy petrol at N87 per litre.”
Senator Ekwunife, who commended the efforts of PPMC in putting an end to the scarcity, however, maintained that “what Nigerians wanted is getting fuel being sold to them at every filling station across the country.”
Earlier, the PPMC boss, Mrs Esther Nnamdi-Ogbue, told the committee that the major problem disrupting fuel distribution in the country was vandalization of the oil pipelines by criminals.
She noted that Nigeria lost about 531 million liters of petrol, valued at N50 billion to the activities of vandals, between January and September 2015.
The managing director also fingered sharp practices at the fuel depots, including illegal charges and diversion of the products by marketers, saying these were some of the factors that provoked the scarcity and discrepancies in the prices in various part of the country .
Lamenting the sharp practices amounting to economic sabotage, Mrs. Nnamdi-Ogbue hinted that the PPMC had gone into collaboration with the Department of State Security, DSS and the Police to tackle the hoarding and diversion of petroleum products in the country.
On the permanent solution to the fuel scarcity, the Group Executive Director Commercial and Investment of NNPC, Dr Victor Babatunde Adeniran, said payment of fuel subsidy as at when due would help oil marketers to play their roles effectively.
Adeniran also advocated repair of petroleum pipelines vandalised by criminals across the country, pointing out that these would help in solving the scarcity that have brought untold hardship to Nigerians.
Speaking in the same vein, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Jamila Soara, stressed the need for strategic back-ups for fuel reserves in various locations across the country.
She explained that the back-ups, which would be similar to strategic grains reserves, would help ease the hardship of fuel scarcity whenever it happens as it used to provide succor for the pool of South West with the existence of Arepo, Mosinmi and Atlas Cove in the region.