Govt reviews fuel import rules to check scarcity
• Operators want fair quota for second quarter • Fuel from local refineries to be reserved
• Queues at filling stations to end in two months
To end the perennial scarcity of fuel in the country, the Federal Government is exploring ways to overcome the challenges being faced by petroleum importers like securing foreign exchange (forex).
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, who disclosed this in Abuja yesterday after the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG) and President of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) met President Muhammadu Buhari, explained that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was overwhelmed by the additional burden of providing 100 per cent of the national consumption hence the long queues across the country.
The minister said: “We are looking to see how to get foreign exchange input, the president and I discussed extensively how to get more crude directed at importation. President Buhari will rather have less crude but have individuals in the society suffer less with inconveniences than have more crude and have them continue to suffer. So we are going to put a new model to enable us to increase the pace and actually get majors as part of the crew of those to bring in more products so that the NNPC will sort of go back on the capacity of what it used to do and the majors will take over the balance of importation.”
This is coming as indications emerged that the shortage of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) might mar the Easter celebrations this weekend.
Kachikwu stressed that with the review of the processes ongoing, the queues should disappear in about two months.
He said: “Our strategy is that whatever is produced in the refineries will not go for sale, we are going to keep them in a strategic reserve. Because the key problem here is that there is no reserve anytime there is a gap in supply. So we are going to dedicate the next couple of months to moving all the products that we produce to a strategic reserve so that we can pile up reserves in the nation and that will push up the reserves in the nation. Believe me this is giving me and my team sleepless nights and we are working on it and we are committed to making this go away. Nigerians should please bear with us.”
He further highlighted that government was also working on a new model that would increase the participation of major oil companies in product importation.
He added: “So we are going to put a new model to enable us to increase the pace and actually get majors as part of the crew of those to bring in more products so that the NNPC will sort of go back on the capacity of what it used to do and the majors will take over the balance of importation.”
The minister also hinted that the parley with the president was aimed at finding joint solutions to the challenges and developments in the sector.
The National President of NUPENG, Igwe Achese, said President Buhari assured the unions that they would be part of the restructuring processes in the NNPC.
President of PENGASSAN, Olabode Johnson, also expressed satisfaction with explanations made by the president on how he would revive and reposition the oil and gas sector for Nigerians to derive maximum benefit from the commodity.
He said: “As leaders we are very satisfied with what he said, the commitment and the passion he has shown for the industry. PIB is an executive bill; he said all the legal framework would be addressed so that it will be of benefit of Nigerians. He also showed concern for pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft and we know that with support and collaboration he would achieve results.”
Meanwhile, the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) have been urged to be fair in petroleum product allocation, both at import and domestic circulation process levels.
Despite assurances from NNPC that it was making efforts to ensure the availability of petrol in the country before the celebrations, long queues at fuel stations suggest the pains of the scarcity of the product are far from over.
Many major depots in the country have run dry due to the inability of major and independent oil marketers to meet their 22 per cent obligation of fuel importation.
Besides, the NNPC’s efforts to meet supply challenges in the country are allegedly being frustrated by depot owners and retailers who are taking advantage of the shortfall in supply to hoard the limited product available and make life difficult in the country.
It was learnt that some of the independent marketers have not been able to import due to the non-availability of foreign exchange.
They therefore called on the Federal Government to give them higher import allocation in the second quarter and intervene in sourcing the foreign exchange to facilitate the importation of their 22 per cent allocation.
Concerned stakeholders, who spoke to The Guardian yesterday on issues surrounding the fuel scarcity, believe that the Federal Government was lax in its responsibilities to ensure the supply of fuel, as it failed to provide foreign exchange for the marketers who are in dire need to fulfill their import commitments.
something very fast to salvage the situation,” it said.
The Chairman, PENGASSAN, Lagos Chapter, Abel Agarin, told The Guardian that the independent marketers were not importing leaving only the major marketers and the NNPC to the business.
“Only the major marketers and NNPC are importing for now, that is the reason why the product is now going round. Before now, it was free for all importation, which required the payment of subsidy and fuel was surplus. But in the recent times, there have been issues relating to fuel distribution. I think the government is taking its time to fix the problem so that we will not go back to the era of subsidy,” he said.