Senate panel wants government to tackle fuel scarcity

senate•NNPC adopts fresh initiative, to revive refineries in six months
•Queues may ease from April 12
Outrage at the perennial scarcity of fuel, the Senate Committee on Petroleum ‎(Downstream) yesterday urged the executive arm of government to face the core issues that have created so much crisis in the country’s oil sector, noting that trading blame‎ that had engaged the attention of stakeholders would only worsen the situation.

The committee made these observations ‎during its emergency visits to some petrol stations in Abuja to assess the fuel crisis situation. It said, however, that it would not arrive at any conclusions until it had heard from the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu himself.

Meanwhile, petrol marketers at various stations visited, lamented lack of supply of petroleum products by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC) in recent times, resulting in product scarcity being witnessed across the country.

The Guardian also learnt that three cargoes are expected to arrive in the country on April 7, 2016 while about 336 million litres of petrol are also due in Lagos between April 9 and 10 to ease the present hardship.

This will be helped by independent markers who are now back on board and collectively imported about 40% of the expected product.

In a related development, NNPC says it is working on a joint partnership with technical and financially capable investors to ensure availability of petroleum products transportation and storage facilities are efficiently operated on an open-access common -carrier user-tariff basis to boost domestic fuel supply.

The corporation, in a statement by its spokesperson, Garbadeen Muhammed in Abuja yesterday explained that some depots would be nominated as strategic reserves while it would take possession of a strategic reserve vessel in the next three months, adding that tangible results would be delivered within the next three and six months.

It added that its commitment to ramp up local refining capacity and availability remains un-waivered with the ongoing rehabilitation works targeted at running all refineries at a minimum 70% capacity utili zation within the next six – eight months.

It added that this initiative is in addition to its initiative of increasing the combined capacity of the domestic refineries through co-locating smaller but cost efficient modular refineries within the existing refineries premises within a time frame of 12-24 monthsIt further explained that as a result of the many challenges associated with the downstream sector that major oil marketers face in contributing their supply quota due to constraint in accessing foreign exchange and outstanding subsidy obligations, NNPC is burdened with the obligation to guarantee almost 100% in the national supply, since the domestic crude oil supply of 445,000 bbls/d can only guarantee about 50% of the 45 million litres national requirement for petrol.’’

“We have secured presidential approval to take additional crude oil volume to guarantee national supply of petrol” the statement added.

It was learnt that the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint Dr. Ibe Kachikwu the Minister of Petroleum Resources as well as Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) may not have gone down well with some industry operators as well as high-ranking members of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC).

Indeed, The Guardian learnt in Abuja yesterday that there has been an underground move to influence President Muhammadu Buhari into appointing a deputy managing director of a leading major player in the downstream oil sector as the GMD of the corporation.

Apparently angered by what they met on ground with many filling stations not selling the product due to the alleged lack of supply from NNPC Depot, Suleja, amidst long queues of motorists waiting under the scorching sun , the committee’s Acting Chairman, Jibrin Barau along with two of his members, said the Minister of State for Petroleum must definitely appear before them today to explain what led to this situation and suggest ways out of it.

He said the situation was so pathetic which made the Senate President , Bukola Saraki, to call on the committee to intervene.
Barau said:” This situation is very bad and unacceptable, hence, the need for the minister to appear before us tomorrow and unveil his way out to us.

“ Even if he doesn’t have any plan yet out of the lingering problem, the Senate President and the entire members of the committee are more than ready to rub minds with him for that needed purpose.”

The Senate Minority whip and a member of the committee, Philip Aduda , called on the government to arrest the situation fast, by making fuel available to Nigerians , adding “what Nigerians need is fuel and not blame game”

A source told The Guardian in Abuja that the reforms of the NNPC embarked upon by Kachikwu have left many ‘big men’ in the corporation with little to do and have also reduced their influence in the scheme of things.

“Therefore, the president as the substantive Minister of Petroleum Resources has to contend with that. The other factor is from his party, the APC where a leading figure is insisting on having one of his key men superintend over the NNPC.”

The source said: “It is not true that the vituperations of some prominent Nigerians over the inconsistencies of the Minister of State for Petroleum on the fuel supply situation are about a general manager that was recently appointed. The stakes are higher than that. It is about a move to influence the President to appoint a GMD for the NNPC. Indeed, a deputy managing director of a leading player in the downstream was put forward to be appointed the GMD as soon as Kachikwu was made Minister of State but that has not happened.”

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