The Senate is to engage the Central Bank of Nigeria [CBN] on the need to open special window for petroleum marketers to access foreign exchange (forex) and ease the ongoing fuel scarcity across the country.
The intervention follows an outcry by oil marketing companies who face the key challenge of securing foreign exchange for importing petroleum products.
Chairman Senate committee on Petroleum [Downstream], Senator Uche Ekwunife, who dropped the hint after an assessment tour of Nipco plc terminal by the committee members said they are worried that marketers are still not importing petrol owing to the myriad of hiccups in the procurement of forex.
“As soon as we get back to Abuja ,we shall engage the top hierarchy of CBN to get a first hand report from them on how to address the paucity of forex to marketers as well as their plans on how to facilitate forex to them “ she said, according to spokesman of Nipco, Mr. Abiodun Lawal.
Mr. Lawal quoted Senator Ekwunife as saying that Nigerians expect the fuel crisis to abate after the passage of the supplementary appropriation bill of over N10.6bn to defray fuel subsidy claims by marketers.
She stated that Nigerians would be amazed that the product is still not available in the right quantity to guarantee continuous availability at all stations. According to her, investigations by the committee have shown that payment of the subsidy claims is no assurance of petrol availability as marketers still face herculean task of getting forex to import despite several letters of credit awaiting forex warranty by the Central Bank of Nigeria. She asserted that the Senate need to meet CBN Governor to explain how forex will be made available as a matter of priority to marketers in view of the role of petrol in transportations and industry.
Senator Ekwunife who commended Nipco for blazing the trail among marketers except NNPC to bring in cargoes of petrol even with all the challenges of subsidy and other ancillary issues facing the sector said their effort is exemplary. She pleaded to other marketers to emulate Nipco.
The Chairman who was taken round the MT CHAMPION which brought the second import cargo of the company expressed delight in the efforts of Nipco and assured that all the issues affecting the sector would be placed on front burner to ensure that Nigerians did not suffer any hardship in getting petrol.
According to her, the committee embarked on the inspection on a Sunday to show the importance attached to the recurring issue of fuel scarcity especially as we are approaching the yuletide when most people will want to move around to share the joy of the season with friends, associates and relatives.
Earlier in his remarks, Managing Director, Nipco, Mr Venkataraman Venkatapathy said the coming of the senators is historic for the company as the second import vessel of the company –MT CHAMPION which berthed with about 37 million litres of petrol started discharging on the day of the inspection.
He said the second import even in the face of the challenges facing marketers is in pursuance of the pledge of the company to support government in improving supplies of the product to filling stations.
According to him, the depot had not only insisted on selling at the government official rate of N77.66K depot price but had also warded off middlemen in and around the depot to avoid any racketeering by those who may want to cash in on the low price of the company to rip off motorists.
Mr Venkataraman said the first vessel which berthed about ten days ago has loaded out over 1,200 trucks to all the nooks and crannies of the country on a night and day loading for six days in a bid to ease the fuel scarcity.
He explained that all the imports are part of the Q4 allocation of Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency [PPRRA] and that the last of the cargoes is expected immediately forex is secured to pay suppliers of the product.