….Fuel Scarcity Will Ease Next Week
Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, on Tuesday, tendered an unreserved apology to Nigerians over his comment in respect of the continued acute fuel scarcity across the nation.
Kachikwu had told some members of the media that he is a magician that would solve the lingering problem.
But speaking before the Senate Committee on Petroleum, Kachikwu, who observed that his comment did not go down well with Nigerians, admitted that it was a side jocular issue, which was not meant to be.
“Let me thank the senate for taking time out from you recess to come too dialogue this issue, it shows the importance you attach to the petroleum industry and the feelings of Nigerians.
“Let me just digress
I share the pains of Nigerians, I feel that pain everyday when I walk the streets. On Easter day, I was in Lagos, monitoring fuel distribution and the depots. I have given 24 hours attention to the problems.
“I have continued to work with one sole purpose, which is that every problem must have a solution, and I think that is the reason I was picked.
“I do apologise for the comment that I made jocularly with my friends in the press about being a magician, and it offended Nigerians. It was not meant to be; it was a side jocular issue.
“I did go on to explain what needed to be done. I did not know that it would create the kind of hyperbole (exaggeration) that it did.
“Let me, first, admit that I am not a typically experienced politician. I am a technocrat: I come to work.
“Some of the phraseologies that I may use, while being acceptable in the arena in which I play obviously will not be acceptable in the public political arena. So, if any body’s sensibilities were offended by those, I totally apologise,” Kachikwu apologised.
Kachikwu, on Tuesday, promised that the current acute fuel scarcity in the country, which has resulted in the long queues at the filling stations would ease from the first week of April.
Kachikwu, who gave the assurance, while appearing before the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), also apologised to Nigerians for his recent utterances in the media about the persistent fuel scarcity in the country, which attracted public criticisms.
He, however, said that he would not resign his appointment as demanded by some aggrieved Nigerians.
The Minister was required by the lawmakers to provide detailed explanations on the cause of the present crisis and also highlight measures being taken by the Federal Government, not just to address the prevailing situation, but also to proffer a lasting solution to the problem.
“Let me just digress; I share the pains of Nigerians, I feel that pain everyday when I walk the streets. On Easter day, I was in Lagos monitoring fuel distribution and the depots; I have given 24 hours attention to the problems.
“I have continued to work with one sole purpose which is that every problem must have a solution and I think that is the reason I was picked.
“I do apologise for the comment that I made jocularly with my friends in the press about being a magician and it offended Nigerians; it was not meant to be, it was a side jocular issue. I did go on to explain what needed to be done, I did not know that it would create the kind of hyperbole (exaggeration) that it did.
“Let me first admit that I am not a typically experienced politician; I am a technocrat: I came to work. Some of the phraseologies that I may use, while being acceptable in the arena in which I play obviously will not be acceptable in the public political arena. So, if any body’s sensibilities were offended by those, I totally apologise,” he said.
On the call for his resignation, the Minister said: “I learnt that some people are planning to come to Abuja to protest that I should resign, I want to appeal to them to please save their fuel. I am not going to resign because I still have work to do”.
Kachikwu went further to tell the Committee that infrastructural deficits; vandalism, cabalism; black marketing and hoarding, among others, were factors principally responsible for the unending fuel scarcity being experienced in the country at the moment.
On the infrastructural deficits, he explained that since the NNPC undertook the burden of importing 100 percent of national fuel consumption, the Corporation had been grappling with the problem of storage because it did not have adequate storage facilities to stockpile for national consumption.
He also said that vandalization of oil pipelines had been a major problem because rather than concentrate on how to improve on the volume of oil production, government had to find a means of fixing back the destroyed facilities.
He, however, said that he and his team of workers in the Ministry and the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) were working hard to tackle the problem both in the short run and long term basis.
One of the strategies, according to him is that his leadership was working hard to provide a strategic reserve of 2,000,000 tonnes of petrol with the intention to finally put an end to periodic fuel scarcity in the country.
The Minister also stated that the latest arrangement between NNPC and independent marketers would be at the ratio of 47 to 53 percent supply of the national consumption, noting that the previous arrangement was 48 to 52 and later 32 to 68 from the independent marketers and the NNPC, respectively before NNPC started supplying 100 percent, after the removal of subsidy late last year.
He also said that subsequently, 150 per cent of national consumption would be deposited into storage tanks adding that meaningful solution to fuel crisis would be provided when refineries were working in optimum capacity.
Kachikwu said the search for refineries’ full operations, had led to several advertisements being run for individuals and private sector to take over the operations of the refineries and consequently expand their capacities.
He also said that a plan was already in the offing to make Chevron take over Warri refinery and another plan for Shell to take over Kaduna refinery.
He explained that it was not the intention of NNPC to solely take over importation of petrol but rather an action forced on it by emerging circumstances in the economy.
The Minister, however, said that the NNPC was currently working on an arrangement with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that would assist the marketers access foreign exchange to import fuel.
He lamented that Nigeria was one of the very few countries where citizens willfully destroyed pipelines meant to serve them, a trend he said made the NNPC to continue to grapple with the huge burden of providing fuel for the citizenry.
He also promised to embrace the advice given by the committee to employ the services of members of civil defence corps to accompany petrol tankers to intended petrol stations to avert cases of diversion.
Part of his words read: “The country is no longer paying subsidy and it is saving us a cumulative of over a trillion Naira in the one year period. The major issue however is that the inability of the marketers to import products became a major challenge.
“Some of them owed arrears of liabilities and going forward they didn’t have money to import the product. What that meant is that by late August we moved from an expected obligation of NNPC to bring in about 50 percent consumption of the product, which was about 45 billion to 50 billion litres.
“To a point where we had to cover a 100 percent platform. Nobody was bringing in product, consumption was still static, and we needed to cover that gap, without an increase in crude allocation.
“So, we worked hard from August till now to forward purchase products at premiums to find ways of covering the gap but we didn’t have the ability to cover the gap 100 percent.
“That gap is what we see in some of the cyclical queues that we have, which is about 80 percent of the problem. Those that are in this business were angry over the fact that they did not have foreign exchange, that they can’t do their business the way they want to, so they left us to carry the can,” he said.