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Senate Probes Petrol Scarcity

Despite NNPC Landing 18m Tonnes Of Petrol To Tame Scarcity, Senate Directs Its Committee On Petroleum To Investigate The Dry Pumps

Sopuruchi Onwuka, Lagos and Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja

The Senate yesterday directed its committees on petroleum resources to wade into the crisis that has enveloped the sector as the country undergoes political transition. The committee is to mainly gather facts on the state of the industry to enable the legislators to take decision on the policies and programmes that would govern operations in the industry. The move by the Senate coincided with the arrival of 18 million tonnes of the premium motor spirit by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for distribution through private throughput facilities in Apapa, Lagos. The cargo which was discharged into the depots of Nipco Plc and Aiteo Limited respectively could not be distributed due to lingering protest by the haulage tanker operators who demand payment of subsidy arrears to fuel importers in the country. Whereas lingering scarcity of petroleum products has sparked a spate of public outcry in the country, protests by labour unions in the petroleum sector over operatorship oil block divested by Shell, Total and Eni threaten downtime in upstream petroleum industry.

Following the crises, the Senate resolved to immediately intervene in the matters and asked its committees that oversee the industry to examine what has been going on in the sector which provides funding support to the three tiers of government in the country. The intervention followed a motion by the Deputy Senate Majority Leader, Senator Abdul Ningi, who requested the Senate to pay serious attention to the biting fuel crisis, which had brought untold hardship on Nigerians. As a result, the Senate directed its committees on Petroleum Resources (Upstream and Downstream) to commence investigations into the remote and immediate causes of the ongoing fuel crisis in the industry. Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the session pointed out that the Senate would not debate the motion since Ningi raised it under Personal Explanation. “Ningi’s prayers are simple and straightforward.

He is asking us, as representatives of the people, to direct our committees on upstream and downstream to find out what is currently going on in the oil sector, and possibly find a way of addressing it. “In that regard, we now ask our committees on Petroleum Resources (Upstream and Downstream) to find out what is going on, and what the government is doing about it, and report back on Tuesday next week. That is our wish,” Ekweremadu said. While moving his motion earlier, Ningi observed that the Senate had the responsibility to intervene in the unfortunate development since it still has the mandate of the people until June 1. “We need to know whether fuel scarcity has come to stay. We need to know whether it has become part of our life.We need to plan.

By planning and talking about it, we are now sensitising Nigerians to brace up for the impending issue of fuel scarcity – whether it is going to be here permanently or temporarily. “But we can’t know all these things until we hear from the experts. Therefore, my prayer is to ask the committees on Downstream and Upstream to come up with explanations next Tuesday through which Nigerians will know and plan their future. “Otherwise, I think it is legally and morally wrong to keep silent about it, sweep it under the carpet, and to continue to believe these things are usual,” Ningi said. The position of the Senate plugs into an earlier call by the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigerian (MOMAN) on the incoming administration of Gen. Mohammed Buhari to declare his government’s plans for the industry in order to provide market players with clearer operating environment.

Executive Secretary of MOMAN, Mr. Thomas Olawore, told The UNION that the marketing companies that have assisted NNPC in meeting domestic fuel demand through importation are currently confused on the arrangement that would rule market operations from June 2015. They said all the private marketers had stopped importation until the market environment was determined by the incoming administration. The withdrawal of the private companies from importation has left the burden of market supply to the NNPC, a situation that has resulted in acute supply deficits and associated scarcity of petrol at fuel service stations across the country.

Meanwhile, the cargo of 18 million litres of petrol that arrived Apapa yesterday is allocated to Nipco Plc and Aiteo Limited at 12 million litres and six million litres respectively. Discharge into the companies’ facilities progressed yesterday evening, we observed. In the upstream NNPC stated that it was addressing internal labour agitations for return of operatorship of oil mining licences (OMLs) 40 and 42 to Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC). Spokesman of the corporation, Mr. Ohi Alegbe, said the crises in the sector smacked of political manipulation, adding that some of the workers participating in the protest were misguided, since, according to him, they were veering into pure management decisions that had no labour implications.

According to him, the oil blocks have been operated by Shell for decades before the company divested its equity to the new operators. He wondered why the labour leaders that had clamoured for local content in oil and gas operations now oppose indigenous operators of the assets. He rolled out a long list of indigenous operators of joint ventures with NNPC and wondered why the assignment of operatorship to Elcrest and Neconde should become a subject of labour dispute. He advised the labour leaders in the industry to always act in the interest of the industry and the country and provide government with needed support to drive policy programmes that would realise national aspirations in the industry.

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