ABUJA â€” INDICATIONS emerged yesterday that the Federal Government may have succumbed to pressure on the issuance of import approval for marketers to resume importation of petroleum products across the country, raising hopes of improvement in fuel supply in the country.
But the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, has assured that the corporation has products which will the next 42 days, even if no other marketer imports products into the nation.
Meantime, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Dimeji Bankole, has attributed the current long queues at petrol stations to panic-buying, even as the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, faulted the Federal Governmentâ€™s argument that it spends a huge sum of money on petrol subsidy, arguing that the government only spends N5.00 on petrol subsidy per Nigerian, per day.
Vanguard investigations however revealed that most marketers are getting ready to resume importation of petroleum products immediately they lay hands on the import approval from the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency, PPPRA.
It was further gathered that most of the retail outlets across the country are presently concerned with how to replenish their stock if it wears thin and as such have commenced massive hoarding of the products in their stock.
The situation has however brought about long vehicular queues in most cities in the country, even as black market operators have also begun to catch in on the situation to make quick money.
A 25-litre keg of petrol now sells for between N2,500 to N3,000 while a 10-litre keg sells for as high as N1,500. A 50-litre keg goes for as high as N5,500 or even N6,000 in some instance.
However in reaction to Vanguardâ€™s enquiry, the Group General Manager, Public Affairs of the NNPC, Dr. Levi Ajuonuma, assured Nigerians of adequate fuel supply and also denied the existence of Petrol armada in Nigerian Waters.
Ajuonuma further said that NNPC has stock of petroleum products that could last the country for 42 days.
â€œThe petroleum products we have in our storage facilities right now can serve the entire country for 42 days if in that period we do not receive further supplies. But the good thing is that we are receiving supplies every day, and I can assure you that there will be enough fuel from now through the period of the Muslim and Christian festivities up to the New Year.â€
He called on members of the public to desist from panic buying as there was no reason whatsoever to entertain fears about possible fuel scarcity, adding that â€œthe PMS stock in the country can last for 42 days, same for other productsâ€.
The NNPC spokesman also called on major and independent petroleum marketers to cooperate with the NNPC to ensure that petroleum products are adequately distributed so as to get them to members of the public.
He urged marketers to desist from products hoarding and the practice of dispensing fuel with only one nozzle at their fuel stations, explaining that any marketer found doing so would have their stations shut by the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR.
He further explained that a joint committee made up of NNPC and DPR officials has been set up to monitor the supply of petroleum products across the country.
â€œThe committee is already at work. Members are going all over the country to monitor the supply. Any marketer found to be causing a hitch in the supply chain will be sanctioned by the committee,â€ he said.
However, a major industry operator who spoke with Vanguard on the condition of anonymity stated that the queues will continue all through the weekend and most part of this week because the NNPC alone can not dispense adequate products for the entire country.
According to him, the problem was caused by governmentâ€™s decision not to issue marketers with import approval even when it is common knowledge that major marketers alone supply about 50 percent of the nationâ€™s daily consumption.
â€œAs it stands today, we all have import permit which is being issued by the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, but we still cannot bring in products because the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, did not issue any of us with import approval, and without this document, we are not eligible to get our subsidy. So the fear is that if anyone imports, he may not get his subsidy allowance from the PPPRA and as such, every marketer has suspended plans of further importationâ€, he said.
He however confirmed that the marketers are aware that the government is now issuing the import approval to marketers but that this can only be confirmed when work resumes today.
Another industry source who also spoke on the condition of anonymity stated that the present queues being witnessed can not be easily erased as the marketers can not bring in products within days even when they are issued with the import approval.
He however observed that the governmentâ€™s only chance of rectifying the situation is to ensure that all major depots are flooded with products so that they can commence a round the clock loading of trucks.
â€œThis is the only way government can correct the prevailing situation in the system.Â At least I remember that not long ago, when the country faced a similar situation, this was the strategy that was put in place and it was most effective as we saw queues disappearing within days.
At one of the independent depots, NIPCO, in Apapa area of Lagos, there was 24-hour non-stop loading of products and about 350 trucks were loaded in just two days.
â€œThere are many other capable depots like Capital Oil in Ibafon, Lagos, MRS petroleum in Tincan Island, Folawiyo which can only load at night due to its location and problem of parking space for trucks. This is what the government should immediately consider if the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, truly has over 50 trucks laden with products in different anchorage in Lagos and Port Harcourtâ€, he said.
Speaker blames scarcity on panic buying
Meanwhile, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Dimeji Bankole, has attributed the current long queues at petrol stations to mere panic-buying.
Bankole in an interview with newsmen at the Presidential Wing of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, weekend, said that government needed more revenue to embark on many of its developmental projects.
According to him, fund is one of the challenges that government faces, which it must wriggle its way out of.
â€œWell, whether we like it or not, there are some challenges in the oil industry we must face. If we do not face it today, we will have to face it in the future, and the challenge is raising revenue for government, which by extension is for the country, to enable government develop its many projects accordingly.
â€œHowever, panic-buying of fuel is not the solution to the problem. The National Assembly will continue to work day and night to ensure that those that will be adversely affected will be somewhat looked out for and looked after,â€ he said.
Pressed to state specifically in what ways government would cushion effects of deregulation on the poor, Bankole said government was set to meet with all the major stakeholders in the oil industry to work out some cushion, but declined to state in what form.
He said: â€œWe have to sit with labour, sit with the executive arm of government, the minister of petroleum and civil servants as well as other stakeholders to work out a plan to make sure that things at least go on well.â€
Long queues continued yesterday in Lagos with no signs of abating.
FG spends only N5 on subsidy per Nigerian, per dayâ€”NLC
However, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, has faulted Federal Governmentâ€™s argument that it is spends huge sums on petrol subsidy, saying the government only spends N5.00 on fuel subsidy per Nigerian, per day.
President of the NLC, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar, told Vanguard last weekend in Abuja, that the Federal Government was being economical with the truth about the bogus subsidy claims, and insisted that Nigerian workers and masses would not accept the planned full deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry.
According to him, â€œAll they want to do is to inflict more hardships and sufferings on Nigerians because what the deregulation they are talking about means is price increase. Do not be deceived about their bogus subsidy claim.
â€œThe government says it is spending a bout N700 billion to subsidise fuel for Nigerians. Let us agree it is true.
It means it spends about N700 million per day in a country of 140 million people. If you calculate that, it amounts to just N5.00 per day for a Nigerian. That is what the Federal Government is lamenting about. In any case, who is complaining? Nigerians are not complaining. It is people in the government that are complaining.
The question to be asked is: the money they are complaining about is it their personal money, but Nigerians, money?â€
Continuing, Comrade Omar said: â€œOver the years, the Nigerian government has emerged with one policy after another that the country would reverse the increasing economic downturn and lead to economic prosperity for the people.
The country has gone through Structural Adjustment, Economic liberalisation, deregulation of external trade, privatisation and public sector reforms.â€