ByÂ Yemie Adeoye
LAGOSâ€”As millions of Nigerians continue to suffer untold hardship over the unavailability of petrol just four days to Christmas, someÂ controversy over the volume of products in stock appears to be brewing in the downstream sector of the nation’s petroleum industry.
This is coming on the heels of disclosure by major oil marketers that they have been incapacitated by inaccessibility of funds from the nation’s ailing financial institutions for them to bring in products to relieve Nigerians of the perennial scarcity of petrol.
An on the spot assessment by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Odein Ajumogobia, to some petroleum products depots in Lagos, reveals that the Federal Government may not be satisfied with the operations of the Pipeline Products Marketing Company, PPMC, a subsidiary of the NNPC and some of the private depots operators, even as conflicting figures continue to emerge from the NNPC and DPR.
The PPMC appears to have claimed that it had in stock about 90 million litres of petrol which should be enough to reduce the current scarcity, while the DPR claims it has no knowlegde of it.
During the ministerâ€™s discussion with officials of the Department of Petroleum Resources, it was discovered that much against the claim by the NNPC that it has products in stock to last another 41 days, the actual current capacity may not last more than 4.3 days sufficiency which is approximately 5 days.
Aside from this volume the PPMC appears to be expecting another 358 million liters which is said to be currently on the high sea, this would however bring the total sufficiency to about 14 days sufficiency.
Meanwhile the Major oil Marketers coming under the auspices of Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) have said that their inability to import petroleum products as expected may not have being unconnected with the ongoing reforms in the Nigerian banking sector, a situation which has brought quite a number of corporate organisation and individuals close to their knees.
Speaking during an interactive session with Energy Corespondents in Lagos yesterday, the Executive Secretary of the Association and official spokesman of the Marketers Mr. Femi Olawore stated that this and also the failure of the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) to completely pay off the remnants of the Petroleum Subsidy Fund (PSF) to marketers is the reason for the shortage in products importation. He also noted that the inability of the DPR to issue an import approval promptly.
â€œNormally approvals to import are given a month before the beginning of the quarter, but we never got the approval for the 4th quarter 2009 until November, and after this approval is issued by the PPPRA after which we have to get the import permit from the DPR, nd thuis is not automatic as it will take another few days to be issued.
It is after this that you will now open your Letter of Credit (LC), book your cargo, and the cargo would sail for another 2 to 3 weeks before arrival. In view of this you can see that whoever is expecting us to bring in products before the import permit is not being factualâ€.
Mr. Ajumogobia who appeared visibly worried over the perenial scarcity currently rocking the nation, however assured Nigerians that the federal government would not relent in ensuring that the market is flooded with products and that the scarcity does not continue for long.
He further told newsmen that the federal government woulod set up a panel of inquiry to investigate the different figures in available products volume by the two government agencies, especially as it concerns the 90 million liters of products claimed to be in stock by the PPMC, a claim which was countered by the DPR which claims that as the industry regulator with a constitutional right to inspect and certify all petroleum products coming into the country it has no knowledge of any 90 million liters of petrol.