By Udeme Akpan, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Mike Eboh & Dennis Udoma
FG waives port charges on fuel imports
Refineries pump 3.8m litres per day – Baru
As fuel scarcity across the country bites harder, the Federal Government, yesterday, ordered that port charges be waived for vessels carrying Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, also known as petrol, to ensure their speedy clearance. These charges include port charges, pilotage charges and landing fees.
Petrol-laden vessels of up to 100,000 metric tonnes (summer deadweight) pay up to US$6,800, vessels from 100,000-200,000 tonnes pay US$10,200, while vessels of 200,000 metric tonnes and above are charged US$13,600. The Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, charges $0.034 per barrel of fuel.
This came as President Muhammadu Buhari broke his silence on the current scarcity yesterday, sympathising with Nigerians on the excruciating pains they were going through as a result of the scarcity.
Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Mr. Maikanti Baru, who disclosed this at a briefing in Abuja, said the current Landing Cost of PMS was N171 per litre, meaning that at N145 per litre, the Federal Government was currently paying a subsidy of N26 on a litre of the commodity.
Baru stated that the Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Customs and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA were currently expediting the clearance of fuel vessels and anchorage services to facilitate speedy product transfers to depots, including during weekends and public holidays.
The NNPC helmsman noted that President Muhammadu Buhari was deeply concerned about the fuel crisis and had ordered all stakeholders involved, including security agencies to ensure speedy resolution of the situation.
24-hour loading, sales operations
He disclosed that the NNPC had commenced a 24-hour loading and sales operations at all depots and its mega stations across the country.
“Major marketers were also advised to carry out 24-hour operations, most of whom have been complying. This has increased load-out from the depots significantly and continuous sales at the filling stations nationwide,” Baru noted.
He affirmed that in addition to the regular supply circle, the NNPC had programmed the delivery of additional 300 million litres in December 20l7 and January 2018 to beef up national reserves to 45 million litres per day, well above the normal consumption requirement of between 27 and 28 million litres per day.
He also declared that in the last two weeks, the national truck-out capacity had been beefed up to an average of l,500 trucks, about 52 million litres per day, which he explained, was higher than the normal consumption of 850 trucks per day.
Furthermore, the NNPC boss stated that currently, 13 vessels, with an average capacity of 650 million litres, were discharging the commodity at different ports across the country, while noting that three vessels with the commodity were coming in before the end of the week, bringing the combined quantity of the product in depots to 814 million litres of petrol to last till the end of the month.
He added that 14 shuttle tankers, with a combined capacity of 187 million litres of the commodity, would also be discharging the product at various destinations across the country in the next three days.
Refineries pump 3.8m litres per day
In addition to imported products, Baru noted that the Port Harcourt and Kaduna Refineries are currently contributing about one million litres and 2.8 million litres per day respectively of PMS to the country’s fuel supply respectively, adding that since the fuel crisis began, both refineries had contributed a total of about 61 million litres.
Also, to ensure speedy resolution of the crisis, Baru disclosed that the NNPC had activated the ‘Fuel War Room’, comprising the NNPC, Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA and the Petroleum Equalisation Fund, PEF.
He said the team was tasked with the responsibility of coordinating all intervention activities for supply and distribution of PMS nationwide, adding that with the support of security agencies, the team was already working round the clock to ensure a speedy resolution of the current fuel situation.
He explained that with all these measures, and if full compliance was achieved, the crisis would end within the next two days.
According to him, efforts have been put in place to ensure the crisis did not go beyond this week.
Baru also accused black marketers of sabotaging efforts to end the fuel crisis, stating that most of the peddlers, permanently put their vehicles on queues at petrol stations, and after purchasing, discharge the products into containers and return to join the queues.
He further stated that the normal consumption of PMS in Nigeria had risen to over 50 million litres per day, due to hoarding and diversion, mainly as a result of cross-border smuggling.
Commenting on the landing cost of PMS, Baru said the Cost, Insurance and Freight price of PMS was $620 per metric tonne, adding that at N305 to a dollar, the landing cost translates to N171 per litre.
However, he disclosed that despite the higher landing cost, there was no plan to increase the price of the commodity, adding that even with the current rate, the marketers were being supplied the product at N133.28, giving them ample opportunity to make profit.
Baru, explained that the NNPC would like to see a thriving and vibrant private sector that would participate actively in product importation going forward.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, broke his silence and sympathised with the people.
The President, who said he was being briefed on the fuel situation in the country, assured that the NNPC was making efforts to ease the situation.
Buhari in a statement he personally signed and posted on his verified twitter handle, said the scarcity was regrettable.
He said: “The fuel scarcity being experienced nationwide is regrettable. I sympathise with all Nigerians on having to endure needless fuel queues.
“I’m being regularly briefed, especially on the NNPC’s interventions to ensure that there is enough petrol available during this period & beyond.
“I have the NNPC’s assurance that the situation will improve significantly over the next few days, as new shipments and supplies are distributed across the country.
“I have also directed the regulators to step up their surveillance and bring an end to hoarding and price inflation by marketers
“Let me also assure that the relevant agencies will continue to provide updates on the situation. I thank you all for your patience and understanding.”
The persistent fuel crisis, despite assurances from there Federal Government in the past three weeks that it was going to be addressed with immediate effect, left some people stranded, especially those travelling for the Christmas celebration to different parts of the country.
In some filing stations across the country, the petroleum product was sold above the Federal Government recommended pump price of N145.
In some cases, between N200 and N300 per litre, while the black market price by hawkers on the streets was above that. Some Nigerians have argued that the government has no justification for the scarcity of petroleum products after increasing the pump price from N97.00 which was the price in the last administration to between N143-N145 per litre.
Christians and a bleak Xmas
Meanwhile, Christians who looked forward to having a Merry Christmas may not have it today as fuel crisis in the country has worsened, following the drying up of stocks, leading to the emergence of long queues at many filling stations.
Our correspondents, who went out to monitor the situation in Lagos, Abuja, Uyo and other parts of the nation, yesterday, also noticed huge presence of illegal traders who hit the streets to hawk the product in jerry cans.
While a few filling stations that have the product continued to sell at N145 per litre, illegal operators sold it at prices ranging from N200 to N500 per litre, depending on location.
Investigations showed that many stakeholders, including tanker drivers, were on holiday, thus causing some marketers to hold unto their current stocks as they were unsure when to get new supplies.
For instance, long queues in petrol filling stations still persist across Akwa Ibom, following what the independent petroleum product marketers described as “the non-availability of the product.”
But observation by Vanguard in Uyo showed that some major marketers, such as the NNPC Mega Station and Total, sold the product at normal price.
But the independent marketers sold it at N180 and N210 per litre respectively, while the same product goes for N250 and N300 per litre in the black market.
A Sales Supervisor at Total Petroleum Filling Station along Ikot Ekpene Road in the metropolis, Mr Kufre Thompson, agreed that they had normal supply, explaining that was why they were able to serve their customers since the beginning of the chaotic fuel situation in the country.
He attributed the petrol scarcity to delay in the importation of the product into the country by the NNPC, as well as not having enough supply to cater for the high demand for the yuletide.
The same goes for the Sales Manager at the NNPC Mega-Station at Itam, near Uyo, Mr Ekanem Assam who said, they had no hitches at all in dispensing PMS to customers.
According to him, “we have no challenge at all as we have enough product that can sustain us throughout the yuletide at N143 per litre. As you can see, the trucks there have just brought in more supplies.
“So, NNPC has no problem as we are dispensing fuel to our customers successfully but, the only problem is how to control the long queues.”
Senior Special Assistant to Governor Udom Emmanuel on Petroleum Matters, Obong Essien Esema, while reacting to the fuel situation in the country, blamed the NNPC in the delay to import petroleum products ahead of the yuletide knowing that, the process would take a reasonable period of time to avoid the scarcity.
“The truth of the matter is that, if NNPC doesn’t import fuel, it takes the country not less than two weeks for a vessel to arrive.
“That is why, marketers capitalize on the slightest shortage in the depots to hike their prices hoping that, government might want to increase the pump price in the following year but, we thank God the Federal Government had dismissed the rumour and said there was no intention to do so.”
In Lagos, yesterday, intra-city movement by commuters was a major challenge as most bus stops in the metropolis were full of stranded commuters. Buses were not on the road as most of them were on queues that caused serious traffic gridlock on major roads.
Fuel diversion: Buhari orders security agencies to beef up surveillance
President Buhari has ordered security agencies to beef up surveillance and enforce distribution of petroleum products to intended destinations.
The Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr Maikanti Baru, said this while still briefing newsmen on steps the government had taken to ease persistent fuel diversions around the country.
According to Baru, he had briefed the President on issues surrounding the fuel situation including marketers diverting the product and selling above the cap of N145.
He said: “President Buhari has directed that we contain the situation. What I can assure is that Mr. President has already responded as part of the discussion we had, yesterday.
“On his Twitter handle, Mr President has indicated that parts of our discussions was to get the regulatory and security agencies to beef up their surveillance and enforcement of distribution of products.
“Part of my briefing to him was that there is still significant hoarding and diversion where trucks that are loaded to supply products to specific stations get diverted elsewhere as well as smuggled out of the country.
“Mr President’s immediate response was to direct the boarder agencies as well as internally, the security and regulatory agencies to ensure that all trucks that are loading deliver to the stations they were meant to deliver.”
Baru, while fielding questions assured Nigerians that petroleum product was available, adding that in spite of high landing costs, the price of petrol would not increase.
“We need the people to understand that we have products but the issue of diversion, smuggling, profiteering have been brought to the fore.
“Appropriate sanctions would be meted out. Price would not increase despite landing costs of fuel. The landing cost goes with the Cost Insurance Freight (CIF) price of petrol.
“As of Friday, the CIF price was in the neighborhood of 620 dollars per metric tonne with the official exchange rate of N305 to the dollar, the loading cost should be N171.40 per litre.
“I urge marketers to do what they were doing before which is selling below the cap of N139 to N145 per liter. If the landing costs is N171 and we sell to marketers at N133.28, they still have profit.
“I urge them to make the lives of Nigerians more comfortable. There would be no price increase of petrol,” he reiterated.
He said the queues would disappear in two days maximum as about 13 vessels were presently discharging petroleum products at various seaports across the country.
He said the Department of Petroleum Resources, Petroleum Equalisation Fund and the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency have scaled up monitoring activities to ensure seamless and compliant loading and dispensing of petrol nationwide.
He said that with the appreciated all stakeholders and urged Nigerian to stop patronising black marketers as adequate products were available to serve all.
Commenting on allegation by marketers that government wants to increase the pump price due to the high Landing cost, he described it as false.
Baru went round various filling stations in Abuja and interfaced with motorists and station managers, urging for calm and assuring that an end was in sight to the long queues.