By Akoma Chinweoke
With less than a day to Christmas celebration, Nigerians are still grappling with the challenge of fuel scarcity across the country as the scarcity has continued to bite harder. Despite claims by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation NNPC, that it has increased supply of premium motor spirit, PMS, also known as petrol, to Lagos and Abuja to 470 truckloads, scarcity of the product has persisted, fueling fears the situation might mar this festive season as usual ,
Engineer Martin Onovo, former presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP), is an oil and gas Engineering consultant and an Energy expert. He has worked in the global oil industry for over 25 years, traversing many continents and the Niger Delta region. In this interview, he says the government should stop the blaming game and insists that the only way out of the country’s lingering fuel crisis was to restore and upgrade domestic refining capacity of the four public refineries in Nigeria.
Sir, what do you think was responsible for the current fuel scarcity across the country. Could it be an act of sabotage?Simply. the NNPC is very corrupt, bureaucratic and ineffective. That is why we have the current fuel scarcity. We can see how the NNPC has moved from one scandal to the other.
The NNPC has consistently provided inaccurate revenue information to the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) and other government institutions. You must remember the recent $25 Billion NNPC contracts scam. Now, the NNPC did not import and distribute sufficient PMS (petrol) for the increased fuel demands in the Christmas season.
Even NNPC fuel stations from Lagos past Ore, through Benin and Asaba to Enugu have no fuel for sale to motorists. If NNPC stations have fuel and sell continuously, the situation will be mitigated. Typical of the current government, instead of addressing the scarcity, they irresponsibly went from blaming private importers to blaming independent marketers to blaming PENGASSAN and now, they are blaming the public for ‘panic buying’.
It is irresponsible to hold onto public office and blame others when you fail in your official responsibilities. This your spurious claim of ‘sabotage’ is the latest in this celebration of irresponsibility. If the blind leads the blind, they both fall into a pit.
You said that the country is back to subsidy regime. Could you please explain?
Once the total cost of any product is greater than the selling price, then a subsidy is needed to sustain the system. Kindly note that increases in crude oil prices lead to increases in petroleum products prices. Also note that energy demand for heating rises globally in winter. With the current crude oil prices higher than the previous prices when the PPPRA pricing template was established, petroleum products prices have increased in the international market from where we import our products. Consequently, profit margins have been compromised and the incentive for private entities to import is constrained.
As simple as this situation is to understand and manage, the mediocre and incompetent federal government and the NNPC have failed as usual to manage this simple situation. Leadership is not for the incompetent and the corrupt. The failure of the current political leadership is very clear from, increasing insecurity in Nigeria; poor power supply; fuel scarcity; institutionalized corruption; destruction of the economy, etc.
The permanent solution is simple and we have repeated and insisted on it for over a decade. Even United Labour Congress (ULC),PENGASSAN and NUPENG have also insisted on this obvious permanent solution which is to; ‘Restore and Upgrade domestic refining capacity of the four public refineries in Nigeria’. This will mitigate dependence on imported petroleum products, decrease costs, create jobs and improve national energy security.
Should the NNPC be scrapped for poor performance as suggested by some experts?
The NNPC should not be liquidated for poor performance. The NNPC is a public corporation and is directly controlled by the political leadership. The root cause of the corruption and ineffectiveness of the NNPC is the political leadership. So, liquidating the NNPC will be a wasteful symptomatic approach to the problem. We must deal democratically and decisively with the corrupt, mediocre and incompetent political leadership.
Don’t you think the private depot owners have a hand in this scarcity?
The private depot owners are private business entities that run their businesses independently, for profit. If they violate any law, then we can enforce our laws against them. Otherwise, they are free to run their businesses independently. Do not forget that we have a free market enterprise regime. But, if we have binding agreements with them, we can enforce our rights in such agreements against them.