By Sonny Atumah
In military campaigns an operations centre is always created called a war room. It could be called a situation room, command centre or mission control room. It is a room where operations are planned, coordinated, monitored and controlled. Political campaigns are not left out in war rooms as political campaign strategy headquarters are also created for political operatives to plan and execute tactics and strategy.
Some war historians believed the German war room failed in World War 1 because of two frontal attacks from the east and west that were never anticipated. From the Western front, the British and French offensives prevented Germans from transferring sufficient forces to the eastern front. Without the troops, the Germans could not shatter the Russian armies to achieved victory. Russia that manned the eastern front used a strategy that worked for them in previous wars of fitting bloody defensive battles as the opportunity offered. As invading armies wasted away Russia’s vast reservoirs of manpower would refill the Russian ranks. It was a strategy that did not work in World War1. The Russian industry was unable to furnish enough weapons or ammunitions to supply the reserve personnel.
When strategies fail parties redraft their plans. Could this be the problem the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC faced in the recent fuel scarcity that continually lasted for three months? The NNPC thought that panic buying was the problem until its war room indicated otherwise. Sabotage from some quarters in the marketing and distribution chain was probably not anticipated. NNPC’s strategy to flush volumes and create a product glut situation across the country failed in the war room scrutiny.
Subsidy claims and non-payment caused scarcity in some circumstances. Former GMDs got consumed in these circumstances and were removed from office. In 2010, the then GMD Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo activated his war room. Under the arrangement, they worked in concert with major oil marketers and depot owners, coordinated the loading of unprecedented volumes of premium motor spirits, PMS, to filling stations throughout the country. The records showed that over 59.1 million litres of fuel was dispatched throughout the country on Thursday, March 4, 2010 using 1792 trucks.
On May 12, 2016, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and GMD of NNPC, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, told newsmen in Abuja that the new pump price of N145 for Premium Motor Spirit would help to sustain supply and reduce the suffering to get the product. He said the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), did not have the resources to supply the product to meet the demands of the nation. His war room strategy was the movement of pump price from N86 to N145.
“The reality is that we are unable to bring the product with the prices we sold before, that is why we see the systemic queues all over the country for a very long time. “I will urge you to trust that we are trying to do what is right and there is no better time to do this other than now under the leadership of President Buhari.” He said that with the NN86.50 pump price of PMS, Federal Government would have been paying subsidy of N13.7 per litre which he added, translated to N16.4 billion monthly. The minister said government could not go on with such funding and had completely removed subsidy and working with the price modulation to get things done right. Some of us doubted him because we knew the problem was beyond products imports and subsidy.
The NNPC under Baru inherited the import regime and the challenges necessitated its Fuel the War Room reactivated. Baru said the NNPC was able to find a solution to the recent problem of fuel scarcity by deploying and activating a 24-hour real time monitoring and sustaining a 24 hour loading and sales operations in all depots and mega stations in the country. He said other measures taken by the corporation which ensured product availability in the country included sharing information with oil industry regulators and sister agencies and working closely with petroleum tanker drivers and the National Association of Road Transport Owners to ensure seamless movement of petroleum products nationwide.
Does the NNPC deserve commendation for ending the queues? Some would say yes while to some others it was a mixed blessing. The NNPC may have achieved victory in the battle against scarcity of gasoline in the country but ones belief is that it is half the battle against scarcity. The ultimate should be local refining of petroleum products. This GMD of NNPC Dr. Maikanti Baru as made commitment to the nation.
Baru said the final selection of financiers to secure funding to start the rehabilitation of the refineries towards a 90 per cent capacity utilization per stream day before the end of 2019 was before NNPC’s board approval. He pledged NNPC’s commitment to provide utility services including power, processed steam, water and land, stressing that the corporation has agreed in broad terms on areas of collaboration to fast track the development. That is the way to go.