By Sonny Atumah
Between June and July 1925, Will Rogers (1879-1935) comedian, newspaper columnist, film and radio star, and political satirist revealed his encounter with the 30th President of the United States Calvin Coolidge. Asked how his funny stories were all thought up, Rogers a regular guest to the first family for light-hearted jokes replied: “I don’t make jokes, Mr. President; I watch the government and report the facts.”
Indeed, many things happen in government circles that appear to be in the realm of jocularity. One imagines our own comedy supremo; Atunyota Akpobomo, alias Ali Baba in such encounters with President Olusegun Obasanjo while in office.
Would the anchor of Ali Baba Seriously on NTA have poked fun when the Federal Executive Council, FEC last week approved N17 billion for the installation of technology monitoring schemes and structures under the Petroleum Equalisation Fund, PEF. The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, whose Ministry presented the Memorandum that was approved by the FEC meeting presided over by the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo briefed State House correspondents in Abuja that the deployment of the automated fuel system management and censor network would ensure 100 per cent tracking and monitoring of imported petroleum products.
Were the surroundings pleasant enough for the food served to Nigerians? According to Kachikwu: “The narrative is that we have all struggled with this whole subsidy payment; how much is consumed in Nigeria; volumes of products moved out illegally and the whole impact on Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC).
The president has given a very serious mandate that we ought to rein in on this process. The essence of what PEF is doing is that this will enable us track refined petroleum products movement from the point of Letter of Credit, LC, opening from the vessels that come into Nigeria, up until the point where there are discharged into tanks in Nigeria. It will monitor from the tanks to trucks in Nigeria; monitor the trucks till they deliver the products into the storage tanks for the filling stations and they are discharged and sold. So, that will produce a 100 per cent holistic monitoring of this production.”
The Minister’s anecdote that for the first time, Nigeria would be able to tell how much petroleum products are consumed in the country was a stinging indictment of Nigeria’s Petroleum Ministry that the Minister superintends. Apart from few crises periods when PMS stock runs dry, sometimes occasioned by international oil price increases and when we were caught off guard, our consumption is known.
Whatever countries consume either as net producers or consumers of petroleum is at the finger tip of whoever is in charge of petroleum. These government departments including CBN, DPR, PPPRA, NNPC, PPMC, PEF, Customs, NIMASA, NPA, Nigerian Navy etc, are involved from the opening of Letters of Credit, importation through distribution of petroleum products. Is it the same PEF that the Minister does not believe its figures on marketers national transportation allowance and equalization claims that he would rely on to track in-country petroleum products truck movements?
The Department of Petroleum Resources has a central server that tracks petroleum tankers nationwide. We should find out the condition of their server as it relates to the country’s internet protocol, IP to service than the waste of N17 billion using PEF. We should be interested in bridging the price differentials in the country which is PEF’s responsibility. Apart from Abuja and Lagos, a litre of PMS hardly sells for N145 in other parts of Nigeria.
Security agencies have tightened our borders especially in the northeast. Not much of smuggling from the Bama axis. The problem about FAAC dwindling revenues is well known so we should not be deceived. It has nothing to do with smuggling that has been virtually removed in Nigeria. With high crude oil prices in the international market we are spending a lot more money from crude sales to import petroleum products. That is the crux of the matter. It does not warrant getting funds from the public coffers to install trackers on tankers that can easily be demobilized.
Where are our refineries? Who does what between policy formulators and operators stalled the planned rehabilitation of our refineries in 2017. The final selection of financiers to secure funding to start the rehabilitation of the refineries towards 90 per cent capacity utilization per stream day before the end of 2019 is before NNPC’s board for approval. On May 12, 2016 the Minister of State made Nigerians believe that a 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 strategy to move the pump price from N86 to N145 in modulation achieved no result because the PMS subsidy he felt was gulping between N1.4 trillion to N1.7 trillion per annum is still there. Local refining would solve the problem.