Way out of fuel crisis: Payment of N800b subsidy arrears on the cards

THE Federal Government is considering payment of N800 billion fuel subsidy arrears to oil marketers, provision of tax holidays and other incentives as part of measures targeted at ending the lingering scarcity. These and other issues were pushed forward at the engagement of stakeholders, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC; Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR; Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, MOMAN; Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN; Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association, DAPPMA and others, hosted by Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources in Abuja, yesterday. Mr. Idang Alibi, Director, Press in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, who spoke with Vanguard on phone, yesterday, declined to provide information, noting that the engagement was still ongoing. But a source, who attended the meeting, but preferred not to be named, told Vanguard that the payment of the debt was adopted, as it will enable the oil marketers settle huge debts to commercial banks and embark on new importation of petroleum products. He said other measures adopted to tackle the crisis, include maintenance of local refineries, preferential allocation of foreign exchange to oil marketers and increased monitoring of petroleum products by DPR. The source said stakeholders, who agreed not to increase the price of fuel, also resolved to adopt cost-cutting strategies, while four sub-committees were inaugurated to address the challenges of fuel supply across the country. He said: “There is no planned increase in fuel price. The minister said it should not be contemplated. None of us want fuel price to rise. What we talked about was tax holidays and other things in that line. “Also, all stakeholders have agreed to look inward and improve efficiency so that we can cut down cost and resume our business. Nobody is concerned about price increment. “The Minister also inaugurated some sub-committees, about four in number, some of which are logistics and business conduct committees. Some individuals were appointed into all the committees.” The source said all the agreements reached at the meeting, which was still ongoing at press time, would be relayed to the Presidency, hopefully by today,  before they are made public. The committee was headed by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu and has as members, heads of some parastatals under the ministry, the Group Managing Director of NNPC, DAPPMA, IPMAN and labour officials.

Diversion

Also, another source at the meeting told vanguard that it was discovered that diversion played a major role in the current scarcity in the country, “as between 30 and 50 percent of petroleum products in other African countries are from Nigeria. This is because the products are more expensive in those other countries than Nigeria. “It was discovered that most of the diversion take place in the Northern part of the country. That is why you hear that some number of trucks have been allocated to certain parts of the country, but will never get to the filling stations. Though the meeting did not want to blame anybody, it was obvious that certain people are not doing their jobs and are conniving with smugglers to undermine the system.”

ASUU blames FG

Meanwhile, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Ambrose Alli University chapter, has expressed disappointment over the blame game by the Federal Government and the way and manner it was handling issues affecting masses of the country. The union also expressed shock at the silence of some persons, who were very vocal in condemning anti-masses policies of the previous administration. Dr.  Monday Igbafen, Chairman, AAU-ASUU, at a media briefing at the end of the chapter’s first congress for the year in Ekpoma, Esan West Local Government Area of Edo State, stated that the already bad living conditions of Nigerians was being compounded by the biting fuel scarcity and called on government to do self-appraisal with a view to making amends to salvage the deteriorating conditions of citizens. He said: “The issue of fuel is affecting everybody. We are extremely worried because the vocal voices before now have become silent. The question is, is the silence ideological? Why is it that same Nigerians have become silent when we are fuelling our vehicles with N300, N400 per litre? “For us as a union, we feel that government should be indicted because we do not believe that government is not aware of what is going on. We felt Buhari represented change, but what we see today is abysmal failure.” He cautioned Nigerians not to be too expectant in 2018, predicting that 2018 will be tougher, because according to him, the oppressors would be more hardened. “We foresee a tougher 2018 because the oppressors will get more hardened at all levels. The issue of our liberation should not be tied to any existing political party. It should be tied to our ideological belief,” he warned.

Revert to N145 pump price  —CDHR

Also, the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, CDHR, Delta State Chapter, has issued a 48-hour ultimatum to petrol stations in the state to revert to the approved pump price of N145 per litre, failing which it would assist the DPR to seal defaulting stations. CDHR, in a statement by Comrade Prince Taiga, noted that several filling stations were shut down in collaboration with DPR in Edo and Ondo states, a development which it said returned pump price to N145. It warned that the committee and other stakeholders would not hesitate to seal those filling stations selling at outrageous prices, if by the end of the ultimatum; they fail to revert to N145 pump price.

Situation report

Our Correspondents who visited various filling stations nationwide, observed that fuel scarcity was still being experienced in many parts of the nation. In Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Vanguard observed that though the price remained high, motorists now drive into filling stations with ease to buy fuel. Also, black market operators, who were selling in jerry cans along major roads in the state capital during the scarcity period at N300 per litre, have been put out of business following the availability of the product in most of the filling stations. Many of the stations that were under lock and keys during the scarcity have started selling the product ostensibly due to high price of N230 per litre. Aside the NNPC mega station, which sells at N143 per litre and has long queue, others have no queues as motorists and other product users could be seen procuring fuel with ease. “The fuel situation has improved greatly. You can drive into the filling stations having product with ease and purchase fuel though at N230 per litre. “The NNPC mega station is the only place in town where you can get the product at N143 per litre and that is the only reason why you still see long queue there,” said Collins Tarila, a civil servant.”

Senate: No request from presidency on payment to oil marketers

The Senate said, yesterday: “The attention of the Senate has been drawn to a claim said to have been made by the Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari, during a meeting with stakeholders in the oil industry on the perennial fuel scarcity in the country to the effect that the payment of debt owed to oil marketers was being delayed because the National Assembly has not approved request presented to the legislature for loan meant for that purpose.” The Senate in a statement signed by Sen. Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, said it would want members of the public to know that no such request has been made to it specifically requesting for loan meant for payment to oil marketers. “The Senate is aware that subsidy on petroleum had been cancelled by this administration; so we wonder which payment we are talking about now. “Senators have been inundated with calls from oil marketers who were present at the meeting with the Chief of Staff to the President on the issue and thus, we call on Kyari to either prove his claim or retract it. “It should be noted that a similar claim was made by the Minister of Finance on the foreign loan at a time the Presidency had not forwarded the request. The letter requesting for the foreign loan was submitted long after she was confronted with the fact. “It is the opinion of the Senate that instead of resorting to false claims and shifting blames in the mould of ‘ Blame Someone Else’, both the executive and legislature should work together to solve this unnecessary fuel crisis which is making life more difficult for our people. That is why members of the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) were mandated by the Senate President to suspend their recess and embark on oversight visits to key areas in the sector while it would tomorrow (today) hold an investigative public hearing with all stakeholders aimed at finding solution to the problem of fuel scarcity.

Credits/Sources: www.vanguardngr.com