The Senate yesterday summoned the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Maikanti Baru, and other industry stakeholders over the ongoing fuel scarcity.
They are to appear before its committee on petroleum resources (downstream) on January 4, 2018 in a meeting that would be aired live on national television.
This is not the first time the chamber has invited Baru on the issue. He failed to show up for a December 5 meeting. “We decided to invite the GMD to come and brief on the development and enable Nigerians know the situation of things. Unfortunately, Baru informed us of his inability to honour the invitation,” committee chairman, Kabiru Marafa, had said.
The latest summons means the Senate would cut short its recess to deliberate on the challenge. The National Assembly is currently observing the Christmas and New Year break and is billed to resume committee work for budget defence on January 9, while plenary commences January 16.
Still on the elusive Prime Motor Spirit, Kachikwu has asked the public to disregard reports suggesting he wrote a memo to President Buhari on the situation.
He described the supposed memo and its content as false, promising his ministry would flood the market with products and prevent any attempt at sabotage.
A statement by the ministry’s Director of Press, Idang Alibi, notes: “Our attention has been drawn to a message making the rounds on social media of a purported memo by the Honorable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, to the President on the crisis. This is not a time for diversionary issues, as the petroleum sector is dealing with a serious national matter. We are focused on collaboratively finding an urgent solution to this crisis.”
The ministry will continue to monitor the situation and work with the NNPC and Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to solve the problem and penalise saboteurs, the statement adds.
Kachikwu also urged Nigerians to stay calm, saying the NNPC was doing everything possible to end the shortage.
Meanwhile, Kano residents have been regretting their loss of productive hours, as the scarcity enters a third week.
Thousands have been forced to spend nights on queues at fuel stations amid accusations that independent marketers and the DPR are to blame for the situation.
A statement by NNPC had alleged the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) diverted 144 trucks in the state. IPMAN, however, denied this, challenging the corporation to prove its claims.
Efforts to speak with IPMAN chairman in Kano, Alhaji Bashir Dan Mallam, were unsuccessful, as he neither responded to telephone calls nor to text messages.
Kano DPR officials, Buba Abubakar and M. Yau, also did not respond to inquiries.
Stations along Murtala Mohammad, Zoo, Ibrahim Taiwo, BUK and Zaria Roads yesterday were closed, with many vehicles queuing up in the hope the pumps may flow. The NNPC mega station along Hotoro, however, sold fuel.
While stations were shut, street vendors had limitless supply, selling four litres for N1,500 – N1,800.
One motorist, Usman Ahmad, told The Guardian at Total filing station, Zoo Road: “As you can see, my car has been on the line since Monday in the hope that fuel will be sold anytime. But from what we are hearing, I don’t think the situation will improve. I learnt the marketers are not ready to sell.”
Another, Aminu Umar, a commercial driver, said: “There is fuel in some of the stations but they have refused to sell. Some filling stations in Sharada start selling at 10:00 a.m. and close at 3:00 p.m. If they have fuel and it is for sale why can’t they just sell it all day?”
Obina Ike, a commercial bus operator, urged the Federal Government to deploy more effort to check the situation, even as he alleged the DPR in Kano has been compromised.
“Government can change the situation if they actually want. We have seen many petrol stations being closed down for engaging in sharp practices in Abuja and Lagos. Are you saying all the marketers in Kano are sincere? Let DPR do its job. We hear they even collect bribes from these big oil people,” Ike said.