Chineme Okafor in Abuja and Ejiofor Alike in Lagos
For Nigerians who had been under the excruciating spell of petrol scarcity for months, hope for reprieve came yesterday as the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, said the product would be available in abundance from today.
But he said, during a town hall meeting with workers of the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) in Abuja, that the reprieve would be for Abuja and Lagos in the first instance, while the rest of the country, especially Port Harcourt, Warri, Sokoto and Kano, would begin to experience relief by the weekend.
The minister also said that on the long term, the government’s choice to privatise the country’s downstream petroleum sector would be the surest solution to the perennial challenges of products scarcity.
“Hopefully by today through Thursday, the fuel queues in Abuja should be over. Hopefully, the same thing will happen to Lagos and thereafter, by the weekend, we should see Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Port Harcourt and Warri get off this state,” Kachikwu said.
According to him, the country would have to find a sustainable way to keep her downstream sector working efficiently to avoid recurrent scarcity of products.
He added that such option that privatising the sector provides would be productive without necessarily having prices of products go up.
“What concerns me more is not just getting the present queues out that will definitely wear out, what concerns me more is how do you avoid having to have that ever again in this country and to do that there are certain things we need to do,” said.
Speaking more on the rationale for a long term solution, he said: “But really, in the states, we do not have queues as such, people are paying double the price to get product, and there is no place for that practice. Not right but what it says to you is that obviously, there are some statistical philosophy we need to watch in terms of whether we are pricing our products rightly for people to be able to participate in this chain.”
He also spoke about the passion which he deploys to service and which he said he wanted workers in PPPRA to adopt in their jobs within the sector.
He said: “First and foremost I am a servant and I’m here other to try and serve you and the Nigerian public. The ministerial toga and titles are important but frankly they mean nothing in the absence of good service and I think that should be the call to duty in this country.
“There isn’t any problem I have seen that does not have a solution, every problem must have a solution. What we need to do is to do our research thoroughly, find that solution, target it and execute it. And that is what I have been doing, because the petroleum ministry is the last hope of Nigeria, we are the 90 per cent revenue earner, we are the foreign exchange galvaniser. If we fail, this country fails.”
He further said: “We have to ensure there is accountability and professionality in everything we do. We are very conservative about our costs, and we will continue to cut cost. Everything we do is a mirror of what Nigeria needs to do to be successful as a country.
“If there is no power, we complain, but if there is no fuel, we will bring down this country. If there is fraud anywhere, we will say well, that is OK but if there is fraud in NNPC, we will bring down this country and what it says to you is that so much is expected of this ministry and we must take leadership.”
On his plans to reposition PPPRA, Kachikwu said: “We need to enhance PPPRA and we need to ensure that as you advance your careers, they are in the right direction and one of those things we are going to do is to ensure that promotions that are long outstanding are all done and we are going to be looking at that within the next two weeks.”
Meanwhile, the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) has debunked the claim by the Interim Management Secretary of the association, Mr. Lawson Ngoa, blaming the association for the current scarcity of petrol.
It said Ngoa is not a member of IPMAN but an agent of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources brought in to mediate in the internal crisis of the association.
Ngoa had on Monday exonerated the federal government of any blame associated with the current lingering fuel shortages across the country, clarifying that Nigerians should rather blame the prolonged leadership crisis that had rocked IPMAN as the cause of the crises.
But the National Operations Controller of IPMAN, who is also the immediate past National Secretary of the association, Mr. Mike Osatuyi said in a statement last night that it was a pure defamation of IPMAN for Ngoa to say that IPMAN had accepted responsibility for the scarcity of petroleum products and that Nigerians should hold the association responsible for the scarcity.
According to Osatuyi, “While the intervention of the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, in resolving the internal crisis in IPMAN is appreciated and commendable, the forefathers, past presidents, leaders of IPMAN and the general members of IPMAN nationwide will not allow Mr. Lawson Ngoa who is not a marketer less an IPMAN member to use IPMAN’s name as a shield to defend or protect a system failure of NNPC.”
“Crisis in IPMAN with government intervention is not new today. Previous government agencies had intervened in IPMAN crisis without blackmail from the agencies concerned right from the time of Alhaji Jarfau Paki, the then Special Assistant to President Olusegun Obasanjo on Petroleum Matters. Dr. Oluwole Oluleye, the former Executive Secretary of Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), had intervened in IPMAN matter without blackmailing the association. Some former Managing Directors of PPMC had also intervened in IPMAN matter without destroying IPMAN’s name,” Osatuyi explained.
He further stated that IPMAN controls over 80 per cent of the retail outlets in the country and had partnered with previous governments to solve previous fuel crisis without damaging the association’s name.
“It is also on record that no member of IPMAN has voiced out against peace since this government stepped in to resolve IPMAN crisis few days ago. That is evidence that IPMAN and all IPMAN members want peace and are ready to embrace peace for seamless operation of the association’s administration and by extension the Nigeria oil sector. IPMAN don’t want any government agents, representatives, coordinators that will add more wound to the association injury or destroy the association name that was established over 35 years ago. IPMAN members nationwide have invested trillions of naira in the Nigeria downstream oil sector,” Osatuyi added.
“Mr. Lawson Ngoa should answer the following questions to Nigerians: Does IPMAN issue import permit? Does IPMAN allocate forex for import? Does IPMAN involve itself in import planning of NNPC? Is it IPMAN that altered the 60 /40 import permit formula? Is it IPMAN that failed to carry other stakeholders along? Is it IPMAN that is responsible for infrastructure decay of NNPC?” Osatuyi asked.
He added that Ngoa had no authority or mandate to be using IPMAN’s name to shield any of the government agencies in Nigeria’s oil sector for any operational or administrative mismanagement.
He assured Nigerians that IPMAN is ready to work with the government in ensuring that products are available to Nigerians so as to deliver the promises of the government to the masses.