There are indications that the persistent fuel scarcity in the country may take a long time to end as a meeting involving the Federal Government, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Department of Petroleum Resources, Major Marketers Association of Nigeria, MOMAN, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, ended with no clear road-map.
But the major players in the oil industry yesterday, attributed the fuel scarcity in different parts of the country to the increase in crude oil price at the international market and the removal of subsidy.
This came as the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu has said that no single marketer has been identified as being behind the fuel scarcity that has brought untold hardship to Nigerians during the Yuletide
Meanwhile, a source at the meeting told Vanguard that the issue of subsidy removal was not discussed at yesterday's meeting, as a sub-committee set up at the meeting was directed to find an immediate solution to the fuel crisis, while the committee is to meet today.
A source at the meeting hinted Vanguard that President Muhammadu Buhari had ruled out any fuel price increment and payment of subsidy to marketers.
The sources added that local refining dominated yesterday meeting, while marketers it was learned asked for the payment of the outstanding N800billion debt, owed them by the Federal Government.
Briefing State House correspondents after a meeting between the oil stakeholders and government representatives on the instance of the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, Chairman of Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria, DAPPMA, Dapo Abiodun explained that marketers were finding it difficult to import the petroleum products because of the increase in the price of crude.
He said: "Today's meeting was called at the instance of the Chief of Staff to the President and it was to find out exactly what happened, where we had the problems we had in December with the supply of petrol and how Nigerians were made to go through the pains and suffering.
"He wanted to know the truth and to ensure that going forward, this problem will be solved once and for all. And that is why you saw that we sat in here from 2pm and the meeting just finished after three and half hours.
"A lot of issues were raised and a committee was constituted that will be meeting tomorrow (today) under the chairmanship of the Minister of State, Petroleum to further ensure that these problems do not reoccur.
"From our point of view as marketers, we made our submission known to government and we emphasized the fact that this was not a marketer-related problem. There was no hoarding on the part of any marketer.
"Marketers are your brothers, they are Nigerian citizens, they are businessmen, no marketer makes money from hoarding petroleum products, our business is to take petrol and sell.
"We explained that the problem that you saw is not wilful on the part of anyone either NNPC or marketers. The situation from our point of view is that from January to December, the price of crude remained relatively stable. Following the hurricane Katrina in the month of September, October, crude prices went up and marketers lost the ability to import and sell at N145 per litre.
"In the past, marketers bring in about 60% while NNPC brings about 35 to 40 per cent. But by the month of October, marketers completely stopped importing because there was no more subsidy, so we can't sell for profit and we have to stop importing. The burden of importing 100% now fell on NNPC.
"You can imagine a situation where NNPC was importing in part and marketers were importing in part and then suddenly NNPC begins to import 100%.
"NNPC is suddenly finding itself importing what they probably didn't expect in terms of volume and the fact that Nigerians are consuming more volume that they will normally consume in earlier months.
"Coupled with the fact that the countries that are surrounding us as a nation are all selling fuel at more than $1 per litre. $1 today is about N360. If you go to Cotonou, Ghana, Niger so it's not unlikely that some of our petrol is finding itself across the body to these countries.
"All these are issues we believe amounted to what we saw in December but thankfully NNPC rose to the occasion, they stepped up import, stepped up supplies. That situation has since normalized.
"Today's meeting is to ensure that this does not happen again and this we are going to continue tomorrow in the committee that was set up under the chairmanship of the Minister of State for Petroleum to ensure that we find a long-lasting and enduring solution to this problem so that Nigerians will not have to go through this borrowing situation again."
On whether the issue of subsidy which was the core of the problem was discussed at the meeting, he said, "Well, like I said to you there is no subsidy at the moment. The government in its wisdom has decided that the N145 cap will remain because of what they consider will be the consequences on Nigerians.
"This is a government of the people and they believe Nigerians should not be made to buy fuel for more than N145. So if that is to remain then we have to find other ways to manage the situation so that we will continue to sell fuel at N145.
"As far as we are concerned there is no subsidy in the budget; as far as we are concerned marketers cannot import and sell at N145. So government has to find a way and ensure that marketers themselves importing alongside NNPC and still sell at N145. So when we meet with the minister tomorrow we will find solution to see how that can be sustained.
"The Minister also said no marketer has been prosecuted in line with President Muhammadu Buhari's directive because there has not been any evidence of culpability on any of them."
The Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu said the whole idea of the meeting was to do a centric analysis of what really went wrong.
He said "Like you know for over two years we have been out of this problem, it's been working well, NNPC has been managing it properly and suddenly there was this gap.
"So they wanted us to put heads together to find out what went wrong. It's not a fault finding meeting; it's about how we take corrective measures to avoid that and what are the things that are creating difficulties in the system.
"Because fuel scarcity has been ever lingering 30, 40 year old thing and I think it is to the credit of Mr. President and his government over the last two years that we haven't had any of this through his policy that he has enunciated.
"So that was the objective of today's meeting. Everybody gave ideas, everybody was collaboratively finding solutions.
"The GMD started by presenting what the scenario was. At least for now it has taken away the fuel queues that you see. We then dug into the long-term solutions and everybody contributed.
"We set up a committee which I will head. Members include the GMD, most of the parastatals in the ministry, DAPMAN, IPMAN, NOMAN, Labour unions, and we are to meet in my office tomorrow and dig deeper into this thing and find a long term solution.
"This is a major concern that Nigerians should not be made to suffer, that Nigerians do not get through the kind of thing they went through this December. We want to find lasting solution and that is what the committee will come out with in the resolutions tomorrow."
When asked whether all the erring marketers during the dark period were found and sanctioned, he said, "The thing is even the Nigerians who have suffered. We will want to be sure that we find a lasting solution and find evidential basis upon which to punish people. This is a democratic government."
While answering another question if there was no evidence with all the things Nigerians went through, he said, "I don't have one yet if you have one I will like to have it."
On the statement by the president that those responsible for the scarcity were largely blackmailers, the Minister said, "I feel your pain, we share in those pains but we are going to find lasting solution. they are people who are culprits they will be identified, in fact the chief of staff instructed that specific names should be put on the table, those who have gone against the rule, done certain things that are against the book should be punished. But the greatest difficulty in Nigeria is that people make allegations, and when you then ask for evidence, everybody now goes back into the safety nets.
"You cannot prosecute except you have evidence; I'm 30 years old as a lawyer. So we will need to find that evidence, we will definitely punish those who did things that are wrong, but more fundamental and more importantly is that we want to find lasting solutions and we all want to work more collaboratively."
Marketers need to be back in business -- IPMAN
The Board of Trustee Chairman of IPMAN, Aminu Abdulkadir who commented on subsidy said: "I think there is a meeting that is coming on tomorrow by 10 am at the minister's office. I think full disclosure will be made on plans and ways of augmenting marketers' shortfall so that marketers can come back to business.
"Because if marketers are in the business, NNPC will be augmented. Because what has happened today is that because NNPC was left alone and it will not be easy for them to manage all the depots, the trucks, the stations.
"Because it will not be easy for them to manage them. So its a business for all. Before this time NNPC was doing 60 and marketers were doing 40 percent. In fact there was a time NNPC was doing 40 and matters 60 per cent. But today NNPC is zero.
National President of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN President Elder Chinedu Okoronkwo said: "We are glad with the promise of the Chief of Staff at the meeting. With what we have heard today from the meeting, Nigerians should go home and be glad because the issues of constant fuel supply have been resolved.
"The issue apparently, by tomorrow will be resolved as a committee will be set up to ensure that the Major Marketers, the Independent marketers and all those that are supposed to be bringing in the products will contribute. This will solve this problem once and for all. They have also assured that the refineries are coming on stream with installed capacity. This is cherry news.
Situation report in Lagos
The Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Baru, said that fuel queues noticeable in parts of the country days back have all disappeared.
The NNPC helmsman stated that the country has over thirty days sufficiency of the product.
"We have a Presidential directive that if we catch any marketer hoarding products or selling above the approved pump price we should dispense the products to the public free and that directive still holds.
"Therefore, those marketers that are still hoarding products in their stations should be aware that if they are caught by the regulatory agency of the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR and of course, the law enforcement agencies, they stand the chance of losing their products to the public."
But Vanguard's investigations showed that fuel scarcity has not yet been completely tackled in Lagos and other parts of the nation. Our correspondents who went round noticed that many filling stations in Lagos and its environs did not have the product yesterday.
Consequently, many filling stations were still closed to motorists and other users of the product in the state while some of the major marketers that had the product sold it at between N200 and N300 per litre.
In Ondo state, the product went for as high as between N200 and N250 per litre yesterday.
None of the major marketers across the state had dispensed the product since the scarcity started before the last Christmas.
Consequently, transport fares remained high across the state following the increase in the pump price of the product.
One of the owners of the stations who preferred not to be named said that the landing cost was N180 per litre, thus justifying the N230 per litre price of the product at his station.
Despite the availability of fuel in Akwa Ibom state, the independent marketers were still dispensing the product at exorbitant pump price of N200 in the New Year.
Reason for the hike in price of the product remain unchanged as dealers still blamed the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, for not duly supplying them PMS.
A manager with Rain Oil Company Limited located on Atiku Abubakar Way in Uyo, who refused to be named said, though they have reverted their price to N180 per litre, the depots owners are to be blamed for the continued increase in pump price as they sale the product higher than they used to buy.
This situation is different from what the major marketers are selling in the state, as most motorists have decided to patronize service stations like NNPC Mega Stations, Total and Mobil, who are selling at N143 per litre.