Alhaji Alanamu Balogun is the Lagos State chapter of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN). He spoke to DANIEL ANAZIA on why incessant fuel scarcity appears to have defiled all solutions
Fuel scarcity in Nigeria has been a recurring issue. What do you think is responsible for this?
A lot of factors are responsible for the current fuel scarcity. First, only the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is importing fuel into the country presently. Though the NNPC licensed some private depots including the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) to bring in petroleum products. However, lack of access to loan facilities from the banks has hindered IPMAN and its members from importing products. As you know, the exchange rate is not helping matters. We all know what the exchange rate is now in the country. This has affected some of our members who are willing to bring in products. Presently, the landing cost for fuel is N180 per litre and government's directive is that fuel should not be sold above the stipulated price of N145 per litre.
So, it is only the government through NNPC that imports product and this is being subsidized as government have to pay up for the landing cost. Secondly, what government is bringing in is not enough for consumption. Throughout last week, we didn't have products at the NNPC Satelite depot here in Ejigbo, Lagos. We were given products on Sunday but by Tuesday, we had exhausted them. As I speak with you, there are no products to load from the depot. We don't know if they are going to supply us products. What you see now in town is the little that was supplied, and it has been exhausted. What this means is that the queues are likely to increase in the coming week.
If government has issued licenses to your Association for importation that is enough guarantee to go to the bank for loan. Why are you finding it difficult to secure facilities from the banks?
It is very difficult to secure loan facilities from banks because it is not enough for the government to just say they have issued licences; they should also provided accommodation for booking. We were told to go and get forex from the black market and source for the product. Government apart from issuing the licences should also ensure that forex are available at a cheaper rate for whoever that wants to import petroleum products. If they truly want to salvage the situation, they need to go back to the drawing board. First thing, how much is crude? And what is the cost of bringing in the product? Government should also subsidize, not just for the product that has been brought in, but also for individuals who want to import the product.
Do you think government is really sincere with this issue?
It is not really the government but the economy. The government too is at a loss on the current importation structure because the product cannot enter the country at anything less than N180 per litre, and government is selling to Nigerians at N145. It is only the government that knows where the subsidized product goes. If this product must be made available at all times, they have the option to continue subsidizing or tell whoever wants to bring in the product to do so at whatever planning cost, and subsidy will be given in return. If that is not the case, they should just tell Nigerians that they want to increase the pump price. Alternatively, they can deregulate completely on PMS like they did on gas and other products.
How true is the allegation that IPMAN is pushing for an increase in pump price?
This is not true. If we have the product at our depots, at the agreed amount, which is N133.28 kobo, we will sell at N145. Any increment in pump price will not add any profit to any marketer anywhere as it is not in our favour in any way. Any increment will be detrimental to us, because it will mean that the capital for importation will increase. Where will we get such amount of money when the banks are no longer giving loans to marketers? We just want a lasting solution and increment is not in anyway like it. The truth is that the IPMAN cannot work alone. The fact that we have the highest number of outlets doesn't mean that we can work alone. We need the major marketers as well as the retailers to succeed in business. If we are given enough products, we have a sharing formula. For instance, if the government brings in 10 vessels, we share it thus: 60 percent for IPMAN, 30 percent goes to the major marketers, while the retailers retain the remaining 10 percent. We take the highest share because we have the highest number of outlets.
From available information, only two out of 10 of the storage tanks in Ejigbo satellite depot are functional. Why is it so?
Every depot has its own peculiar problem. Some have the challenge of inadequate storage tanks, while some are faulty tanks like we do have here in Ejigbo depot; reason we are unable to receive all the products that are being pumped to us. We have good loading bays but our problem is storage tanks. So out of the 10 storage tanks here, only two are working perfectly. We are appealing to the government to help us fix these issues, as the products being supplied to Lagos are not for Lagos alone but for other parts of the country. At the moment, Mosimi and Ibadan are having challenges, while Ilorin is yet to begin operations. So, Ejigbo services the western zone and other parts of the country.
How many litres of fuel does Nigerians consume daily and how many does government bring in daily to meet the consumption?
I can only tell you what Nigerians and indeed Lagosians need per day but what they consume daily I cannot ascertain because I'm not in a position to give such data. It is only the PPMC and DPR that can give the actual figure of what is consumed daily in the country. At the Ejigbo depot, with adequate supply, we can load 130 trucks of 33,000 litres daily. So, if Lagos gets this number of litres of fuel, it will go a long way to solve the problem of scarcity in the state.
Even if we don't load up to this number of trucks, perhaps 80 daily, it will still have significant impact in the state and there will be no crisis. Before now, we do have four to five vessels laden with products berth at the port everyday, but I can tell you now that we don't have up to that in a week. Sometimes, we have two or four vessels at most in a week. This is what the whole country share. If as at Wednesday there is no product and the likelihood that there will be product on Thursday and Friday is not feasible, then there will be problem in the coming week.