The federal government has inaugurated 'Operation White,' a critical transparency initiative to be carried out by an 89-man monitoring team for the tracking of movement of petroleum products in and out of the country including importation and distribution.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva while formally launching the 'Operation White' project yesterday in Lagos, said the initiative was geared towards ensuring transparency and accountability of petroleum product supply and distribution in Nigeria, especially premium motor spirit (PMS).
Represented at the occasion by the Executive Secretary of Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF), Mr. Ahmed Boboi, the minister said that the essence was to entrench energy security and deepen the drive for transparency in the downstream operations.
He added that the strategic initiative was aimed at deploying adequate measures to ensure that all molecules of regulated petroleum products imported by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) were well accounted for and utilised in-country.
Sylva noted that the NNPC had continued to record excellent performance in product supply and distribution to the nation, saying "it is doing what it is supposed to do as supplier of last resort, but the reality is the nation bears a great cost in terms of absorbing the shocks of differences in cost.
"It is critical that all hands be put on deck to ensure that every molecule of product imported into this country is utilised within the borders of this nation for the benefit of the Nigerian populace. This is a national imperative and a core thrust of Mr. President's mandate for leadership of the oil and gas industry.
"Therefore, the task for us is to ensure that the petroleum products supply and distribution chain in Nigeria is completely devoid of illicit practices including oil theft, diversion and smuggling of petroleum products, which constitute economic sabotage and hemorrhage of the national revenue through high cost of under recovery."
He maintained that "to do this certainly requires diligence, commitment, courage and robust partnership amongst various downstream stakeholders. There is also a dire need to instill an improved culture of transparency, accountability and efficiency in the industry, streamline our operations along best practices by championing and implementing strategic reforms at every layer of the supply and distribution chain."
The minister, however, expressed his optimism that the gains of the Operation White Project will reduce the inflated product consumption figure and ultimately reduce the subsidy wage bill.
Also, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mallam Mele Kyari, who was equally represented at the launch by the Chief Financial Officer of the corporation, Mr. Umar Ajiya, charged the team to deliver on the onerous national assignment of controlling leakages of petroleum products, especially petrol, adding that they have no option but to succeed.
Kyari said that 'Operation White' would monitor and track every molecule of petroleum products imported into the country and follow it through to the pump, pointing out that the NNPC was poised to support the federal government in its quest to guaranteeing energy security for the country.
He said that "The selection of 'Operation White' team was very thorough and people of great competence and high level of integrity were head-hunted for this national assignment. Today, we are good to go and we will see our transaction end-to-end as is the case in other countries.
"We are poised to support the minister to ensure that energy security is guaranteed for our dear country, so that our principal, President Muhammadu Buhari, would be proud of us."
The GMD also encouraged the members of the team to deliver on the national assignment with a deepened sense of patriotism and excellence, assuring that the project will monitor and track the entire movement of petroleum products and enshrine visible transparency across the value chain.