·Says he won’t resign
Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, on Tuesday apologised to Nigerians for his comment on the nationwide fuel shortages, adding that enough measures had been put in place to end them by next week.
Specifically, he said even though a two-week target had been set to end the scarcity of fuel, he was working assiduously to ensure that between April 5th and 7th, the lingering queues would have largely disappeared.
Kachikwu who gave the assurance before the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) in the National Assembly, also tendered an unreserved apology to Nigerians over the comment he made last week stating that “he was not a magician”. He explained that he erroneously made the statement because he was not a politician.
He also apologised to any personality who felt offended by the comment, saying he made the statement in jest while speaking with journalists.
“I do apologise for the comment that I made jocularly with my friends in the press about not being a magician and it offended Nigerians; it was not meant to be, it was a side jocular issue.
“I did go on to explain what needed to be done. I did not know that it would create the kind of hyperbole that it did.
“Let me first admit that I am not a typically experienced politician, I am a technocrat. I come to work and some of the phraseologies that I may use, while being acceptable in the arena in which I play obviously will not be acceptable in the public political arena.
“So if anybody’s sensibilities were offended by those jokes, I totally apologise,” Kachikwu said.
He blamed the current scarcity on the non-availability of foreign exchange by oil marketers to sustain the importation of petrol, a situation he said now placed the entire business of fuel importation on the shoulders of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
He also said that whilst the current government inherited a subsidy bill of N600 billion, about N500 billion had been paid while the balance had been brought forward in the 2016 budget.
According to him, the government had saved N1 trillion since January 2016 because it has not paid subsidy on petrol, adding that the issue of pipeline vandalism had further complicated the problem.
However, he said for the first time, the NNPC had recovered the Escravos pipeline to the Warri refinery, a development he said would aid the movement of crude oil to the refineries.
He added that most of the 18 depots operated by NNPC are not in use, pointing out that moving fuel from Lagos to different parts of the country takes about a week and only compounds the free and quick distribution of fuel.
According to him, the inability of independent marketers to access forex had overstretched NNPC, explaining further that poor infrastructure also aggravates the situation.
Kachikwu added that in instances where 3,000 trucks are moved across the country to distribute fuel in this advanced age was not civilised.
The minister who further said that NNPC was losing an average of N40 billion a month before the advent of this government, but losses had been reduced to N3 billion a month.
He also said NNPC had a debt profile of N3 trillion, of which National Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) owed N1 trillion.
He further disclosed that a major factor responsible for the scarcity was the continuous diversion of products by marketers from the petrol stations where they are destined to be delivered.
He blamed the incidence of fuel diversion on the non-availability of a tracking system to monitor the movement of every truck from the depots to their final destinations, adding that through vigilant surveillance, the number of litres of petrol said to be consumed everyday had been brought down to 45 million litres from 55 million litres.
Disclosing that fuel supply between oil marketers and NNPC should be in the ratio 60:40, Kachikwu added that his leadership was working hard to provide a strategic reserve of 2,000,000 tonnes of petrol with the intention of finally putting paid to periodic fuel scarcity.
The minister also stated that the latest arrangement between NNPC and marketers would be in the ratio of 47:53.
He said in due course, 150 per cent of national consumption would be deposited into storage tanks, adding that meaningful solutions would be secured when refineries are working at optimal capacity.
He said the search for the full operation of the refineries had led to several advertisements for individuals and private sector firms to take over the operations of the refineries and consequently expand their capacity.
Furthermore, Kachikwu said he was working on a plan to make Chevron take over the Warri refinery and another plan for Shell to take over the Kaduna refinery.
He again apologised to Nigerians for the difficulties they have been going through as a result of the shortages, explaining that it was not the intention of NNPC to solely take over the importation of petrol, but was forced on it by emerging developments.
However, he said NNPC was currently working on an arrangement that would aid the availability of forex for marketers to import fuel.
He lamented that Nigeria was one of the very few countries where citizens choose to willfully destroy pipelines meant to serve them, a development that had made it difficult for NNPC to provide fuel for the citizenry.
Kachikwu also used the platform to tell those who had called for his resignation to perish the thought because he has a job to do.
Pointedly referring to civil society groups which had started calling for his resignation, he said: “All those planning to come to Abuja for a protest should save their fuel, I am not going to resign, I have a lot of work to do.”
According to the minister, he did not accept to be Minister of Petroleum in order to create scarcity.
He also promised to embrace the advice given by the Senate committee to employ the services of the civil defence corps to accompany petrol tankers to intended petrol stations in order to stem the diversion of products.