Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu on Tuesday said that the scarcity of petrol which had lasted a while in the country would be over from Wednesday (tomorrow) through to Thursday in Abuja and Lagos, the country’s political and commercial capitals.
Kachikwu, who said this during a town hall meeting he had with workers of the Petroleum Products Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) in Abuja noted that while he expects an end to scarcity in both cities from today, other cities in the country like Port Harcourt, Warri, Sokoto and Kano would however begin to experience such improvement by the weekend.
He also said that in 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.
“Today we have the whole fuel queues and it is a complete nightmare for me. It is being a lot of work but the reality is that I hurt more like every Nigerian who is at the filling station, I am very emotional about my job and the things that I do.
“There isn’t sufficient reason why Nigerians should suffer this much, we just need to take the right policies as difficult as it comes, we need to take the right policies to ensure that we do not have this recurrence of fuel scarcity, it’s been with us historically, but I don’t want that to define my legacy in the petroleum industry,” said Kachikwu.
He then said: “Hopefully by tomorrow 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 and Port Harcourt and Warri get off this state.”
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.
“First is that strategic reserve have not been in this country for over 20 years, we need to bring back strategic reserve that should serve 60 to 90 day type of product hold so that we can respond within a matter of hours when there is shortage in any part of the country.
“Two is that we need to find how to handle allocation of resources, for the first time I have been able to convince the major oil producers to allocate scarce foreign exchange to the downstream players to enable them bring in product.
“But that is not a futuristic long term solution, so we need to find a way of being able to fund this sector to do its work and there is no better way than to steer it to that path of privatisation, let them go do their things, we are going to have to look at that and it is not necessarily synonymous with an increase in price. Hopefully the price modulation that we have put in place will enable us do that,” the minister explained.
Speaking more on the rationale for such 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 statiscal 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 the PPPRA to adopt in their jobs within the sector.
On that he said: “First and foremost I am a servant and am here to try and serve you and the Nigerian public. The ministerial togas 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 your research thoroughly, find that solution, target its 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 earner, we are the foreign exchange galvaniser, if we fail, this country fails.”
He further said: “We have to ensure there is accountability and professionalism 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 the 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.”