Senate Summons Kachikwu, Baru, Others over Fuel Scarcity

  • Saraki directs petroleum committee to suspend recess
  • Marketers insist NNPC owes them N90bn

Damilola Oyedele and Chineme Okafor in Abuja

As fuel scarcity persisted in Abuja, the nation’s capital city, and several other big cities in the country Thursday, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has directed the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream) to cut short its recess and immediately convene a meeting with industry stakeholders.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Senator Kabiru Marafa, who disclosed this in Abuja, said following the directive, the committee has summoned the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Maikanti Baru, and other relevant stakeholders in the petroleum sector to a crucial meeting next Thursday.

He said the meeting, which would be held in the Senate Hearing Room 221, and its proceedings aired live on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), is meant to address the lingering fuel scarcity and find a lasting solution to the problem.

The Senate, which is currently on Christmas and New Year break, is scheduled to resume committee work on January 9, 2018 to enable its various committees take defence of the 2018 budget estimates from Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). Plenary commences on January 16, 2018.

Meanwhile, the war of words between the NNPC and oil marketers under the aegis of Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association (DAPPMA) on the cause of the lingering scarcity of petrol in the country continued on Thursday with DAPPMA refuting claims by the NNPC that its members owed it N26.7 billion in debt for petroleum products supplied to them.

Instead, the DAPPMA, in a statement from its Executive Secretary, Olufemi Adewole, which was made available to THISDAY in Abuja, stated that the NNPC was owing its members over N90 billion, which they paid to its subsidiary, the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), for petrol that has not been supplied to them.

Irked by DAPPMA’s claims on Tuesday that its members had no petrol in their depots or tank farms across the country as initially stated by the NNPC that they (marketers) were lifting products from its supply stock, the corporation replied in a statement on Wednesday that members of DAPPMA owed it N26.7 billion as at December 21, 2017, for products supplied to them on credit.

However, Adewole stated in the statement that the corporation and its subsidiary do not conduct business with the marketers on credit basis and could therefore not be owed by its members.

He explained: “PPMC/NNPC does not transact business with DAPPMA members on credit, hence we are not aware of any indebtedness to PPMC/NNPC by our members.

“We again reject any attempt to blame marketers for the shortfall in supply as it is not our making since NNPC has been the sole importer since October 2017.”

According to Adewole, “It is an undisputable fact that DAPPMA members have paid for petrol supply (with bank funds) for over one month, the value of which is in excess of N90 billion, yet PPMC/NNPC had no cargo to allocate to them. As such how can we be held responsible for hoarding?”

He stated further: “The essence of our initial press release was to throw light on the salient issues surrounding the shortfall in the current petrol supply, which is currently solely handled by the NNPC. It was not an attempt to join issues with PPMC/NNPC with whom we are partners.

“NNPC’s view of our press release stating our side of the story and seeking to defend marketers for the very first time against the unwarranted accusations of hoarding and profiteering is rather unfortunate.”

Buttressing his claim that marketers were innocent of the allegations of hoarding and diversion of petrol as claimed by the corporation, Adewole said: “Marketers have continued to sacrifice to keep the country wet with fuel despite over N600 billion debt owed our members and over N800 billion owed marketers as a whole by the federal government.

“We assure Nigerians, irrespective of NNPC’s stance that all possible steps are being taken as we have always done, to cooperate with PPMC/NNPC to eliminate the fuel queues nationwide within the next few days.”

But the NNPC said in a statement from its Group General Manager, Public Affairs, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, that its joint monitoring of the fuel scarcity in Abuja, with the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) had seen them clampdown on more petrol stations that hoarded petrol or sold above the controlled pump price of N145 per litre.

It explained that this was in a bid to curb diversion of petrol by unscrupulous marketers and the activities of illegal filling stations known for receiving diverted products and selling same to motorists at cut-throat prices in Abuja and environs.

According to the corporation, so far, seven of such stations along the Kubwa and Airport Road axis of Abuja, have been clamped down with the petrol found in their storage tanks dispensed free of charge to motorists by the team led by its GMD, Baru.

“I want to warn marketers that don’t want to heed our advice, especially those operating at night that the law will catch up with them very soon. The Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) has commenced monitoring of such stations. Just yesterday (Tuesday), we identified some defaulting stations and we are going to impound their products and dispense it free to motorists,” Baru was quoted to have said during a raid on an unnamed filling station in Byazhini Community, Kubwa, selling petrol at N250 per litre.

He said about 24 trucks laden with petrol meant for Abuja were diverted to some states in the South-eastern part of the country, adding that the defaulting marketers had been identified and would be sanctioned accordingly.
On what the corporation was doing to contain the petrol scarcity, which has not cleared in Abuja, Baru said: “What we are doing is that we are maximising the daily truck out to Abuja and other cities. thursday, we had about 114 trucks that dispatched products to Abuja as against 70 to 80 trucks earlier received daily.

“As at Monday, we have loaded about 230 trucks for Abuja. When they arrive and with 24-hour operations in place, we should be able to eliminate most of the queues.”