The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, said yesterday that the federal government has achieved fuel sufficiency and clearing of queues in 18 states of the federation.
Sylva disclosed this to journalists in Lagos after his inspection tour of some key filling stations in Ikeja, Ikoyi and Victoria Island areas of the state, adding that the current pump price of petrol remained N184 per litre, which is the price sold by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited Limited (NNPCL).
Some of the filling stations visited were TotalEnergies by Sheraton and Timac Global by Ikeja Cantonment, NNPC Mega Station Ikoyi, and Ardova Filling Station by Falomo Roundabout.
The minister maintained that fuel was available everywhere at the moment and that they were happy to have achieved fuel availability and zero queues in 18 states.
As directed by President Muhammadu Buhari, Sylva vowed that the committee set up by the president to address fuel shortages and queues across the country must ensure that queues disappear within the shortest possible time.
“The tour was quite pleasant. The availability is there. Fuel is everywhere now. I inspected some stations in Abuja and I came to Lagos and inspected some filling stations in Ikeja, on the Mainland, Ikoyi and Victoria Island and I think we’re quite happy that there is fuel available and there were no queues.
“And so far, we’ve also achieved that in about 18 states; there are no queues or just very small queues, and we’re hoping that soon, we will be able to have no queues all over the country because Mr. President has directed that we must ensure that all these queues disappear within the shortest possible time. And that’s why I’m taking on this tour,” the minister said.
He said the actual pump price of petrol remained N184 as obtained in all NNPC stations, adding that whatever price NNPC was selling was the current pump price.
“Today, I went to an NNPC filling station and they are selling at N184 and that’s what all NNPC stations are selling. So, that is the price and all NNPC stations, 900 of them are selling at that price. But of course, you have all these sharp practices in the system and we’re trying to see how we can address them,” Sylva explained.
Admitting that some independent petroleum marketers were still selling at prices higher than the regulated price, Sylva said they had noticed that but that those marketers have started adjusting down to the regulated price.
He said he had also directed the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) to ensure that they take their regulatory role very seriously and that the Authority would definitely address issues under their purview.
Explaining further how the government plans to ensure sustainability of product availability and zero queues in the country, Sylva said that was why President Buhari approved the constitution of the inter-ministerial committee.
He said because some of the factors contributing to fuel scarcity and queues fall outside the petroleum ministry, such as foreign exchange and currency unavailability, insecurity, use of Point of Sale (POS) and the rest, the government had decided to incorporate the linkage ministries and agencies into the committee to address issues relating to them.
Sylva said, “Sustainability is actually the issue. What we’ve done is that we’re trying to create an inter-ministerial intervention. That’s why the President has approved the constitution of a committee including all the ministers -the ministry of finance, Customs, all the security agencies, because in the end, all the factors are not under the control of oil and gas sector alone, because there are some factors that contribute to this queues that are under the control of the finance ministry for example.
“Because FX is a problem, currency availability is a problem, POS working is also another problem, security is another problem. So, all these are not under the control of the ministry of petroleum and that’s why we have now adopted this inter-ministerial approach.
“We are bringing in everybody who plays a role somewhere around the value chain to come into the loop and we believe that this will not occur anymore. And you must agree with me that we’ve done well in this area of fuel supply.”
Arguing that the current scarcity and queues were not recurring things during the current administration, the minister maintained that the government didn’t see the problem coming.
According to him, “You know how it is, people like to take advantage of situations. We don’t want to trade blames but you yourselves know those who are taking advantage of the situation. When you’re approaching an election like this, they think they can muscle you because this is their opportunity to make money and so, they try to do all kinds of things.
But I think we’re quite happy that it’s all under control.”
He pleaded with Nigerians to calm down as the government was doing everything possible to ensure it took care of the situation, adding that the fuel queues were disappearing, and that the citizens “should at least give us the opportunity of solving this problem.”
Also responding to the issue of smuggling of petrol to other neighbouring countries as another contributor to the fuel shortages and queues, the minister said diversion would not end until Nigeria deregulates the downstream sector.
He explained, “because if you hear that fuel is cheaper in Ibadan, I’m sure you wouldn’t mind driving to Ibadan to buy the fuel. So, that’s what happens. If fuel is cheaper here, of course, Benin Republic will like to come to Nigeria to buy, and other neighbouring countries will like to buy. So, that is actually the final solution to it.”