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Fuel scarcity persists, lack of forex stalls importation




• DPR warns marketers, P’Harcourt refinery plans supply
• Oil search in Lake Chad to resume 2016

FUEL scarcity in the country may linger despite the approval of the release of the N407.7 billion subsidy debt to oil marketers at the weekend.

A statement from the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, had said the approval was granted after President Muhammadu Buhari issued a directive that the oil marketers be paid immediately in order to end the fuel scarcity.

But findings by The Guardian at the weekend showed that the assurance from the Federal Government to release the subsidy arrears was not enough to end the crisis as the marketers were having the challenge of sourcing foreign exchange to import the product.

Besides, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) has threatened to withdraw licences of depot owners who engage in illegal sale of petrol above the stipulated pump price.

Also, the National Assembly has declared that the expected petroleum output from Port Harcourt refinery and supplies from oil importers would be enough to curb the issue of fuel scarcity during the Christmas season.

Meanwhile, further oil and gas exploration is expected to commence in the Lake Chad area of north-eastern part of the country next year, on projection of improved security situation in the axis.

Already, the New Nigeria Development Company (NNDC), a business conglomerate of the 19 northern state governments, has reached out to some technical partners to resume the hydrocarbon search in the area, which is currently ravaged by insurgents, who are being pushed out by federal troops.

The success of the exploration efforts is expected to achieve geographical balancing in the nation’s oil production and facilitate crude oil flow into Kaduna refinery and any such facility that would be established in the northern part of the country.

Fuel marketers have complained that the difficulty in sourcing forex has made it impossible for them to open Letters of Credit (LC), which is a prerequisite for imports.

A marketer who spoke with The Guardian said that apart from the delay in releasing subsidy arrears by the Federal Government, another major challenge remained the devaluation of the naira and the Central Bank’s policy on foreign exchange.

He said: “Even if we all get our money this week, the country will have to continue to deal with the issue of fuel scarcity or long queues at the filling station due to the country’s forex policy. Many of us cannot source foreign exchange because it is a very difficult thing to do.”

Meanwhile, DPR has issued fresh warnings to depot owners in the country who engage in sharp practices by hoarding or selling petroleum product above the government-regulated prices.

This is coming few days after the agency suspended import permit of Capital Oil Petroleum Limited, Sahara Petroleum and Folawiyo Petroleum in Lagos for profiteering. Other suspended companies are Samon Petroleum, Fynefield Petroleum, Calabar and Stallionaire Petroleum Limited.

The DPR, which said in a statement that the companies sold fuel above government-regulated price, warned oil marketers to desist from hoarding and diverting petroleum products, among other practices or face the full wrath of the law which included immediate suspension or withdrawal of licences, and closure of such stations.

It stated: “The DPR will continue to ensure that operators in the petroleum sector adhere strictly to internationally acceptable standards and best practices.”

But Folawiyo Energy Limited (FEL) yesterday denied violating regulations guiding sale of petroleum products. The company said that it had not had its own products in storage for the past three months, during which it had only stored and distributed products for the NNPC, without any involvement in collecting payments from the companies taking the NNPC stock.

The statement was signed by Adeshola Komolafe, public relations consultant to FEL.

The chairman of NNDC, Alhaji Bashir Mohammed Dalhatu, who disclosed the imminent exploration recommencement at the end of the corporation’s yearly general meeting in Kaduna at the weekend, said: “Oil and gas blocks have been discovered in the north. But for security challenges in the north-east, exploration would have gone far. We have since re-engaged our people to be totally committed to the oil exploration and exploitation of both oil and gas resources. We believe that will contribute immensely to the revival of the economy in the region.”

The chairman, who lamented that insecurity in the north-east had affected the take-off of the exploration, however, affirmed that the search would commence “within the year 2016. We are already talking with technical partners that would help us explore the resources.”

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had earlier confirmed that the country was on the verge of discovering significant quantity of oil in the Lake Chad area, based on analysis of recent seismic 3D data generated from the Chad Basin.

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