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Fuel scarcity returns, as marketers ration products

By Roseline Okere and Sulaimon Salau
02 July 2015   |   4:13 am
AFTER a brief respite, fuel queues have returned at the filling stations across the country just as some filling stations in Lagos and Ogun states, as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, have started indiscriminate hike of pump price while a few others have locked their premises. However, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation…

FUELAFTER a brief respite, fuel queues have returned at the filling stations across the country just as some filling stations in Lagos and Ogun states, as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, have started indiscriminate hike of pump price while a few others have locked their premises.

However, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said the queues resulted from panic buying, urging consumers to ignore the baseless rumours spurring the action. It noted that some filling stations may be acting on speculations about government’s stance on fuel subsidy to create artificial scarcity.

The Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, NNPC, Ohi Alegbe, said the corporation was working to maintain stability in the supply and distribution of petroleum products.

He assured that NNPC has enough petrol stock to service the country for 25 days at a national consumption rate of 40 million litres per day and has increased distribution to marketers and NNPC retail outlets across the country.

According to him, there is sufficient stock at the coastal depots in Port Harcourt, Warri and Calabar, apart from the national strategic reserves.

Meanwhile, stakeholders have emphasised the need for financial incentives such as tax holiday and insurance to encourage investors’ participation in the oil and gas sector.

They are also seeking requisite laws to regulate the sector’s operations for optimal opportunities. The stakeholders, at the learning managers’ workshop for oil/gas and allied companies, hosted by the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI), Warri, Delta State, noted that competitive pricing would encourage investment in the sector.

From The Guardian’s survey, many of the marketers are suspected to be hording products, having sold products till Tuesday night but suddenly closed shop on Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, industry sources claim that the Federal Government’s delay on policy pronouncement is responsible for the fresh scarcity, as marketers want to know its stand on subsidy before importation.

This followed the discordant tunes from marketers and other stakeholders, who want total removal of subsidy, while the organised labour has insisted on the status quo.

The Chief Executive Officer of Seplat Petroleum, Austin Avuru, said recently that the respite enjoyed by Nigerians was due to the importation of products by some marketers owing the government. Immediately they balance their outstanding, he said, fuel scarcity would resurface.

Avuru, however, flayed the labour unions for their emphasis on subsidy, describing their agitations as “unreasonable, but unfortunately they were able to buy the populace into the baseless struggle.”

Managing Director of Mobil Oil Nigeria, Tunji Oyebanji, and the Chief Executive Officer of Oando Gas and Power, Bolaji Oshunsanya, favoured deregulation, though urging government to put in place palliatives before the pronouncement.

Oshunsaya said: “We don’t have choice than to deregulate. It is obvious that Nigeria can no longer sustain the huge amount of money spent on subsidy.”

For Oyebanji, “the marketers’ position is to pay the undisputed sum on subsidy first, and then reconcile the arrears. Government should encourage private refineries because if we refine locally, we could refine cheaply, depending on the cost of crude and production.

“Presently, we import and deal with banking loans, which we need to service in due course. We need a clear direction on what the government will do and when it will do it so that we can continue with our businesses.”

The workshop also underscored the imperative of developing the gas infrastructure (gas pipelines) to fully harness the benefits of investment in the sector.

Speaking on a topic, “Gas Development: Onshore and Offshore – a Level Playing Field for the Future of the Industry,” the guest speaker, Dr. Olimma Ufuoma Allison, outlined the essentials of gas formation and depicted the natural processes in the evolution of viable oil and gas wells and reservoirs.

According to her, Nigeria has the largest gas reservoir in Africa and is ninth in terms of resource availability in the world. Allison, however, noted the huge cost of gas infrastructure development and government’s effort at addressing such challenges.

She stressed the success of Joint Venture collaboration between Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) and foreign companies in exploitation of gas in Nigeria, stating that the investment potential in the industry was a consequence of the rising demand for gas, both locally and globally.

She noted how the need to reduce gas flaring actually spurred investments to meet the national and international regulatory requirements. Ufuoma further noted threat to security, inherent risk and low investment in gas infrastructure as the major challenges in gas development projects in the country. She maintained that the country has a huge gas reservoir.

The Ag Principal/Chief Executive of PTI, A.J. Orukele, had earlier stressed the importance of training to the development of the sector, stating: “The learning managers workshop is critical to us (PTI), as it provides a forum for interaction on the needs and future of oil/gas and allied companies’ modern technical innovations.

“Over the years, the information gathered from our interaction had enabled us to tailor a new line of action, which continues to shape the institute to serve the industry adequately.”