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Government issues conflicting reasons for fuel shortage


• DPR threatens stricter penalties for errant depots, stations
• PENGASSAN may strike over ‘unfair labour practices’

Nigerians wishing a quick end to the scarcity of fuel across the country may have more days to wait going by the explanation offered by Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu.

Kachikwu at a press briefing in Abuja yesterday blamed the fuel crisis on gap in supply of petroleum products. His explanation, however, seemed to contradict one earlier given by government.

Following a Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Wednesday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had blamed the fuel scarcity on demand by nations in temperate regions, saying: “This is winter period. There is always more demand for refined products from petroleum ‎during winter in the colder countries. This is what we are experiencing now.”

But the Petroleum minister at the Abuja press conference said: “There was obviously some level of gap in terms of volume. That gap arises from the fact that NNPC is the only one that is importing products currently. Most of the private sector, who are expected to import, were not able to bring in products. And some of them are pushed back till January. So, you have NNPC trying to fill up 100 per cent capacity.”

Kachikwu disclosed that his ministry was taking steps to address the challenge. He said there wouldn’t be problem in January as deliveries were being expected. Four cargoes would be coming into the country in the next few days and the corporation expects 30 cargoes in the near future, he said, adding that the ministry would speed up delivery processes and ensure proper planning to end the crisis in the short term.

Accusing players of taking advantage of the situation, he said regulatory agencies including the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) would impose stricter penalties on depots and filling stations hoarding products.

“Anytime we have a bit of gap in supply, it would have been better managed if dealers, agents and fuel stations don’t try to take advantage. This is quite a bit of a burden, which is also being addressed,” he said.

As at yesterday, most filling stations in Abuja were shut, while those that remained opened had long queues.

Commenting on sale of fuel above the approved price, DPR director, Mordecai Ladan, said the agency could increase penalty on affected depots from N2 million to N10 million. “We are warning those that are taking advantage of this situation to desist because the DPR is going to go after them,” he said.

Most motorists have resorted to the black market. Attendants at filling stations were also being tipped to sell products into jerry cans rather than in vehicles.

Frustrated motorists at the CBD area of Abuja yesterday expressed worry over the situation.

Jude Obinna said: “There is no fuel all over the country. I have queued up for the past three hours because I saw a tanker I suspected was discharging fuel. I have gone everywhere but have not been able to get fuel despite promises by government. I have not been able to do anything meaningful since morning. Government keeps telling us it is about panic buying but the situation is getting worse.”

Meanwhile, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) yesterday issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Federal Government vowing to shut down all oil and gas installations.

In a statement signed by its general secretary, Lumumba Okugbawa, PENGASSAN alleged some indigenous oil and gas companies and marginal field players were operating unfair labour practices. It also expressed displeasure over alleged mass sack of Nigerian workers.

It, therefore, gave the government seven days’ notice, effective December 18, 2017 to direct the affected companies to recall its sacked members, failing which it would embark on an indefinite strike.

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