Why fuel scarcity will linger – Union Leader

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A Labour Union Leader, Comrade Ikechukwu Onyefuru, has attributed the issue of petroleum scarcity to the collapse of the NNPC Petroleum distribution pipelines network across the country.

Comrade Onyefuru, the State Chairman of Trade Union Congress TUC, in an interview with our correspondent, said some pipelines distribution networks that take care of Ibadan, Ilorin, Aba, Port Harcourt, Enugu and Calabar have all collapsed due to years of maintenance neglect.

He emphasized that without effective pipelines, there is no way petroleum products can be transported or exported from the government Depot to the respective final consumer.

He, however, blamed NNPC for not taking some cues from private IOCs to ensure proper surveillance on maintenance of the pipelines for adequate service to the nation.

“The problem of fuel scarcity started way back around March or April this year from Abuja at a time we had flooding in Nigeria; it became worst because transportation of petroleum products became a problem. The scarcity we have today has lingered and transferred to other states in Nigeria.

“1t’s not because of the Yuletide. We need to look at why we have this scarcity in general; in the past, it was peculiar to Yuletide season, but as of today, it is not because of the Yuletide; they have issues ranging from the collapse of NNPC Petroleum distribution pipelines network across the country

“Vandals are not helping issue in terms of economic sabotage. We all know the issues about pipeline vandalism, so the system has collapsed and

“It’s unfortunate that our own national Oil company NNPC is not taking some good learning from private IOCs to ensure proper surveillance on the pipelines and activities on it are maintained to continue to serve us

“Without the pipelines, there is no way we can transport or export petroleum products from the government Depot to the respective final consumer.

“Today, what we have is the private Depot owners are the ones that lift product, and as they raise product, there are costs associated with their operations; for example, we have the bridging price that will be paid to enable tracking of petroleum products from one point to the other

He also urged the government to pay marketers the bridging cost they v

“As we speak, marketers are complaining seriously that the bridging claims they are supposed to be paid to transport petroleum products have not been paid, and if that has not been paid, it only puts pressure on the marketers because they are not able to transport petroleum product

“On the part of Depot owners, they are expected to dispense petroleum products at a given official rate of about 165 naira per litre by the time they pay the associated cost to be able to export petroleum products such as; payment to Nigeria Port Authority, shipping cost and other costs, and it’s been given to them at an official dollar rate of about 350 naira.

“But when they now a go-to source for FOREX, you discovered that they cannot get FOREX from Central Bank, they go to the black market, and today FOREX is being exchanged at the minimum of 750 to 800 per dollar. So who pays the difference? Every person in business is in business to make a profit.

“How would you expect them to dispense petroleum products at 165 naira? It is not possible as today some Depot sell as high as 175 – 179 per litre.

“When marketers buy at such a rate, what do you expect them to do? They will go back to the end users and sell at a high price; some filling stations in Port Harcourt sell as high as 240 to 250 naira per litre; in some states, it’s even higher or lower.

“These are the challenges affecting the distribution of petroleum products; we see marketers struggling to have the product. Meanwhile, NNPC continue to tell us they have enough product, yes they may have enough product, but they don’t have a good network to distribute these products, so it’s good as having no product”.

Comrade Onyefuru further called on NNPC Limited to take deliberate actions to resolve the distribution issue affecting the nation and clear all backlog of bidding claims of petroleum marketers.

“The question is how will we prove that NDPRA is paying the Bridging claims to marketers? We need to know the actual state of these claims. NNPC is coming up to say they have paid, but marketers are saying no; they have not been paid since January.

“We need to do more research to ascertain these claims’ true state. If we have enough petroleum products, we do not have the required logistics to get them out from the respective tank farms to the places where they would be dispensed.

“Why are our refineries not working? If our refineries are working, it will refine the minimum required volume for the country; for example, the government needs about fifty (50) million litres of petroleum every day, but our refineries are not working.

“We are only hoping that one day the refinery will work because if the refinery work, at least it will have product refined locally and once we have product refined locally, it will save the huge cost being paid for petroleum subsidy, and it will attract FOREX the country.

“PENGASSAN President Comrade Osclearly mentioned that distribution is the problem, and we maintain that until NNPC Limited begins to take deliberate actions to resolve the distribution issues, that is the alarming challenge at this time”.