A Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives on Petroleum Resources yesterday mandated the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to end the lingering fuel scarcity and queues at filling stations within seven days.
The committee also asked the Nigeria Customs Service and other security agencies especially those at the borders to halt the alleged diversion of fuel tankers from Nigeria to neighbouring countries.
Chairman Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Senator Kabiru Marafa gave the ultimatum after a closed door meeting of members of the committee.
The committee meeting was preceded by another meeting with the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Engr. Maikanti Baru and other top officials of the oil corporation.
The lawmakers were said to have demanded explanations from the NNPC on why the fuel shortage had continued to linger with queues returning to major towns and cities across Nigeria.
Marafa was said to have described the situation as embarrassing and acknowledged that though, NNPC made attempts to end the fuel shortage during the Christmas, the return of the queues in Lagos and Abuja was an indication that the problem was not completely over.
Marafa was said to have insisted that “This situation has lingered for too long. Members of the public are suffering and when they are suffering, we cannot sit down, fold out hands and say all is well.
“At a point, you told us the problem has been solved; we also saw that the fuel queues disappeared for some time, but unfortunately the queues have returned. You were even going from station to station monitoring the situation but you have not been able to resolve the issue once and for all. In any situation, when your best is not good enough, it is very bad and most unfortunate.”
He told the NNPC to address the committee on the reasons for the resurging long queues at various filling stations; what the NNPC had been doing to resolve the challenge and how long it would take before the queues could disappear completely
In a slide presentation, Baru attributed the situation to the on going repair works on Apapa Wharf road and the blockage of the road by some accidents vehicles, saying these created challenges along the route and disrupted the free movement of fuel trucks from the fuel depots to other parts of Lagos.
The NNPC boss also blamed the current fuel crisis on the breakdown of the Jebba/Mokwa road in Kwara State as well as the crash-landing of a vessel conveying PMS along the Escravis/Warri/Oghara route. According to Baru, these two incidents also contributed to slowing down the pace of distribution of available petroleum products to different parts of the country.
in addition, Baru disclosed that the NNPC was still bugged down by the challenges of product diversion and smuggling of same across the borders. According to him, the price of petrol in neighbouring countries such as Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Benin and Ghana were at least double the price of the product in Nigeria. He explained that this price differential has made the smuggling of the product very attractive.
Baru however, said the NNPC will continue to tackle the fuel shortage by injecting an average of 60million litres of petrol into the market on a daily basis.
The Nation reports that in spite of these explanations, many members of the committee expressed dissatisfaction with the situation, observing that the NNPC was still working around the symptoms of the fuel crisis and building all its solutions on fuel importation rather than making the nation’s refineries to work to ensure product availability all the year round.
The committee therefore resolved that the NNPC must change the narrative on the crisis and end the queues in seven days without excuses.