From Uche Usim, Abuja
The President, Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Alhaji Yusuf Lawal Othman, has described the composition of a 14-man Steering Committee on Petroleum Products Supply and Distribution Management, chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari, as an audacious and necessary step meant to restore normalcy to the crises-riddled downstream sector of the petroleum industry.
Othman particularly noted that the terms of reference capture the entire spectrum of petrol supply and distribution, as it involves national strategic stock management, visibility of the NNPC Limited refineries rehabilitation programme and ensuring end-to-end tracking of petroleum products, especially Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), to ascertain daily national consumption and ultimately eliminate smuggling.
Speaking with journalists in Abuja on Wednesday, the President of NARTO decried what he called the deliberate distortion of narratives surrounding the shortfall and non-availability of the products by certain forces in the downstream sector who he said have continued to blame the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, (NNPCL) retail outlets for the scarcity of the products when they should actually be appreciated for their genuine efforts to make petrol available nationwide.
Othman absolved NNPC retail outlets of any scarcity blame, dismissing reports in some quarters which stated otherwise as unfounded and diversionary.
“Certain players in the petroleum sector who lack the capacity for storage and effective distribution are deliberately pushing false narratives into the public domain to demonise the NNPCL retail outlets. Public expectations are met by the oil giant retail outlets which sell petrol at the officially stipulated price.
“So, whatever is written is not true, it is false. As far as we are concerned, the NNPCL retailers are the largest retail outlet in the country. As of today, they are the only marketing company that sells fuel at the same price everywhere in the country.
“The same price in Lagos, same price in Abuja. So, you will see some envy from other marketers and from personal experience, my own company has been working with NNPC retail for the last 15 years. I know their pedigree and their capacity”, the NARTO President said.
Othman, however, appealed to his members and others involved in the haulage of petroleum products to refrain from activities that could sabotage the federal government’s efforts to end the scarcity nightmare, which is taking a toll on the economy by crippling the effective movement of goods and services.
“Let me use this opportunity to call on our law-abiding and patriotic members who are into the transportation of petroleum products to please desist from illegal bunkering, smuggling and diversion of petroleum products because these actions are detrimental to the economy of our great nation. This Association will not support, defend, or sympathise with anyone caught committing these crimes”, he added.
On a possible timeline for the scarcity to end, the NARTO President noted that some of the contributing factors were beyond the control of the federal government.
“Relating to the current supply and availability of petroleum products is not unconnected with the current Russia-Ukraine war. Two, is the high cost of transporting from the mother vessels to the daughter vessels to the tank farms.
“Three, the exchange rate. But I know we have adequate fuel.”
He equally pleaded with the federal government to look at the high operational cost of doing business being experienced by players in the haulage of petroleum products.
‘In terms of our rising operational cost, we are merely trying to break even. The most important and primary input in our operations is Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) which is the major energy source used by our trucks. Unfortunately, however, the AGO, the major energy source, was sold in November 2022 at N808.87 as against N277.89.
“Even our Mass Transit Segment was not spared from the high operating cost: According to figures obtained from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the average cost of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) as of November 2022 was N202.46 pe/litre against N167.60 per litre in the corresponding period of 2021, which was an increase of 20.81%. The situation has worsened this year with PMS prices reaching up to N300 per litre in many states amidst acute fuel scarcity that is persisting in the country for the last couple of months,” he explained.