INEC plans high-level meeting with NNPC over fuel scarcity

Following the lingering petrol scarcity across the country, the Independent National Electoral Commission will meet with the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited to address the crisis ahead of the general elections in February and March.

The nation has been grappling with prolonged petrol scarcity, which has been attributed to inadequate supply of the product by the NNPCL, the sole importer of Premium Motor Spirit.

The National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, INEC, Festus Okoye, told Sunday PUNCH on Friday that the commission was prepared to resolve issues regarding logistics ahead of the polls.

Okoye said, “The issue relating to logistics, we are going to deal with it. We are going to hold a high-level meeting with the NNPCL to resolve whatever issues or challenges we have.

“We are going to solve the issues based on our own processes and procedures. We have things under control.”

In the same vein, the National Secretary of the Road Transport Employers’ Association of Nigeria, Yusuf Adeniyi, stated that the fuel scarcity would not affect the task of the members in conveying electoral materials on Election Day.

He gave an assurance that the RTEAN, which is one of the transport unions that signed a memo of understanding with INEC on election logistics, would deliver on its mandate as expected.

“You see, the issue of fuel scarcity will not affect the elections. The fact remains that we are facing fuel scarcity; however, I think it is not real. It is artificial. Yes, we are transporters and our vehicles are moving. The issue of the movement of election materials will be done. I do not see any big deal about it,” Adeniyi said.

Asked if there was any arrangement between the association and the NNPCL to provide the drivers with fuel, the secretary noted, “Even before (the scarcity), there was no special provision regarding the movement of transport operators in Nigeria or how the transporters get their own fuel. We obtain fuel from the same market that private people get theirs, and in some cases, we get from black markets. Those who are hoarding the fuel, let them continue hoarding it.”

An aide to the President of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the body had made alternative plans to beat the challenge of fuel scarcity, and gave an assurance that the situation would not affect the conveyance of election materials.

He said, “This is probably one out of the many few situations where we have fuel distribution issues like this and a little bit scarcity, but that does not mean that we did not make proper arrangements earlier on.

“When you are dealing with extension services as special services for the public, there is usually a plan ‘B’ on the ground. So, I do not think there will be issues at all in conveying election materials. We had a tripartite agreement involving INEC, the NURTW and every other body that is related to the election; so I do not think there will be any issue at all.”

Marketers reject panel

Meanwhile, oil marketers, on Friday, kicked against the 14-man steering committee on petroleum products supply and distribution management that was recently approved and constituted by the Federal Government to halt the prolonged scarcity of petrol.

Dealers under the aegis of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, and the Petroleum Retail Outlet Owners Association of Nigeria, expressed doubt over the ability of the committee to end the nationwide scarcity of PMS and the attendant queues in filling stations.

On Tuesday, the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources announced the constitution of a 14-man committee chaired by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to find a lasting solution to the disruptions in the supply and distribution of petroleum products.

It said the committee had the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, as alternate chairman, adding that the team would ensure transparent and efficient supply and distribution of petroleum products.

The ministry named other members of the committee to include the Minister of Finance; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum Resources; National Economic Adviser to the President; and Director-General, Department of State Services.

The list also includes the Comptroller-General, Nigeria Customs Service; Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission; and Commandant-General, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.

The Chief Executive, NMDPRA; Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria; Group Chief Executive Officer, NNPC Limited; and Special Advisor (Special Duties) to the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources were also listed as members of the committee, while the Technical Advisor (Midstream) to the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources would serve as the secretary.

But oil marketers faulted the composition of the panel, as they told Sunday PUNCH that the committee lacked core downstream industry players, and as such, might not succeed in putting an end to the fuel scarcity.

The President, PETROAN, Billy Gillis-Harry, stated, “This is the problem of Nigeria, that we are always putting round pegs in square holes. Who should provide more solutions, other than those of us at the grassroots?

“We are the ones who know how the business should be able to work for the benefit of Nigerians. So if they set up a committee without any of us as critical stakeholders, I don’t know what level of success they are planning to achieve.

Gillis-Harry advised the government to reconstitute the committee, stressing that for it to effectively make headway, it should have representatives from the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN and PETROAN.

He said, “My advice is that they should get PETROAN, MOMAN, IPMAN and DAPPMAN as part of that committee to proffer solutions that will be instant and sustainable.

“We cannot continue to suffer this crisis in the downstream oil sector and getting the right composition in that committee will help in addressing this issue.”

Also speaking on the matter, the National Public Relations Officer, IPMAN, Chief Ukadike Chinedu, wondered how the panel would succeed without the inputs of marketers as members.

He said, “IPMAN frowns on the constitution of this 14-man committee. I wonder how that committee will deliver on its mandate. IPMAN, MOMAN, PETROAN, NUPENG and other critical stakeholders in the industry are not part of this committee.

“We are supposed to be part of this committee to be able to give some of the security agencies and government parastatals that are incorporated into the panel the leeway to help in terms of ensuring that there is adequate distribution of petroleum products.

“We are stakeholders and players, and as you know, IPMAN constitutes about 80 per cent of the distribution outlets in Nigeria. So, if there is a committee, the most important stakeholders who should be involved are IPMAN and some other players.”

Suppliers weary

Ukadike, however, pointed out some of the reasons currently contributing to the scarcity of petrol across the country.

He explained that some of the suppliers were becoming weary to supply products because there would be a transition in government soon.

He stated, “Importation of petroleum products is part of the government’s activities and when the government is going out, marketers who are also supplying petroleum products, sometimes become weary of supplying these products to the government.

“This is because they want to be sure that the money they invest in the supply of products will not be trapped or transmitted to the in-coming government as a lot of issues will then arise.

“It is also due to the fact that the current government, at the end of its tenure, has decided to remove petrol subsidy and marketers are cautiously watching how this will play out.”

But the Senior Adviser on Media and Communications to the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Horatius Egua, told Sunday PUNCH that the 14-man committee had not been inaugurated yet.

“The committee has yet to be inaugurated and again, it’s not about setting a timeline for ending the scarcity of fuel alone, but about solving the problems along the entire supply and distribution value chain,” he stated.

He pointed out that the terms of reference of the panel included to ensure national strategic stock management, visibility on the NNPC Limited refineries’ rehabilitation programme and ensure end-to-end tracking of petroleum products, especially PMS.

This, he added, was to ascertain the daily national consumption of PMS and eliminate smuggling, as the team would also ensure sanity in the supply and distribution across the value chain.

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