Monday, 30 November 2015

Fuel scarcity: Vice President Osinbanjo to plead with marketers

Fuel scarcity: Vice President Osinbanjo to meet with the marketers

Worried by the continued scarcity of petroleum products in the market, Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo, Monday night, intervened with a crucial call to marketers on the best way to end the current fuel crisis, which had engulfed the country in the last couple of months.

The call came as a proposed meeting between the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, suspended a meeting between him and major marketers, scheduled to hold in Lagos Monday.

The Minister told Vanguard that the suspension of the meeting was at the instance of the oil majors, saying, “The meeting was pushed forward to a future date because about three out of the five managing directors of the major oil companies were out of town.”

He added that “They requested I give them more time to see how far to regularise products supply in the market, as the scarcity eases.”

Meets with independents today

Kachikwu however disclosed that he is meeting with the independent marketers tomorrow (Tuesday) to discuss what they are doing as well as “touring their depots to see what is happening in them.”

Some marketers, who were supposed to attend the meeting, confided in Vanguard that “We were supposed to meet with the Minister of State for the meeting initially scheduled for 1pm, said the meeting could not hold because it was cancelled late last night (Sunday).

Kachikwu, who also doubles as the Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, was expected to plead with the marketers to resume fuel importation, particularly of premium motor spirit, PMS, or petrol, which is in very high demand in Nigeria, pending the release of the subsidy claims.

In response to a possible Plan B in the event the lawmakers did not approve the supplementary budget as expected, the minister said it means that “the burden will continue to be carried by the NNPC until the majors and other marketers are able to import.”

He expressed the Ministry and NNPC’s commitment to carry the burden of supply of products for the time being, noting that this is what Corporations are set up for tointervene duding emergency situations like this.

“We are moving about 3,000 trucks daily and if the situation persists, what we are doing now, which is Plan A will become Plan B. and we are ready to increase the truck loads until we are able to arrest the situation.

Refineries to be re-streamed mid-December
Kachikwu also said that there is no succor yet from the nation’s refineries, as 210,000-capacity Port Harcourt Refinery will be re-streamed by mid-December.

According to him, Port Harcourt Refinery will be re-streamed on December 6th. You know that when this happens you have to give the plant some time before it can begin to churn out products. So we are not expecting anything from Port Harcourt Refinery until mid-December.
“Same thing goes for Kaduna Refinery, which is expected to come back about that time if we dispatch with the pipeline issues.

Notwithstanding the state of the refineries, the minister gave the assurance that “We are preparing heavily for the Yuletide Season and we are going to bring in products massively to cater for demand.”

Marketers are sceptical

But marketers are sceptical whether the talks or meetings would yield the expected fruits, since the N413billion approved for subsidy claims had not yet been paid to them.

According to them, “No amount of promise will convince the banks to raise an LC (Letter of credit) if the claims are not paid.”
Against this backdrop, it is also uncertain what the Vice President’s intervention will achieve, since everything is dependent on the National
Assembly approving the supplementary budget today as expected.

NNPC’s Spokesman, Mr. Ohi Alegbe, who told Vanguard that the Corporation was not aware of the majors meeting with the minister, however expressed the hope that “the legislators will do the needful and pass the supplementary budget. This will enable marketers to be paid their subsidy claims for them to resume fuel importation.”

He recalled that the NNPC “Met with Senate Committee on Downstream last Friday, and the Committee Chairman,Senator Uche Ekwnunife, promised to lay down everything on the table.”

Fashola, meeting with DISCOs

However, all is still shrouded in secrecy regarding the meeting between the Minister for Power, Mr. BabatundeFashola and the electricity distribution companies, DISCOs on one hand, and subsequent meeting between the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC and the DISCOs on the other hand.

Vanguard had exclusively reported about the meetings, which held yesterday in the minister’s office and the NERC office in Abuja, which focused mainly on the issue of tariff.

Some of the chief executives of the distribution companies who attended the meeting, told Vanguard, “We had a confidential meeting, which we are not supposed to discuss with the public.”

But the NERC Chairman, Dr. Sam Amadi, who spoke with Vanguard on the telephone confirmed that “there was no major or significant outcome from the meeting,” adding that conversations are still ongoing regarding the issues raised until a decision is reached.