It’s about nine weeks since Abuja residents started facing fuel scarcity. The lingering crisis started before the general elections and has not only crippled activities in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), it has left the economy in a very bad shape.
Early last month, the oil marketers said that their refusal to lift fuel to Abuja was because the Federal Government owed them the differential of the petroleum products they had lifted and until the government paid them, they would not resume lifting of oil to the capital city.
Following this, the Federal Government, four weeks ago, issued a N100 billion Sovereign Debt Note (SDNs) to the petroleum marketers and said that already N30 billion has been released to them based on the exchange differential.
Issuing the SDNs to the marketers, the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala assured the marketers that they would be paid with exchange rate calculated by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulation Agency (PPPRA).
“The marketers are here. We have been talking to them. Like I said yesterday, I think we are getting good co-operation from them. I really want to thank them. Although there might be a few people who may not co-operate but I urge them to be patriotic and co-operate. This is about Nigeria.
With regards to the payment, we will pay them at the exchange rate that has been calculated with the PPPRA. We are ready to release N30 billion and do more tomorrow as soon as we receive the number from PPPRA. From December 2 to 31st, we have paid N320 billion to oil marketers. What we are still being owed is N185 billion. Of that amount, we are issuing SDN, a bond as good as money to the tune of N100 billion. They have actually been prepared by DMO. We have them here. So, this is as good as money and there are smiles on their faces. We brought everybody here together at the instance of Mr. President because he wants Nigerians to know he is working on this issue. As we move around, this exchange rate differential has always been a factor. It is nothing new. You know the marketers’ template prepared by PPPRA has a commitment that the marketers should be compensated for fluctuations in the exchange rate between the order and the time they are paid. It has always been part of the template. If you go to the PPPRA website it is not new. In fact, the differentials that we are paying now are not the ones arising immediately. They are differentials that are accumulated in the past. As at now we are going to release N30 billion differentials. We know we always publish everything we did. We will also publish this one,” the minister explained.
Earlier, the Secretary of the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Femi Lawore had given assurance that the scarcity, presently experienced would be cleared in a few days following sustenance in product supplies across the country.
“We supplied 132 trucks to Lagos from major marketers’ installations. This is not including what went from NNPC depot, DAPMAN, and supplies from IPMAN depots. Yesterday, we did 135 to Lagos and we increased the volume coming to Abuja yesterday to 139 which is a higher figure than 87 which we did before, just to tell you that we have the volumes available and we are moving. Abuja will take normally about three to five days before products get there. So we are hopeful that before weekend, it will be sorted out. Lagos is already easing out and I can tell you that by tomorrow evening, Lagos should see a better atmosphere at the retail outlets. In Abuja, give or take, we should see a lot of improvements,” these are promises made some one month ago and till date, the substance of the promise is yet to be seen in Abuja with the worsening scarcity.
Also, the representative of DAPMAN, Mr. Olufemi Adewole assured that the hardship would fizzle out in days.
“We want to assure Nigerians that the tightness we are witnessing right now will soon become a thing of the past. Our members have made the request to banks to reopen their letters of credit as soon as we bring in cargoes. Some have actually gone ahead based on the promise that the minister and the CBN have given us. We are assuring you that everything is being done by our members to make sure this tightness is eliminated as soon as possible.
In his remarks also, PPPRA Executive Secretary Farouk Ahmed said that to ensure faster distribution of products across the country, the management of Petroleum Pipeline Marketing Company (PPMC) has entered into agreement with truck owners – NARTO to make more trucks available to ease delivery.
Governor of CBN, Godwin Emefiele told Nigeria to avoid panic buying, assuring that all the bottlenecks in the supply chain had been cleared.
“You heard oil marketers, PPRA and DAPMAN speaking. There is no need for anyone to panic. We have a lot in stock. When CBN heard of issues surrounding securing letter of credits, we held meeting with banks separately. We held meeting with marketers and we brought them to a room to discuss those issues. We would like to appeal to marketers to say if there is any bank that delays your Letter of Credit, feel free to reach us and we will appeal to them. Yes, there are issues that have been raised and as much as possible those issues have been resolved,” he assured.
After these assurances, the tension subsided for a while only to pick up again when the FG removed N10 from the subsidy. Following the volatility in the global oil market, the government felt it necessary to remove N10 from the pump price of N97.
But the marketers seem not to be too happy with the move. Tacitly protesting the removal, the marketers have refused to supply enough petroleum products to Abuja and the environs. This has resulted to the prolonged acute scarcity of the product in Abuja.
With the defeat of Goodluck Jonathan administration at the polls, the administration doesn’t seem to be ready to do anything about it. Abuja residents now seem to have resigned to their fate that the end of the scarcity might not be in sight yet.