By Bassey Udo
For the umpteenth time, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited on Wednesday reassured Nigerians that the current fuel crisis across the country was not part of any hidden plan by the Federal Government to increase the pump price of petrol.
The Group Managing Director and Chief Executive of the company, Mele Kyari gave the assurance at the end of his meeting with oil workers in his office in Abuja.
Kyari said the NNPC and all the government agencies involved in the supply and distribution of petroleum products were doing all within their capacities to restore normalcy in the system.
In the past two weeks, the country has witnessed the return of long queues of anxious motorists at filling stations nationwide as a result of scarcity of petrol.
Initially, the situation was blamed on the discovery of adulterated petroleum products blended with overdose of methanol in four of the consignments of premium motor spirit (PMS) imported into the country from Belgium by some suppliers under the direct sales and direct purchase (DSDP) schemes with the NNPC.
To clear the system of contamination, further distribution of petrol was halted, to enable the adulterated products to be quarantined and removed.
However, weeks after the exercise, normalcy is yet to be restored in the fuel distribution system across the country, as long queues of vehicles are still noticeable outside filling stations nationwide.
Despite repeated assurances by the NNPC and the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) of adequate supply of petrol in the depots for distribution, the situation remain chaotic.
There have been speculations that the fuel crisis was formented by the government to create the environment for it to raise the retail pump price of the commodity, even as crude oil prices at the international market jumped above the $100 threshold on Tuesday.
But on Wednesday Kyari denied any plan, either by the NNPC or the Federal Government, to effect any adjustment to the pricing template of petrol in the country any time soon.
“Let me assure all Nigerians that neither the NNPC nor the Federal Government has any plan to adjust the existing ex-depot or retail pump prices of the premium motor spirit (PMS), popularly called petrol.
“Therefore, I call on all marketers to ensure that they continue sell petrol at the depots or at the filling stations at the prices approved by the government,” Kyari told reporters at the end of the meeting with oil workers in his office.
The oil workers consisted of members of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD), Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria (DAPPMAN) and Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN).
They were in NNPC to meet with the management of the company as part of ongoing reconciliation efforts to resolve all issues affecting the smooth fuel supply and distribution in the country.
Prior to the latest crisis, the oil workers had issued an ultimatum to the Federal Government to embark on an indefinite nationwide industrial action to protest the poor conditions of roads across the country as well as the absence of a good working condition for them.
Following the return of queues at filling stations across the country, the oil workers again threatened to embark on another strike action to alert Nigerians about some malpractices perpetrated by some fuel depots that were selling petrol above the government approved N165 per litre retail price.
To resolve the issue, the NNPC engaged with the leadership of NUPENG-PTD, DAPPMAN and MOMAN and agreed to sanction any oil marketing company found culpable of the offence, including refusal to sell PMS to these affected companies or depots.
Kyari said the meeting also resolved that NMDPRA would sanction any defaulting depot owner, to ensure Nigerians continued to buy PMS at the retail price approved by the government, and in a sustainable manner ensure adequate supply of petroleum products.
He urged fuel consumers to avoid panic buying of petrol as the NNPC has adequate stock of the commodity to meet demand.
“Do not panic buy. Only buy, what you need, because we have sufficient and significant stock of petroleum products.
Nigerians should trust that we are not lying to them. There is no shortage of fuel in the country.
Currently, there is about 1.7billion litres of PMS in stock and on land.
This means, we have capacity to load out from all products depots across the country.
“We have put in place a process to load 24 hours in all depots we have petrol to ensure spaces created through panic buying in the filling stations are filled, so that normalcy will be restored soon.
“What is happening is that typically in situations like this, people go to filling stations to buy fuel in excess of what they really need. This is what the additional supply that has been injected into the system will resolve, ” Kyari said.