The Senate Committee on Petroleum Downstream has given the Minister of State for Petroleum and the NNPC two weeks to end petrol scarcity in the country.
The committee handed down this directive at a meeting with officials of the Ministry of Petroleum, NNPC and agencies in the petroleum sector.
For nearly three weeks, there have been long queues at different petrol stations across the country; a situation that has defied solutions by previous administrations and has again reared its head a few months into the present government.
The heads of the agencies explained the reason for the problem in the petroleum downstream sector which they say have made petrol scarcity a recurring problem in the country.
The problems which the head of petroleum agencies identified as being responsible for the recurring problem of fuel scarcity are not new. They are the same problems which the agencies identify almost every time they have appeared before the Senate in the past few years.
The Managing Director of the PPMC, Mrs Esther Nnamdi-Ogbue, highlighted issues with petroleum marketers, pipeline vandalism…particularly the continuous assault on the System 2B pipeline at Arepo, sharp practices at depots and diversion of fuel.
Mrs. Esther Nnamdi-Ogbue, said that Nigeria has lost a total of 531 million litres of petrol valued at over N50 billion to pipeline vandals between January and September, 2015, at the problematic System 2B Pipeline network which stretches from the Atlas Cove in Lagos to Ilorin.
According to her all these have made the task of providing seamless flow of petroleum products to retail outlets more burdensome.
Despite that, she said the PPMC has continued to ensure that the country remains wet with petrol through massive truck-out from depots in Lagos, Oghara and recently Calabar
She, however, noted that the spirited efforts made so far by the corporation to ensure zero fuel queues across the country are being hampered by the activities of some unscrupulous marketers involved in hoarding, sharp practices and diversion of petroleum products for sale in black markets across the country.
She said: “We view this as a distortion to the economy and we have invited the DSS and the EFCC to take action.”
Members of the committee sought to find out the real issues including the outstanding amount owed petroleum marketers, noting that if the present administration does not address these issues head on, the problem of petrol scarcity might continue for a very long time.
The head of the Senate committee, Senator Uche Ekwunife, then directed the officials of the Ministry and the NNPC to find ways to put an end to the fuel crisis with the next two weeks.
“Nigerians want to see the immediate end to this fuel scarcity and also the uniformity of the price of the product across the country.
“As a committee, our target is that scarcity and discrepancies in price must stop and it must be done.
“Therefore, we are mandating the Minister, the Permanent Secretary and other relevant agencies in the sector, that fuel scarcity must stop in the next two weeks.
“Petrol must be sold at the uniform price of N87 per litre everywhere in the country,” she said.
Jamila Shu’ara, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and leader of the delegation, emphasized the need to build strategic reserve stock of petroleum products something similar to the national grain reserves across the country.