The Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, has apparently smashed the expectations of Nigerians who were looking forward to getting some relief from the pangs of the lingering fuel shortage in the country. Mr Ibe announced that the fuel crisis would last till late May as oil produced in the refineries would not be sold but kept in a “strategic reserve”.
This unpalatable news is coming after weeks of promises by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its subsidiary, Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC), on their capacity to meet domestic demand for petrol and end the fuel shortage.
The minister who is also the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation, NNPC, made this disclosure while addressing newsmen after a closed-door meeting at the Presidential Villa, in Abuja, between President Muhammadu Buhari and the leaders of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN).
Mr Kachiukwu, clearly stated that he had no “magic wand” to turn the condition of fuel shortage around by making fuel available overnight, adding that it was even a “magic” that the fuel stations were still able to get the quantity of products they sell to the public considering the existing circumstances at NNPC.
“One of the trainings I did not receive is that of a magician, but I am working very hard to ensure some of these issues go away,” says the minister. And let’s be honest, for the five or six months we have been here, NNPC has moved from a 50 per cent importer of products to basically a 100 per cent importer. And the 445,000 barrels that were allocated was to cover between 50 and 55 percent importation.”
“So it is quite frankly sheer magic that we even have the amount of product at the stations. We are looking to see how to get foreign exchange input. The president and I discussed extensively on how to get more crude directed at importation.
“His Excellency will rather have less crude but have individuals in the society suffer less with inconveniences than have more crude and have them continue to suffer. So we are going to put a new model to enable us increase the pace and actually get (oil) majors as part of the crew of those to bring in more products so that the NNPC will sort of go back to the capacity of what it used to do and the majors will take over the balance of importation.
“Although I don’t want to put a time frame, but I will expect that over the next two months, we should see quite frankly a complete elimination of this. Our strategy is that whatever is produced in the refineries will not go for sale, we are going to keep them in strategic reserve. Because the key problem here is that there is no reserve.
“Any time there is a gap in supply, it goes off. So we are going to dedicate the next couple of months to moving all the products that we produce to strategic reserve so that we can pile up reserves in the nation and that will push up the reserves in the nation. Believe me, this is giving me and my team sleepless nights and we are working on it and we are committed to making this go away, Nigerians should please bear with us,” he pleads.
The Petroleum Minister further revealed that it was the first time the union held a meeting with the president and that the major purpose of the meeting was to review some issues of concern which he seeks to find lasting solutions to by sharing thoughts.
When asked to enumerate the issues discussed with the President, the minister says he will probably highlight a few areas, including the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), fuel scarcity, the refineries, utilization of depots, logistics issues, and loss of jobs in the petroleum sector. He also said that most of these problems were inherited from the past administration, however, him and his team are doing their best to work on them.