With Queues And Blackouts, Cubans Suffer Fuel Crisis

Car drivers line up to get their tanks filled at a gas station in Havana, on September 19, 2019. Cuban President Miguel Diaz Canel blamed the United States for Cuba’s fuel shortage. In his address, he said the “low availability of diesel” will affect transport, distribution and electricity generation. The US Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on various companies for transporting Venezuelan petroleum to Cuba. PHOTO: YAMIL LAGE / AFP

 

Ernesto Mirabal gave up a night’s sleep for a few gallons of gas at a Havana service station, where lining up for five hours has become the norm during a severe fuel shortage on the Communist-run island.

Since President Miguel Diaz-Canel’s shock announcement on September 11 that the country was facing the fuel shortfall, widespread uncertainty and a degree of panic have gripped the nation.

Mirabal, a taxi driver, had no choice but to while away his sleeping hours queuing for gas.

“I got here a little after 11 o’clock and was able to put gas in the car at four in the morning,” said Mirabal, 48. “I had to do it because I had a customer to pick up at 7 o’clock.”

“I’ve got enough fuel for today and tomorrow now. But the day after tomorrow I have to start all over again.”

– Drastic measures –

Images of long lines of people waiting endless hours outside service stations have flooded Cubans’ Twitter and Facebook timelines over the past week.

WhatsApp groups have sprung up around the burning question of the day: “Where can I get fuel?”

In public companies and offices, schedules have been cut back, air conditioners have hummed to a halt and electricity blackouts imposed for a few hours a day. Some companies have sent their workers home.

Garbage accumulates in the streets as collections are cut back, a blow to the health ministry’s battle against resurgent dengue fever, a deadly strain of which is worrying authorities.

The drastic measures in place for the past week remind many of the Special Period, the dark days of extreme shortages in the 1990s which followed the collapse of Cuba’s main sponsor, the Soviet Union.

Some measures indeed mirror those of 25 years ago as the nation tries to cope.

With public transport reduced to bare minimum service, traffic police flag down drivers of state-owned vehicles to demand they take on passengers.

But the starkest example of Cuba’s fuel crisis can be seen in the sugar cane plantations, where oxen are being brought in to replace the machines that power the country’s biggest export.

– Panic –

“People think the fuel will run out and so everyone is trying to accumulate as much as possible,” said Omar Everleny, an economist.

“They believe things will get even more complicated, despite what the authorities say.”

Diaz-Canel promised a return to “relative normality” by October.

Despite an official prohibition, many motorists fill up jerrycans at service stations, in addition to their cars.

The government is keeping up a barrage of reassuring messages, with the president calling on citizens to “think like a country” and stand together at this time of need.

Diaz-Canel has blamed the shortages on increasingly aggressive US sanctions against Cuba and its oil-source ally Venezuela.

“Imperialism is not going to ruin our lives or take our sleep away,” the president tweeted on Thursday as the crisis entered its second week.

“We are facing up to this situation, we are implementing systematic economy measures, we are growing and we will win.”

Like many others, however, Everleny, the economist, doesn’t buy the government line.

“If the country is paralyzed, where will the growth come from?” He asked, citing a decline in tourist arrivals from Europe. Cruise ships that brought thousands of American visitors every week have been banned since June, as part of the US sanctions.

The fuel shortage is indicative of the country’s currency crisis.

Cuba has no alternative to oil from Venezuela which is paid for in part by sending Cuban doctors to Caracas to shore up a collapsing medical system.

And as for the return to normal promised by Diaz-Canel, Everleny warns: “Normal would mean a return to a period of weak growth and uncertainty.”

AFP

Quit As Petroleum Minister, PDP Tells Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari

 

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to quit his role as the Minister of Petroleum “to save Nigerians the trauma of sleeping in fuel stations” in order to get fuel.

The party made the call in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, on Sunday, insisting that “the failure of the Buhari Presidency to resolve its inflicted unabated fuel crisis, which has brought untold hardship to Nigerians” is unpardonable.

READ ALSOFuel Scarcity: Buhari Vows To Stop Those Behind ‘Collective Blackmail’ Of Nigerians

“We call on President Buhari to quit this all-important Ministry of Petroleum Resources and allow competent hands to save our people from the anguish and pains they have been subjected to in the last few months,” it said.

Many Nigerians have struggled to get fuel in recent months after the nation was hit by fuel scarcity late in 2017. While fuel queues have disappeared in several parts of the country, many people still have difficulty getting petrol and are forced to buy the product above the official price of N145 per litre.

As the Minister of Petroleum, the PDP said President Buhari must directly accept responsibility “for the manifest failure in the oil sector, even as his government should be held responsible for the exacerbated economic and security situation in the country under its watch”.

To turn the situation around, the opposition party wants the President to appoint “competent hands” to manage the affairs to the ministry.

At the height of the fuel scarcity, some Nigerians had called on the President to quit his role as Petroleum Minister. Some others debated the legality or otherwise of the President’s decision to occupy the position.

For the PDP, if the President “had heed wise counsel from well-meaning Nigerians, since last year, to quit office as the Minister of Petroleum and allow a more competent and knowledgeable person to run the ministry, the situation would not have degenerated to excruciating pains Nigerians suffer today”.

The party also accused the Presidency of unapologetically failing to fix a national problem, which it promised to resolve within one week in December, saying it has no solution but intends to continue to hold the nation to ransom.

Arguing that “poor coordination, inefficiency and reported heavy sleazes in the petroleum sector”, under the direct supervision of the President, raises a lot of issues which require urgent action, the PDP said the President has failed to take decisive steps.

“Rather, the sector has been delivered to an APC cabal, whose mission, particularly, the desperate re-election bid, largely account for the biting fuel situation and the economic misery Nigerians suffer today,” it said.

But in his New Year broadcast on Janaury 1, President Buhari had vowed to the root of the fuel scarcity which he said was a “collective blackmail of all Nigerians.”

 

He had acknowledged that the Christmas and New Year holidays didn’t go well with many in the face of the lingering fuel crisis.

The President, however, decried that: “Some of our compatriots chose this period to inflict severe hardship on us all by creating unnecessary fuel scarcity across the country.”

Fuel Crisis: PDP Accuses Buhari, APC Of Wrecking Nigeria’s Economy

election

 

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Sunday accused President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress of ruining Nigeria’s economy by failing to find a solution to the fuel crisis in the country.

“It is now clear to all that President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC Government is bent on wrecking the nation. Instead of abating, the situation is getting worse under the APC administration, which on December 6, 2017, promised to end the fuel crisis within one week,” the PDP said in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan.

This comes amid concerns that the lingering fuel crisis in the country may lead to an increase in the pump price.

Although the Minister of State for Petroleum, Mr Ibeh Kachikwu, last week denied reports that there were plans to increase the price of the product, the PDP insists that the Federal Government’s plan to address the issue “amounts to trading away the nation’s resources to the mercy and vagaries of international interests through questionable subsidy plans”.

“This same minister who denied that there are plans to increase the price of fuel is also plotting an indirect hike through a wicked price modulation plan “where NNPC will be allowed to continue to sell at N145 per liter in its few mega stations across the country while the independent marketers should be allowed to sell at whatever price is profitable to them in all their outlets,” the party alleged in its statement.

Also, the party warned that the implementation of the plan will inflict more hardship on the “already impoverished Nigerians”.
“With the poor purchasing power of the naira, also due to bad polices of the APC government, any additional anti-people policy will ultimately spell doom for our dear nation,” it said.

“Nigerians are now aware that the same government that boasts of zero tolerance for corruption has been engaged in unspeakable grafts, including unabated siphoning of our national resources through underhand subsidy deals, direct diversion of public funds in various sectors and depletion of our foreign financial instruments, and this must stop.”

Working Refineries Solution To Fuel Crisis, Says Kachikwu

Kachikwu Says Solution To Fuel Scarcity Is To Make Nigerian Refineries Work
file photo

 

The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, believes the major solution to the fuel scarcity challenges in the country is for Nigeria to fix its refineries.

Kachikwu gave the recommendation on Thursday during a public hearing convened by the Senate to investigate the fuel scarcity that hit the nation in the last few weeks.

READ ALSO: Senate Interrupts Recess, Summons Kachikwu, NNPC Boss Over Fuel Crisis

He emphasised that Nigeria cannot run away from the fact that working refineries would go a long way to resolve fuel crisis and prevent further occurrence of the hardship the people faced during Christmas and New Year celebrations.

The minister, however, informed the lawmakers that the Ministry of Petroleum and relevant agencies were looking at an 18-month emergency period when they would need to address the pricing issue of the products which was at the centre of the recent fuel crisis.

According to him, the difference between the 170/171 naira landing cost of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), also known as petrol, and the 145 naira actual cost needs to be addressed.

Kachikwu opined that the difference made the importers of petroleum products to hands off from the importation of fuel as they felt they were not making profit.

He, however, proposed solutions to address such gaps and further recommended some models to address the pricing issues.

One of the recommendations was working with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to fix an exchange rate of N204 to a dollar for importers, which will enable them to sell petrol at N145.

The other was the ‘plural pricing system’ which will enable NNPC stations to continue to sell petrol at N145 while private importers sell at a price profitable to them.

Senate President Bukola Saraki had directed the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream) to cut short its recess and urgently convene a meeting with stakeholders in the petroleum industry.

Dr Saraki gave the order in December 2017 in a bid to find a lasting solution to the fuel crisis and the untold hardship it was unleashing on innocent Nigerians.

Those present at the meeting are members of the Senate Committee, the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr Maikanti Baru, as well as representatives of trade unions in the oil and gas sector among others.

UNILAG Shuts Down Over Protests Of Fuel, Water Shortage

Unilag - University of LagosThe management of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) has ordered that all academic activities on the campus be suspended until the situation on the campus improves.

According to a statement released on Friday, the decision was made at a meeting of the University Senate held on Thursday.

“The Senate of the University of Lagos at an emergency meeting on Thursday, April 7, 2016 considered the situation on campus occasioned by the ongoing agitation of the student body over poor electricity and water supply in the community, and the difficulty faced by a large number of students living off campus to attend classes as a result of the fuel crisis.

“Senate noted that the problem of poor municipal services is a national issue that governments at both State and Federal levels are addressing,” the statement read.

UNILAG authorities ordered in the statement that students living on the campus should vacate their halls of residence, adding that no student should remain in the halls of residence after 10:00AM on Friday.

“All academic activities on campus are hereby suspended with immediate effect. The university is therefore closed with immediate effect.”

The management said that a decision to re-open for normal academic activities would be taken as soon as ‘municipal services improve’.

SERAP Asks FG To End Fuel Scarcity Now

serapThe Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called on the Nigerian government to find a permanent solution to the fuel scarcity across the country.

The group says the protracted scarcity of fuel in Nigeria amounts to a violation of the United Nations International Covenant On Economic, Social And Cultural Rights by the federal government.

A statement issued by the group notes that the protracted fuel scarcity has not only deprived Nigerians of unquantifiable economic opportunities, but it has also subjected them to unwarranted torture, cruel and degrading experiences.

SERAP added that even though fuel scarcity crisis predated the current administration, it is time President Muhammadu Buhari, who doubles as the Minister Of Petroleum Resources, rises to the occasion to find a permanent solution.

For almost a month, Nigerians have been queuing at fuel service stations all over the country to get petrol for their vehicles and other uses.

Petrol is selling over 200 Naira per litre in the South-south, while in Imo State and Anambra, it is selling for 170 Naira per litre. It seems to be worse in the Northern region where fuel is said to be sold over 300 Naira.

The situation has taken its toll on the nation’s economy which appears to be experiencing more setbacks.

Most hit are small and medium scale business owners who are unable to continue production, since they rely on petrol to run electricity generating plants.

However, the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachukwu, has given assurances that he is trying his best to ensure the queues reduce between the first and second week of April.

New Pump Price: Okorocha Intervenes In Lingering Fuel Crisis

Rochas-Okorocha on fuel crisisThe Imo State Government has intervened in the lingering fuel crisis rocking the state over the past two weeks.

The intervention came after the Independent Petroleum Marketers in Imo State shut down their stations and stopped dispensing fuel to the public in protest to an alleged intimidation and harassment of their members by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).

In compliance with the Federal Government’s directive of ensuring that PMS is being sold at 86.50 Naira per litre, the DPR in Imo State embarked on a monitoring exercise to enforce this directive and forced most petrol stations to sell at 86.50 Naira per litre.

The action by the DPR angered the Independent Petroleum Marketers in the state as over 95 per cent of petroleum marketers shut down businesses to the public in what looked likes a protest.

They maintained that they do not buy the product at tank farms at government approved price and therefore, would not sell at 86.50 Naira per liter, or they will run at a loss.

Due to the hardship this has caused the people of the state, the State Governor and members of his cabinet scheduled a meeting with the petroleum marketers to resolve the lingering crisis.

After several minutes of dialogue, Governor Okorocha assured them that he would make necessary arrangement to ensure that issues raised would be addressed immediately and the product made available at the normal price.

If all promises by the State Government is kept, it is hoped that Independent Petroleum Marketers in the state would adhere strictly by selling at Federal Government approved price so as to alleviate the sufferings of Imo people who buy PMS at exorbitant rate.

Lai Mohammed Blames Fuel Crisis On Past Administration  

Lai MohammedThe Minister of Information, Mr Lai Mohammed, has blamed the lingering fuel crisis on what he called the sins of the past administration.

The Minister, who was answering questions from State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council meeting on Monday, said that the Muhammadu Buhari administration inherited 522 billion naira subsidy arrears which was incurred as far back as August 2014.

He said that the revelation came when the administration went to the National Assembly for a supplementary budget of 674 billion naira out of which 522 billion was for arrears of fuel subsidy.

According to him, the last administration failed to make adequate provision for fuel subsidy.

Mr Lai Mohammed, however, said that the NNPC is gradually importing fuel that will help cushion the effect of fuel shortage.

Meanwhile, at a media interaction in Abuja recently, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) expressed belief that there would be no fresh subsidy in the 2016 budget.

The Group General Manager, Corporate Planning, Mr Bello Rabiu, explained that a new framework was being worked on for the management of subsidy on petrol.

Mr Rabiu said that the new template would eliminate subsidy in the next few months, leaving the price of petrol at a capped price of 97 Naira.

Labour Union Demands Rehabilitation Of Refineries In Nigeria

oil-refineryThe Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has urged the Federal Government to urgently fix all deplorable roads and also rehabilitate the refineries in order put an end to incessant tanker accidents that result to fire outbreak across the country.

In a statement issued on Sunday, a factional Deputy President of the NLC, Issa Aremu, described as shameful the movement of highly inflammable products through hundreds kilometres of bad roads in Nigeria instead of the international best practices of using refineries and depots.

Mr Aremu, however, appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to put a stop to such anomaly.

He also urged the present government to deepen the ongoing revival of the railways through public investment.
According to him, the solution is not in privatising the railways as doing so would not add value to national wellbeing and development to the nation’s transport sector.

“Railway requires massive injection of funds to upgrade its tracks to standard gauge and modernise the wagon and haulage facilities. If fixed, Railways can also absorb hundreds of thousands of jobs for the millions of unemployed youths under the Buhari dispensation,” the statement read.

The NLC factional Deputy President also demanded that the government must urgently compensate all the victims of the carnage Onitsha and Lagos petrol tanker fire accidents.