Weeks of fuel scarcity gradually affecting the Nigerian economy, with individuals losing man hours at service stations, is a consequence of negligence of proper process, a formal official of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) said.
Several service stations have closed down, with few selling fuel at very high prices, far more than the 87 Naira official price.
Businesses depending hugely on generating sets as source of electricity are shutting down in the oil-rich nation.
The government says it has paid over 150 billion Naira to marketers of the product but that has not reflected. Markets are insisting that all monies owed must be paid before a new administration takes over by May 29.
Mr Peter Esele who was also the President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) told Channels Television that the government was owning the marketers over 356 billion Naira out of which it paid only 156 billion Naira. Over 200 billion Naira is still outstanding, an amount that the marketers are demanding for to make petroleum products available.
Giving his opinion about the fuel scarcity, Mr Esele said the marketers’ fears were that they may not be able to collect their outstanding money when the new government comes in.
“The bottom line is that they are businessmen. There is no way there is no under-the-table deal going on in that sector. So they want to get their money before the new administration,” he said.
The former PENGASSAN President stressed that the major problem in the petroleum sector was poor adherence to proper process, saying there are no records of when the ships come in and how many litres were brought in.
“In 2012 the TUC had made a presentation before the Senate on a lot of sharp practices going on in the subsidy regime.
“When things are allowed to go on in a manner that is not good, we wait for the next time. We are talking about this now because there is scarcity. The process leading to this scarcity that we had overlooked is the consequences of the action we are facing right now.
“It is a huge security risk and the productivity in the economy is being affected, with people wasting man-hours at service stations,” he stated.
Mr Esele also identified poor implementation of laws governing activities in the sector as another factor that had contributed to the fuel scarcity.
“Our institutions are weak. Institutions are weak because people are not respecting the laws that set them up.
“They are more of individuals. And the other part is that so many things exchange hands.
“You can’t call the marketers to order when all your products are imported.
“They have monopoly.
“Until we have refineries here, we do not have so much control over what the marketers do,” he explained.
The former TUC President expressed optimism that the incoming government would be able to tackle the issues in the petroleum sector, bringing serenity to the sector he said had so much sharp practices going on.
“One thing about the President-elect (General Muhammadu Buhari) is that there is a universal agreement that he is not corrupt. That gives him a high moral authority to make everybody fall in line with what he wants to do.”
He, however, warned that the whole of 2015 would be a tough year. “The price of crude has come down, workers’ salaries are delayed and 80 per cent revenue for the federation comes from crude oil sales. But if the incoming government could overcome the challenges he will be a hero.
“We must have to adjust to the current reality and the incoming administration should set a goal to stop importation of the product.
“If the process to remove subsidy is right with specific amount removed every year and people are seeing the benefit from the removal, it will go down well.
“The government should give Dangote the support he needs to make sure that his refinery comes up,” he stressed.