Liberia has suspended all petrol import licenses and will conduct performance reviews following a crippling fuel shortage in which importers were accused of inflating their reserves.
The government said it had sacked a deputy managing director of the state-owned company charged with ensuring consistent oil supplies on Friday, as well as suspending import licenses.
The West African country’s weeks-long petrol shortage ended last month, after having caused considerable disruption as commuters queued for hours at petrol pumps and businesses struggled to transport goods.
Fuel distributors and importers were accused of overstating their reserves to the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company (LPRC) — in charge of fuel supply — leading to shortages.
The problem was also compounded by an undredged port which prevented large tankers from docking and alleviating the crisis, government officials said at the time.
Liberian President George Weah said on Friday that the government was creating a special task force to investigate what went wrong.
Bobby Brown, the LPRC deputy managing director for operations, has been dismissed for “gross negligence and fraudulent activities,” the statement said.
Likewise, all petrol import licenses have been suspended pending case-by-case reviews, according to the statement.
The fuel shortage represented another blow for Weah, who has faced protests over poor living conditions in the impoverished country of some 4.8 million people.
The footballer-turned-president inherited an economy already devastated by back-to-back civil wars from 1989 to 2003, and by the 2014-2016 West Africa Ebola outbreak.
The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) has assured Nigerians that there wouldn’t be scarcity of petroleum products during the yuletide period.
Speaking during a stakeholders meeting in Niger on Friday, the DPR Area Controller, Engineer Abdullahi Jankara said the agency is working round the clock to monitor the distribution of products.
“You can go home and sleep with two of your eyes closed. We are not foreseeing any scarcity of petroleum products this December. And DPR is on top of its work to ensure that all the products that come to Niger State are monitored to the last point they ought to be.
“So the idea of somebody nursing an idea that there will be scarcity, sleep with your two eyes closed because there will be nothing like that,” he said.
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.”
Residents of Kaduna state have cried out to the government over the alleged refusal of some petrol marketers to sell the product at the approved pump price of N145 per litre.
Speaking to Channels Television’s correspondent in the state on Saturday, some residents said despite the increase in the daily supply of petrol to Kaduna state and environs by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), and the warning by the Department of Petroluem Resources (DPR) to sanction any marketer selling above N145 per litre, the product is still being sold as high as N190 per litre in some stations.
They also expressed frustration that despite not benefiting from lower global oil prices, they were still being short-changed by adjusted pumps by marketers.
Responding to the complaints, the Department of Petroleum Resources said that it was fully aware of the situation and the agency had caught and sanctioned over 10 petrol stations for various offences ranging from hoarding, under dispensing and selling above pump price.
DPR Zonal Controller in Kaduna state, Isa Tafida, who led the operation warned marketers to stick to the official pump price to make life easy for Nigerians or have their licenses withdrawn.
He said it was possible for oil marketers to sell petrol at the approved price and still make a decent profit, instead of indulging in sharp practices.
“You know that Hunkuyi is over one hundred kilometres away from Kaduna, so they are taking advantage of the remote location of this particular area to be selling above pump price.
“They were caught by our surveillance team selling a litre of petrol for N190 and they have about 13,000 litres underground selling to the public.
“So we locked up the station, now we are here to open it so that we can sell the product to the public.
“They are cheating members of the public on the price and also on the quantity. So I am calling on other marketers to know that they can’t take advantage of the location to hike the price, we are everywhere. There is no hidden place for any marketer to sell above pump price and we won’t catch him. Apart from sealing the station, the company must also pay a penalty of N100,000 per pump,” he said.
While relative stability gradually returns and queues at filling stations are reduced, many believe that one major to way to bring a stop to the issues is for the government to revive the country’s refineries.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) says it has programmed to bring in two cargoes of petrol per day for the rest of February to boost supply.
NNPC Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Mr Ndu Ughamadu, disclosed this in a statement issued by him on Thursday in Abuja.
He said the decision was part of the measures taken to keep Nigeria wet with petrol and eradicate the fuel queues that have resurfaced in some cities.
According to Ughamadu, each of the two cargoes is 50 million litres, making a total of 100 million litres that will be brought in per day for the rest of the month to increase supply and replenish strategic reserves.
In a bid to enhance fuel supply, he revealed that 45 million litres of petrol were discharged from ships into jetties across the country on Wednesday.
“Prior to the fresh 45 million litres discharge, there were 324 million litres of petrol on land and 432 million litres in marine storage, making a total of 756 million litres – enough to last for 22 days at 35 million daily consumption rate,” the statement said.
The jetties that received the 45 million litres shipments include Nacj, Apapa; Bop, Apapa; Techo Jetty, Lagos; Dutchess, Oghara; Vine Jetty, Calabar; Chipet Jetty, Lagos; and ECM Jetty, Calabar.
The NNPC spokesman also revealed steps taken by the corporation to ensure efficient distribution of petrol to depots in the hinterland.
In addition to massive trucking arrangement already in place, he said the Nigerian Pipeline and Storage Company (NPSC), a midstream subsidiary of the NNPC, has been mandated to fix relevant pipelines to facilitate seamless pumping.
The corporation has assured Nigerians that with the measures in place, the fuel queues being experienced in some cities would soon be a thing of the past.
The Senate has ordered the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to bring an end to the lingering fuel crisis in the country within the next seven days.
The Senate gave the order on Thursday following a presentation by the NNPC Group Managing Director, Dr Maikanti Baru, before the Joint National Assembly Committee on Petroleum Downstream in Abuja (on Wednesday).
Mr Baru informed the lawmakers that if the activities of the fuel truck diverters and smugglers were left unchecked, it would be absolutely difficult to guarantee round-the-clock availability of petrol throughout the country.
He added that the sudden and unnatural shock in fuel consumption to record levels has over-stretched the Direct-Sale-Direct-Supply (DSDP) crude for product supply arrangement which was originally based on 35 million per day petrol consumption pattern.
Furthermore, he suggested that with the current unprecedented average daily fuel evacuation of 55 million litres since December 1, 2017, to date, it was imperative for the security agencies to close-in on the smuggling syndicates who were cashing in on the obvious petrol price differentials between Nigeria and neighboring countries to make illicit profits.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has raised alarm over the sustained nefarious activities of some cross-border fuel smuggling syndicates and hoarders in the country.
The Corporation also noted that such activities have so far impeded its efforts to sanitise the fuel supply and distribution matrix across Nigeria.
NNPC Group Managing Director, Dr Maikanti Baru, said this on Wednesday in a presentation before the Joint National Assembly Committee on Petroleum Downstream in Abuja.
He informed the lawmakers that if the activities of the fuel truck diverters and smugglers were left unchecked, it would be absolutely difficult to guarantee round-the-clock availability of petrol throughout the country.
Baru added that the sudden and unnatural shock in fuel consumption to record levels has over-stretched the Direct-Sale-Direct-Supply (DSDP) crude for product supply arrangement which was originally based on 35 million per day petrol consumption pattern.
He lamented that with the current unprecedented average daily fuel evacuation of 55 million litres since December 1, 2017, to date, it was imperative for the security agencies to close-in on the smuggling syndicates who were cashing in on the obvious petrol price differentials between Nigeria and neighboring countries to make illicit profits.
The NNPC boss explained further that apart from straining the ability of the Corporation to sustain the prevailing 100 per cent petrol importation in the face of increasing cost, the current situation was impacting negatively on NNPC’s resources for servicing Joint Venture Cash-Call and other obligations.
To sustain adequate supply of petroleum products and national energy security, he, however, stress the need for the Federal Government to provide flush volumes in January and March 2018.
He also advised government to create an enabling environment for other oil marketing companies to participate in the importation of petroleum products.
Baru opined that supply should be doubled in order to raise the fuel sufficiency template back to the 30 days threshold from the current 15 days, thereby bringing in at least two vessels per day for 20 days.
He also informed the committee that the Corporation would require additional funding outside the DSDP regime to achieve this.
On the prevailing fuel scarcity, he said measures put in place include engagement of the Nigerian Navy, Federal Road Safety Corps and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to improve truck movement among others.
The NNPC GMD added that in addition to the regular DSDP monthly programmed deliveries, the NNPC imported 12 cargoes – nine in December 2017 and three in January 2018.
In his response, Chairman of the NASS Joint Committee, Senator Kabiru Marafa, directed the NNPC to resolve the situation within seven days.
Baru’s presentation was contained in a statement signed by the NNPC Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Mr Ndu Ughamadu.
The Director-General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, Muda Yusuf, has suggested privatisation of Nigeria’s oil industry explaining why the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, should become a private agency.
The economist said this on Monday when he appeared as a guest on Channels Television Breakfast Programme, Sunrise Daily. He claimed that the NNPC is crippled with structure and governance irregularity and the model needs to be reviewed to disconnect it from the Federal Government.
“There is serious inefficiency in that sector (the NNPC) and it is something that is typical of a government parastatal. When you have something as strategic as the oil and gas and you leave that to the bureaucrats to be managing, you are going to have problems.
“We need to revisit the entire model. We have to disconnect the NNPC from the government. It has to be a private enterprise competing with other private enterprises so that we can have a competitive environment. That is when we can have the benefit of what we should have,” he said.
Yusuf also explained further that the privatisation of the oil sector is the way out incessant fuel scarcity adding that private investors will reduce problems currently experienced in the oil sector.
“This will attract more investment and allow private sectors to invest in refineries and create more jobs. It will reduce the problem of oil smuggling as well,” he said.
Government agencies according to the economist are characterised by irregularities which he said is why there is a need for privatisation to create room for competition.
“How many government institutions have you seen being run efficiently and sustainably? This is something that the private sector can run properly. It (Nigeria’s oil sector) is being run by bureaucrats.
“How do you run an oil producing country when there is no private investment in refineries? Licenses have been issued to private individuals for almost five years and nothing is happening.
“The best thing is for the government to get out of the entire (oil) business and allow the private sector to set up refineries, to import and have a regulatory framework.”
Speaking concerning fuel price hike, a challenge which the consumer is always confronted with, Yusuf said the interest of the consumer can only be protected in a competitive environment.
“The best way to protect the average person against price (hike) is to introduce competition. That is the best protector of the interest of the consumer in any space. If you don’t have competition, the consumer will suffer, eventually.”
President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, says the passage of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) by the House of Representatives on Wednesday, following the Senate’s passage of the Bill last May, represents a historic milestone in Nigeria.
In a video address posted on his Facebook page, Saraki explained that the PIGB will help to address the perennial scarcity of fuel in the country, once it becomes law.
“Yesterday, after nearly two decades of back-and-forth, near-misses and “near-passages,” the Eight National Assembly finally reached a milestone with the passage of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill — otherwise known as PIGB. This is historic,” a statement from his Media Office on Thursday.
He added, “Many of you will recall that in May 2017, the Senate took the first step in this direction, and yesterday, the House of Representatives did the same by passing this Bill that is aimed at modernizing the Petroleum Industry and overhauling the entire system – to create a conducive business environment for petroleum industry operations.
“The PIGB will also promote openness and transparency in the industry — by clarifying the rules, processes, and procedures that govern the oil and gas sector. This should eliminate, or at worse, reduce corruption significantly and make the sector more efficient and more productive.
“Most important, with the ongoing fuel scarcity in many parts of the country, Nigerians should know that the PIGB, once it becomes law, will help alleviate those issues that lead to scarcity, such as the limited supply of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS); the poor import planning schedule that leads to fuel importation constraints; the corruption, diversion and smuggling — that leads to artificial scarcity; and the absence of deregulation in the sector.”
Beyond praising the passage of the PIGB, the Senate is committed and determined to meet the expectations of Nigerians, according to Dr Saraki.
He believes the Senate has demonstrated the will and capacity to deliver on their key promises aimed at rebuilding the national economy and improving the standard of living of the people through its activities.
The Ogun State Government has set up a Task Force with the mandate to monitor effective distribution of petrol towards bringing an end to the scarcity of the product in the state within 48-hours.
Inaugurating the committee in Abeokuta, the state capital the Secretary to the State Government, Mr Taiwo Adeoluwa, described the fuel situation as worrisome saying, government had been interfacing with relevant stakeholders particularly the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to address the anomaly since it started.
“Government has been engaging the NNPC in Abuja and Mosimi to ensure relief and we have decided to take a step further to wipe out queues and logjam in our stations. The task force is set up to proactively oversee the issue of fuel supply and find solution to the lingering problem within the next 48 hours,” he said.
He expressed optimism that with the setting up of the Task Force made up of men of the Department of State Service (DSS), Nigeria Police, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, (NSCDC), Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), the Oil and Gas Trade Associations as well as public and civil servants, the hardship occasioned by the current scarcity would soon be over.
In response, Chairman of the Task Force, a Director in the State Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Mr Kayode Ogunti, thanked the state government for the opportunity to serve, assuring that the team would work assiduously to meet the 48-hour deadline.
The Federal Government has allayed the fear of purported increment in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), popularly known as petrol, from N145 per litre.
Addressing reporters on Friday in Abuja, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, asked Nigerians to ignore such reports with an assurance that fuel pump price remains unchanged.
He also criticised those circulating the speculations saying they were being unfair to Nigerians following the difficulty they had gone through during the yuletide.
“We are not increasing price from N145,” said Kachikwu. “I thought we should make this very clear, this is not a matter for speculation; anybody who does speculation is not being helpful to Nigerians.”
“They’ve gone through a very difficult Christmas period. We are working night and day to try and find solutions,” he added.
The minister further said the fuel crisis should not be politicised but rather, the people should support the government’s effort to ensure the nation overcomes the challenge.
He said: “It is not a political issue, people should step out of that goalpost. We want to provide succour to Nigerians, we want to provide product at N145 – that is the presidential mandate, that is the Federal Executive Council mandate; nobody is having a deliberation on that.”
Kachikwu also briefed journalists on the issues discussed in the past few days at the stakeholders’ meeting which was convened to find a lasting solution to Nigeria’s fuel challenges.
“The essence of our meeting yesterday (Thursday) and the essence of the committee’s meeting which began a few days ago, is to find mechanisms to ensure that queues do not come back to Nigeria,” he said.
“That there is a wetting of all the stations so there’s product available every time for Nigerians, that private marketers who had pulled out of participation – that we deal with their problems so that they can participate effectively in the supply of refined petroleum products in the country; all within the parameters of the N145 pump price,” he added.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has warned the All Progressives Congress (APC) led government not to contemplate any increase in the pump price of Premium Motors Spirit (PMS), popularly known as petrol.
The party gave the warning on Friday in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan.
They said any decision to increase the price of petrol from the already ‘exorbitant’ 145 naira per litre would be completely unacceptable.
The PDP also alleged that the lingering fuel scarcity witnessed in the country was only a ploy by the APC to justify the intended hike of petroleum prices.
They further criticised the payment of subsidy on fuel by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), questioning why Nigerians were not told who the beneficiaries were and the amount involved.
Read statement below;
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Friday told the APC Federal Government to perish the thoughts of hiking the per litre price of fuel from the already exorbitant N145 per litre, saying such would not only be criminal but inhuman and completely unacceptable.
The party said investigations have shown that the Federal Government has been lying to Nigerians on oil-related issues while using the NNPC to bandy figures with intentions to arrive at APC’s predetermined agenda to increase the price of fuel.
The PDP further stated that the lingering fuel crisis and its attendant black-market costs were only a ploy by the APC to justify their intended hike of petroleum prices.
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement on Friday said the APC Government has completely become numbed to the sufferings of Nigerians to the extent that it no longer care in imposing more hardship on our people.
The party said instead of putting more burden on the people, the APC Government should come out clear on sleazes in the oil sector under its watch, particularly the shady oil subsidy payouts and illegal lifting of N1.1 trillion worth of crude using unregistered companies.
Recalling that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had in December informed Nigerians that the NNPC has been paying subsidy on fuel, the PDP said the Federal Government has refused to tell Nigerians who the beneficiaries are, the amount involved and who authorised the payment, because of the inherent corruption in the deal.
“Any increase in fuel pump price would be an indirect tax on Nigerians to fund APC interests and considering the pains Nigerians have suffered under this inept and unfeeling government, this intended hike will be callous.
“It is now clear to all that this APC- controlled government will never act in the interest of Nigerians. All the actions and policies of APC, in their close to three years in office, have been targeted against Nigerians and there are no signals that they will change.
“We, therefore, urge Nigerians to reject this plot to raise the prices of petroleum products even as they gear towards using the next election to end the misrule of the APC.