President Muhammadu Buhari spoke for the first time yesterday on the excruciating nationwide fuel scarcity, expressing his sympathy for Nigerians who are enduring weeks of needless queues at filling stations.
In a statement personally signed by him and posted on his twitter handle, @Mbuhari #FuelScarcity, he said the development was regrettable.
“I am being regularly briefed, especially on the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC’s) interventions to ensure that there is enough petrol available during this period and beyond. The fuel scarcity being experienced nationwide is regrettable. I sympathise with all Nigerians on having to endure needless fuel queues,” he said.
The president said he had the NNPC’s assurance that the situation would improve significantly over the next few days, “as new shipments and supplies are distributed across the country. “I have also directed the regulators to step up their surveillance and bring an end to hoarding and price inflation by marketers.
“Let me also assure that the relevant agencies will continue to provide updates on the situation. I thank you all for your patience and understanding.”
Struck by the pains following the fuel scarcity, Nigerians have taken to social media to call on President Buhari, who is also the Minister of Petroleum, to address the issue.
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Buhari yesterday came under attack from the main opposition, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose. In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP said the nation’s economic hardship was largely caused by “sheer incompetence, gross insensitivity and shambolic policies of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government.”
The PDP said it was disheartening that Nigerians could not merrily celebrate the yuletide due to the biting economic hardship worsened by an acute fuel shortage. It described the nation’s economic situation as a national embarrassment, which “cannot be glossed over with deceit, lies and propaganda.”
The PDP, however, urged Nigerians to overcome the very sordid situation by rallying around one another in true love as epitomised in the birth and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. The party said: “Indeed, this is the worst yuletide ever. There is no way one can sugarcoat the fact that the anguish Nigerians face today is because of the incompetence of the APC Government, which has also amply demonstrated that it does not care about the welfare and happiness of the citizens.”
The opposition party lamented that many families are completely stranded while much more could no longer afford basic needs. “Nigerians have become ravaged by economic hardship because the APC-led Federal Government has abandoned them and refused to channel the abundant resources available in the nation for the good of the people.
Instead, they are heartlessly diverting such resources for their selfish political purposes while the people suffer.”
Similarly, Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose of the PDP said it was alarming that, under the APC government of Buhari, 7.74million Nigerians lost their jobs within the last two years. The governor said that instead of creating the three million jobs it promised Nigerians yearly, the APC government has created unemployment. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has said in its latest unemployment report that 4.07 million Nigerians became unemployed between January and September this year. Also, the NBS said 3.67 million Nigerians became jobless last year.
In a statement yesterday by Fayose’s Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, the governor said he has been vindicated on his position that Buhari lacks the required capacity to perform. “By now, it should be clear to all Nigerians that President Buhari does not have anything to offer Nigerians other that sufferings and hardships,” the Ekiti governor said.
Governor Fayose in his reaction to the NBS report said: “One of the many effects of the president’s lack of the required mental and intellectual capacities to tackle the nation’s economic problems is the collapse of several companies and loss of 3.67 million jobs in 2016 and another 4.07 million jobs in 2017.
“Today, under a government that promised change, Nigerians cannot even celebrate Christmas and New Year in peace because of the fuel scarcity orchestrated by the Buhari government.”
To reduce the effects of the current fuel scarcity in Ekiti State, Fayose yesterday directed that 80 percent of the petrol in the Government Fuel Dump be released to two petrol stations in Ado Ekiti, to be sold to the public at a controlled price of N145 per litre.
The governor, who made this known through his verified Twitter Handle, said: “The maximum a single individual can buy will be 25 litres. I cannot be keeping fuel in the Government House Dump while our people keep suffering,” he said. He said: “The APC-led Federal Government has turned the joy of Nigerians to groaning. People cannot travel to meet their families because of the wickedness of this APC government.
“This hardship is too much for Nigerians to bear at this time and it is obvious that President Muhammadu Buhari does not have a solution to the fuel scarcity,” Fayose remarked. Reacting to the PDP’s position, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr Bolaji Abdulahhi said “almost every administration in the country had had to deal with this (fuel) problem.”
According to him, “What the current situation demonstrates is that we still haven’t found a lasting solution to the challenge of fuel scarcity as a country. As a party, we are confident that President Buhari will solve this problem. The last two years under him bears testimony to this. We can only continue to plead with Nigerians to bear with the Federal Government.”
For the PDP, Abdulahhi said: “We can’t recollect them advising previous presidents to resign in this kind of situation or any situation. Presidents are in office to solve problems. President Buhari will solve this one too.
“We, however, understand why PDP is seeing an opportunity for themselves to score political points with the hardship Nigerians are going through. Therefore, they won’t want it to end. But it will end very soon.”
Also expressing concern over the fuel scarcity, the Aare Ona Kankanfo-designate, Otunba Gani Adams, said it was unfortunate that the country, over the years has not been able to find a concrete solution to the challenge of steady fuel supply, particularly at this period of Yelutide when people were supposed to be rejoicing.
Adams, however, urged the APC government and President Buhari to reconsider their stand on the popular demand for restructuring of the country to true federalism, which he said would be a panacea to all protracted challenges Nigeria has been going through.
According to him: “I sympathised with President Buhari because he is sitting and ruling on a system that would eventually affect his good image and of course he is already being affected within the last two and a half years he came into power.
“My message to Nigeria and particularly to President Buhari is that Nigeria must be restructured if we really mean to progress.”The scarcity in the last two weeks has given rise to the proliferation of “black markets’ with the product selling for as high as N400 per litre and transport fares rising by as much as 100 percent.
Exonerating self from the lingering fuel crises, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) National Publicity Officer, Fortune Obi urged the DPR to ensure strict sanctions for filling stations hoarding products. “Virtually all filling stations have petrol but they are not ready to sell so as to exploit the people,” he added.
On measures taken by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to ensure retail stations comply with regulated price of petrol, Zonal Operations Controller, Lagos, Wole Akinyosoye, said that it has come to the notice of the department that some depot owners are selling PMS to unlicensed bulk buyers and some retailers at prices above the normal pump price.
Meanwhile, Nigeria may soon go back to the era of subsidy on petrol, as some oil marketers are accused by government officials of deliberately hoarding products to create artificial scarcity and arm-twist government to resume fuel importation. The Guardian learnt from a reliable source that some big marketers were not happy with the fact that the NNPC is now the sole importer after the Federal Government scrapped subsidy.
The Group Managing Director of NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru, in a statement also blamed marketers, saying that the corporation has doubled the daily supply of premium motor spirit, from daily 700 trucks (about 27million-30million litres) per day supply to 80million litres per day since the current hiccup in the supply chain. Baru warned that any filling station found hoarding petrol would lose its entire products to motorists.
But the Executive Secretary, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) Thomas Olawore, told The Guardian that the marketers have not been importing products due to unpaid subsidy arrears. Olawore said that NNPC should be blamed for the scarcity.
According to him, the corporation lacks the capacity to import and distribute products to meet the country’s demand. He called on the Federal Government to ensure the prompt payment of the outstanding subsidy to enable marketers import products.
Also, the National Operations Controller, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Mike Osatuyi, said: “Petrol importation is now being handled by the NNPC and the marketers have not been importing due to the current oil prices, which has made it unprofitable for us to import. It is only the government that has the capacity to handle the difference and warehouse the subsidy. When the crude oil price hit $59 per barrel, we could not sell petrol again at N145 per litre.”
Despite promises by the NNPC that it is working assiduously to put the lingering crisis under control, consumers have continued to groan as the situation get worse. Even the NNPC Mega Stations visited by The Guardian at the weekend were shut down with the attendants claiming that they were out of stock.