As part of moves to find a lasting solution to the recurrent fuel shortages in the country, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, may see a significant reduction in its import allocation beginning from the second quarter of this year.
This comes as the corporation, yesterday, said it loaded out about 1,180 trucks approximately, 41 million litres, nationwide, of which Lagos had about 462 trucks, Abuja 129, and the balance to the rest of the country.
A top management source at the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, told newsmens in confidence that the decision followed a stakeholders’ meeting held at the agency’s headquarters in Abuja, as it became apparent that NNPC could not meet the 78 percent quota allocation it got for quarter One.
The source said: “Since it became obvious that NNPC cannot meet the quota allocated to it to import petroleum products, there was a stakeholders’ meeting on February 23 to discuss the issue.
All present agreed that PPPRA should free some more allocations in favour of the major and independent marketers who have the capacity to import.”
Major and independent marketers have continued to criticise the lopsided Q1 imports allocation, in which about 18 allottees got 22 percent of the quarter’s allocation, a development they argued was a return of downstream monopoly in favour of NNPC.
However, the Executive Director, Commercials, Pipelines and Products Marketing Company, PPMC, the marketing arm of the NNPC, Mr. Justin Ezeala, denied any knowledge of such agreements.
Ezeala told Vanguard on the telephone that contrary to reports that NNPC is unable to meet its import allocation quota, it had, in fact, been importing over 98 percent of the products available in the country. He said: “I am not aware of any moves for such a reduction in import quota.
Remember that in the past we used to do like 48 percent, it was increased to 78 percent because NNPC is the provider of last resort. “As I speak to you, we loaded out about 1,180 trucks, approximately 41 million litres nationwide, of which Lagos had about 462 trucks, Abuja 129, and the balance to the rest of the country.
This 41 million litres is more than the daily national demand. “As you know, because of foreign exchange issues, very few marketers are able to bring in products. Even though we have tried, with the help of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to support them with access to forex, it hasn’t made much difference.
“If anything, NNPC/PPMC is bringing in over 98 percent, if not 100 per cent of the products currently available in the country because the issues responsible for their inability to import have escalated because banks are not willing to open letters of credit, LCs, for marketers to import.”
Ezeala argued that it is on account of these challenges that NNPC/PPMC introduced the one cargo daily policy in order to meet daily national demand estimated at about 40 million litres, as well as loading 24 hours non-stop to end the shortages.
Although he noted that one cargo is equivalent of 40 million barrels, he said NNPC/PPMC will do everything in its powers to meet the daily cargo policy, adding that about six cargoes came in over the weekend.
He explained further: “This is why you see that more stations now have products, and the queues are beginning to thin out. We can do the daily cargo thing.
After all, in December, we brought in about 25 cargoes, in January about 24, added to what other marketers brought in. We were doing fine. “But with the current forex challenges, that is why we decided to bring in a cargo per day, pending when other marketers are able to bring in products.”
Meanwhile, the PPPRA source denied that its workers’ strike, which ended on Monday, had anything to do with the current scarcity as being alleged by marketers. This is just as the National Association of Road Transport Owners, NARTO, dissociated its members from responsibility over the fuel scarcity.
The PPPRA source told Vanguard that “the strike embarked upon to protest the imposition of an outsider as the executive secretary, could not have hindered petroleum products distribution, as the strike did not affect the field workers, only those at the headquarters.”
Also speaking in defence of his members, the NARTO President, Dr. Kassim Bataiya, told Vanguard on telephone that those alleging diversion are merely giving excuses. A visibly angry Bataiya, said: “They should just stop using diversion as excuse and blaming transporters.
If government wants to make products available it will make them available. “If they say some people are diverting the products, then let them fix their pipelines, or is it the transporters too that are vandalizing the pipelines? Why can’t they fix the pipelines and put proper security to guard them against vandalism?”
He argued that government and NNPC must get serious with making petroleum products available for Nigerians by first fixing the refineries and getting them to work. “As consumption is increasing daily, so is the capacity of our refineries depleting daily.
They have given too many excuses – no products, no refineries, no subsidy, and now no foreign exchange to import the products. Since the refineries are not working. they should just come out clean and tell us the truth,” he maintained.
Courtesy of the vanguardngr.com