The Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, on Wednesday said fuel scarcity may persist for two more months as oil produced in the refineries would not be sold but kept in a “strategic reserve”.
Addressing journalists after leading members of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) to meet withPresident Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Mr. Kachikwu said he had no “magic wand” to make fuel available overnight.
“One of the trainings I did not receive is that of a magician, but I am working very hard to ensure some of these issues go away,” said Mr. Kachikwu.
“And let’s be honest, for the five or six months we have been here, NNPC has moved from a 50 per cent importer of products to basically a 100 per cent importer.
“And the 445,000 barrels that were allocated was to cover between 50 and 55 percent importation.
“So it is quite frankly sheer magic that we even have the amount of product at the stations. We are looking to see how to get foreign exchange input. The president and I discussed extensively on how to get more crude directed at importation.
“His Excellency will rather have less crude but have individuals in the society suffer less with inconveniences than have more crude and have them continue to suffer.
“So we are going to put a new model to enable us increase the pace and actually get (oil) majors as part of the crew of those to bring in more products so that the NNPC will sort of go back to the capacity of what it used to do and the majors will take over the balance of importation.
“So over the next two months, we should see quite frankly a complete elimination of this.
“Our strategy is that whatever is produced in the refineries will not go for sale, we are going to keep them in strategic reserve.
“Because the key problem here is that there is no reserve. Any time there is a gap in supply, it goes off.
“So we are going to dedicate the next couple of months to moving all the products that we produce to strategic reserve so that we can pile up reserves in the nation and that will push up the reserves in the nation.
“Believe me, this is giving me and my team sleepless nights and we are working on it and we are committed to making this go away, Nigerians should please bear with us,” he told journalists after the meeting.
The meeting with the president is coming weeks after oil workers in an industrial action shut down operations of the NNPC for fear of job cuts following an announced restructuring of the corporation.
Mr. Kachikwu, who doubles as managing director of NNPC, said this was the first time the unions were meeting with the president to review some of the concerns in the oil industry to find solutions.
Some of the concerns, he said, included the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), fuel scarcity issue as well as the refineries for which “we are thankful we didn’t sell”.
According to him, the unions are also worried about the utilization of depots as well as all kinds of logistic issues that plague the oil industry.
“They are worried about job loss in the sector arising from the position of majors who feel that the economy is giving the rough end of the sticks and then try to whittle down staff.
“And so we are going to be working with the oil majors to ensure that we do not experience the kind of job loss that we are hearing has the potential to occur in the sector,” he added.
The national presidents of NUPENG and PENGASSAN, Igwe Achese and Olabode Johnson, told journalists that Mr. Buhari assured the unions that they would continue to be part of the ongoing restructuring in the sector.