Considering how the ugly situation started and reached a crescendo, fuel scarcity that disrupted smooth celebration of 2017 Christmas in Nigeria could have been prevented. Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) blames petroleum marketers, who in turn censure the NNPC.
Unfortunately placing their defences’ side-by-side raises more unanswered questions. Whichever side the guilt pendulum swings, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), petroleum major marketers (PENGASSAN) and non-major oil marketers have acted suspiciously.
Before the present regime led by President Muhammadu Buhari came into power in 2015, the nation had been defrauded allegedly by certain major oil marketers, who were said to import fuel, which they diverted to sell in neighboring countries at higher prices and still claimed reimbursements of fuel subsidy to the tune of billions of Naira. As a result, there was no enough fuel at Nigerian filling stations, resulting in perpetual fuel queues, which brought the nation on its knees. Black marketers thrived. Petrol station attendants turned millionaires.
So removal of fuel subsidy by the present administration and fixing of fuel price at N145 per litre obviously shut the door against the fraudulent marketers as well as their connivers. And sanity reigns. But subsequent price rise in the world oil market set in motion another road towards fuel crisis in Nigeria, as profit margin of major oil marketers from the fixed pump price depleted. They started to pressurise for increase in pump price of Petroleum Motor Spirit (PMS) to between N160 and N200. President Buhari refused. So NNPC became major importer of fuel. That was the genesis of the problem.
The Unanswered Questions
Whether or not NNPC succeeded in importing enough fuel is beside the point, as before the nation’s union of petroleum and Gas workers announced and called off a national strike, there was no fuel scarcity. But that call for a strike acted as a whistle for petrol stations to start hording fuel.
1st Question: Why did the field officers of the nation’s petroleum regulatory agency’s (DPR) remain seated on their asses, waiting for the situation to reach the head before few of them began to clamp down on supposed culprits?
Could it be that they were paid not to act on time and some not to act at all? After all, they have seven zonal offices across Nigeria, namely: Lagos, Abuja, Portharcourt, Warri, Kaduna, Maiduguri and Owerri. There are also DPR field offices and officers in 17 cities across the country, including: Ibadan, Ilorin, Jos, Lokoja, Aba, Eket, Akure, Kano, Sokoto, Yola, Makurdi, Gombe, Enugu, Yenagoa, Katsina, Benin and Minna.
For instance, as at Saturday, 30th December 2017, when this write-up was being put together, there was no news of any petrol station being sanctioned in Ondo and Ekiti states, where marketers have all the while perpetrated fuel hording as much as, if not more than, they did in Abuja, Lagos, Kaduna and Ibadan, where DPR obviously acted too late.
Under the noses of DPR officials across the country, fuels were horded. Few that sold to motorists did so at prices ranging from N200 to N500. Early December, Motoring World even reported certain filling stations in certain parts of the country that actually adjusted their fuel pump meters to read higher prices. While others sold, using calculators. Yet there are DPR officials within such cities or nearby.
2nd question: If truly NNPC supplied enough fuel, why was it that most NNPC mega stations also remain shut? Were managements of NNPC filling stations also diverting fuel or hording it, as major oil marketers allegedly did?
3rd Question: If the NNPC’s side of the story is true, why are the stations caught in the act simply asked to pay fine? Is NNPC management indicating that an act of diverting fuel, hording fuel, thereby causing hardship to the entire citizens and setting back businesses not an act of economic sabotage? Of course, under the law, it is economic sabotage. So why are culprits simply fined rather than being tried and sentenced properly for economic sabotage? Certain legal commentators even likened economic sabotage to treason, “as it is capable of paralyzing the entire nation, as it virtually did during Christmas and capable of bringing down a sitting government, as it almost did in 2015.
Unless they do not live in Nigeria, DPR field officers would be aware that many filling stations that remained shut had fuel in their tanks. Many stations that sold to the public deliberately created artificial scarcity by shutting their entrance gates against motorists, using only one or two pumps, letting in vehicles in trickles, selling more into jerry cans, thereby activating long queues, which in turn make more motorists to panic. Worst, such stations stop selling before their normal closing time and, as DPR officials reportedly found out on Friday in Kaduna, sell to black marketers at night.
4th Question: All this while, since the DPR failed to perform their duties and following the claims and counter claims of NNPC and oil marketers, the federal government would have been expected to declare a state of emergency. For instance, history had it that when oil marketers years ago attempted to frustrate the government by refusing to lift fuel and sell to the public, the then British government declared a state of emergency. So the military took over fuel lifting, filled petrol stations and sold to the public, thereby quelling what would have been a national crisis. British government did the same thing with its military, when fire service when on strike.
So why did President Buhari not do something revolutionary in the interest of the people, who voted for him? After all, there is a military base in every state of the federation. As commander-in-chief of the Nigerian armed forces, why did not the president send the military out to search filling stations that refuse to sell fuel and if found to be hording fuel, arrest the owner to face trial as economic saboteurs?
From all indications, therefore, the crisis and suffering inflicted on Nigerian motorists could have been avoided, had the DPR done their jobs on time rather than sitting pretty in their 17 field offices across the country, only to start playing to the gallery before television cameras after the situation had reached the head. The president too could have acted sooner by engaging the military to fish out the “saboteurs”, if indeed claims of the NNPC are anything worth believing.
Happy New Year.
DPR ZONAL OFFICES IN NIGERIA
DPR: 5, Kofo Abayomi Street,Victoria Island, Lagos
DPR: 7, Sylvester Ugoh Crescent, Jabi,Abuja.
DPR:4 -9, Moscow Road. NNPC.Port Harcourt
DPR:19/21, Warri Sapele Road
DPR:24, Gobarau Road.GRA, Kaduna State
DPR: Bama Road, Sports Council.Maiduguri
DPR: 1, Chief Patrick Esomonu Avenue, Owerri, Imo State
DPR’S FIELD OFFICES IN NIGERIA
IBADAN: Mr. O. O. Olaonipekun
Department of Pet. Resources, No. 1, E. E. Nwanagu Close, State Hospital AreaRing Road, Ibadan,
Oyo State.Tel: 0805 649 7407
ILORIN: Mr. S.N Philip, Department of Pet. Resources,19A, Nupe Road, GRA. Ilorin,
Kwara State.Tel: 08150618402
JOS: Mr. D. Caesar, Department of Pet. Resources, 9, Wamba Rd. Tudun Wada,GRA, PMB 2152.
LOKOJA: Mr. A.O Jokodola, Department of Pet. Resources, No. 6, Aniebo Quarters, off Ganaja Rd, Lokoja, Kogi State.Tel: 08150618402
ABA: Mr. P. O. Ezemandu, Department of Pet. Resources, Spring Towers. 229, Aba/ Owerri, Rd, Abia State.Tel: 08055205704
EKET: Mr. B. Nkanga, Department of Pet. Resources, 6, Ekpene Ukpa Avenue, Eket, Akwa Ibom State.Tel: 08056696566
AKURE: Mr. M.A Oseni, Department of Pet. Resources,Plot B & C, Ondo State Industrial Layout,
Ilesha / Owo Exp. Way Akure, Ondo State.Tel: 08056497117
KANO:Mr.BUBA ABUBAKAR, Department of Pet. Resources,146, Shehu Kazaure Road, Hotoro GR.A. Kano State.Tel: 08070690624
SOKOTO: Mr. M.D. Makera, Department of Pet. Resources,No. 3 Sultan Ibrahim Dasuki, Road, Sokoto State.Tel: 08056696560
YOLA: Mr Alaku, Ahmed Mohammed, Department of Pet. Resources,39, Police Barracks Road, Karewa New Extension,GRA, Jimeta Yola. Tel: 08058298831/08030776399/08023035884
MAKURDI: Mr. B. Ewuga, Department of Pet. Resources,Plot Bn 031, Ankpa Quarters,GRA, Makurdi, Benue State.Tel: 08023021803
GOMBE: Mr. Z.M. Aji, Department of Pet. Resources, Alh. Aliyumuh’d Plaza, Bauchi Road. Bauchi State.Tel: 0807 069 0633
ENUGU: Mr. P.I. Ijeh, Department of Pet. Resources, Plot 1, Enugu/ PH Exp. Way, near NNPC Mega Station, Enugu State.Tel: 0807 069 0611
YENAGOA: Mr. A. E Antai, Department of Pet. Resources,Along Isaac Boro Expressway ,
By School Road Junction, Okutukutu-Epie, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State,Tel: 08070690617
KATSINA: Mr. M.A. Sani, Department of Pet. Resources, Katsina State Secretariat, Old, Ministry of Works, Housing, Block, Katsina State.Tel: 08070690635
BENIN: Mr. Menard Oraifo, Department of Pet. Resources,6A, Oghosa Crsecent, off Ihama Road, GRA, Benin City.Tel : 08113936390
MINNA: Mr. Abdullahi Isah, Department of Pet. Resources, Kure House, No A6Muazu Mohammad, Road, Minna, Niger State. Tel : 08056696578