The Senate on Thursday asked the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, to end the current scarcity of petrol within two weeks.
The upper chamber also directed the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Mrs. Jamila Soara, and heads of other agencies in the sector to ensure steady supply of the product in all filling stations across the country at the approved pump price.
Specifically, the Red Chamber threatened stiffer penalties against any Federal Government agency that failed to ensure that petrol, when supplied, was sold at a uniform price all over the country, as against the current discrepancies in prices in different parts of the country.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum Downstream, Senator Uche Ekwunife, stated this while addressing officials of the ministry, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Pipelines and Product Marketing Company, Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency and others, who came to explain to the committee the reasons for the persistent fuel scarcity.
The Senate had on Tuesday mandated the committee to urgently examine all the issues associated with the current scarcity of petroleum products in the country.
It was also asked to determine how the legislature would collaborate with the executive arm of government to bring lasting solutions that would prevent future fuel scarcity in the country, and report back in two weeks.
The directive followed a motion brought to the chamber by Senator Barau Jibrin and co-sponsored by 23 others on the need to urgently resolve the current fuel supply crisis.
Addressing the heads of the agencies, Ekwunife noted that what Nigerians needed now was an end to the problem and not to listen to stories from stakeholders.
She said, “Nigerians want to see the immediate end of this fuel scarcity and also the uniformity of the price of the product across the country. As a committee, our target is that scarcity and discrepancies in price must stop, and it must be done.
“Therefore, we are mandating the minister, the permanent secretary and other relevant agencies in the sector that fuel scarcity must stop in the next two weeks, and that petrol must be sold at the uniform price of N87 per litre everywhere in the country.”
The Managing Director, PPMC, Mrs. Esther Nnamdi-Ogbue, told the committee that the major problem disrupting fuel distribution in the country was vandalism of oil pipelines by criminals.
She noted that Nigeria lost about 531 million litres of petrol valued at N50bn to vandals between January and September this year.
Nnamdi-Ogbue also explained that sharp practices at petroleum products’ depots such as illegal charges and diversion of fuel by marketers were some of the factors that provoked the current scarcity and discrepancies in the pricing of the product.
She added that the sharp practices amounted to economic sabotage.
Nnamdi-Ogbue also explained that the PPMC had gone into collaboration with the Department of State Security and the Police to tackle the high level of sabotage in the sector.
She said the oil marketers were hoarding fuel, while security agents appeared helpless in the protection of pipelines.
The Executive Secretary, PPPRA, Mr. Ahmed Farouk, said the N413bn subsidy arrears requested for approval by President Muhammadu Buhari from the Senate had been underestimated by about N2bn.
According to Farouk, the outstanding subsidy payment for 2014 is N120.5bn, while that of this year is N294.4bn so far, making a total of N414.9bn.
He noted that the government was bringing in petrol at a landing cost of N100 per litre, while selling to consumers at N87 per litre, thereby subsidising the product with N13 per litre.