…As Senate probes fuel allocation mess
•Flings away reporters’ recorders, cameras
From ADETUTU FOLASADE-KOYI, Abuja
Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, yesterday, barred reporters covering the Senate from recording verbal proceedings of her meeting with the Petroleum Resources (Downstream) Committee. The minister, who arrived late to the meeting fixed for 3p.m, blatantly turned down all entreaties by reporters to record the proceedings of the meeting convened by the Senator Magnus Abe-led committee.
The meeting, Daily Sun learnt, was to proffer solutions to the perennial fuel scarcity across the country and disparity in the price of PMS. Meanwhile, three reporters had sought to have the minister on tape during the questions and answer session but the security details attached to her, seized their tape recorders and threw them away. When the matter was brought to the notice of the committee chairman, Senator Abe, ordered the minister’s security details to behave or be arrested.
By then, the minister had stepped out of the meeting. But when she returned to her seat, some reporters again, attempted to record the minister’s response to questions posed to her by the committee on the state of the promised Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) of the country’s oil refineries.
The attempt also met a brickwall as her security details, again, prevented the newsmen from recording the session. At that juncture, Senator Abe intervened and directed the reporters to position their recorders to record the minister. Rather than allow the midgets to be placed in front of her, the minister, this time around, seized the midget, belonging to the Daily Trust reporter and threw it away. The minister muttered that she wouldn’t want the voice recorders placed directly in front of her.
Another female reporter was outrightly blocked from placing her midget before the minister. It was that point that some newsmen got angry and stormed out of the meeting. Earlier, Senator Abe had queried the management of the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC) for ceding its power of allocation of petroleum products to oil unions in its locations.
This practice, the committee noted, had led to the disparity in PMS pricing across the country with some filling stations selling at N97 while others sell at between N110 and N115. This, the committee said was unacceptable. Abe said: “ Go back and address the problem at the depots; bring some sort of order to the loading points.
When we went on sight of some of the refineries and the loading depots, some of the marketers complained bitterly about how unions have taken over the duty of the PPMC. “Some have been on queues since 2011 yet only NNPC trucks are allowed to load products. Human beings should not be treated like that. Check how the allocations are being done because we heard, in the course of our oversight that allocations are being done by the unions.” “I wonder how and why you ceded your powers to the union because you are ultimately responsible…We need to see changes please. “Bring order to loading points. Look at the template on how products are being distributed…Ceding powers to unions is not the situation. There must be a review. Changes must be brought to the system…”
Meanwhile, Major Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) representative, Mr. Olawore has unveiled the cabal which operates at depots. The hidden costs inputed into petroleum products, it was learnt, are coordinated principally by security agents and the unions. Olawore confirmed to the committee that there are hidden costs which are pushed “There are hidden costs. There’s no way 5,000 people would be chasing small volume of products and certain people won’t want to play fast.
Even from people complaining to you, they have their own people collecting from these security agencies who along the line, collect money from them. “You go home with official receipt collected from the PPMC and other receipts. For major marketers, the chain is very short because of our name and power, not many people come to us…” PPMC Managing Director, Haruna Momoh told the committee that 774 vandalized points between Enugu and Aba alone have been identified. He said a deadline of December 25 has been set for repairs of the pipelines.