As part of measures to end the current nationwide fuel scarcity, the Federal Government has approved the setting up of a 14-man steering committee to address the challenge. The committee will be chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari, while the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, will serve as the alternate chairman. Other members of the committee include the Minister of Finance; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum Resources; National Economic Adviser to the President; and Director-General, Department of State Services.
Among other things, the committee will ensure the transparent and efficient supply and distribution of petroleum products across the country. The committee will also ensure the management of the national strategic stock, the rehabilitation of the refineries and efficient tracking of petroleum products to ascertain daily national consumption as well as end smuggling.
Besides the plan to constitute the steering committee, the government is liaising with operators in the midstream and downstream oil sector to develop the strategic stock for petrol to ensure uninterrupted supply across the country. The strategic stock will serve as a buffer against any shortfall in product supply to any part of the country.
While the plan to set up a steering committee to end the fuel scarcity is commendable, we think that the government should urgently saturate the market with the product. Making the product available will curb the current hoarding as well as its high cost. It is sad that a litre of petrol is reportedly sold at between N240 and over N550 in many cities across the country. As the fuel scarcity lingers, Nigerians are subjected to avoidable hardship and deprivation.
Unfortunately, the government has not been forthcoming with the cause or causes of the current fuel scarcity. As usual, it has been a blame game and buck passing between concerned government agencies and product marketers. Again, the government has also not come clear on the subsidy regime and full-time deregulation of the oil sector. The situation has created an opportunity for unpatriotic marketers to hoard the product and hike the price at will.
Before the Christmas, the Department of State Services (DSS) reportedly issued an ultimatum to marketers to restore normal supply to all parts of the country. In spite of that order, the situation has worsened. As against the official rate of N169.50 per litre, the product is being sold at between N185 and N550 per litre depending on location and source.
With the rising pump price of petrol, Nigerians have been thrown into hardship as businesses and households that depend on generators for power supply are increasingly finding it difficult to get the product. Similarly, commuters are subjected to the ripple effects of the fuel scarcity as a result of rising transport fares in major cities.
The scarcity of petroleum products can be traced to reliance on importation. With high cost of the dollar, it will be difficult for the importers to bring in the products. The inefficiency of the nation’s four refineries has not helped matters. The inadequate investments in the downstream sector can also explain the perennial fuel scarcity and the attendant long queues at filling stations across the country. Despite the billions of naira spent on Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) of our four refineries annually, Nigerians are still battling with fuel scarcity.
We urge the government to quickly end the lingering fuel scarcity before it becomes a national embarrassment. Nigeria is among the world’s leading petroleum producers. The persistent fuel scarcity is a sad commentary on the nation. With barely a month to the 2023 general election, every effort must be made to end the scarcity of petroleum products.
The regulators in the oil sector need to look critically into the distribution and marketing chains of the petroleum products. Any marketer found hoarding the products or selling above approved prices, should be dealt with accordingly. Let petrol be made available to all parts of the country and at affordable cost. There must be an end to importation of petroleum products for price stability and product supply. Let new refineries be built and existing ones refurbished.