5 Things We Learned From The Senate’s 5-Hour Investigative Public Hearing on Fuel Scarcity
By Deji Ogunleye
On Thursday, the Senate Committee on Downstream Petroleum, Chaired by Senator Kabiru Marafa, held a 5-hour public hearing to determine the cause of the fuel scarcity in the country that began in December.
The investigative hearing was convened, after a directive by the President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, to the Committee members, to cut short their ongoing recess, embark on oversight visits to petrol stations across the nation, and meet with the Minister of Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Maikanti Baru, and other stakeholders in the sector. In case you missed anything, these are some of the major highlights from the public hearing:
The Need for Nigeria to Fix its Refineries: The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, stated at the Public Hearing that the primary solution to mitigate against future fuel scarcities is for Nigeria to fix its refineries. The Minister stated that working refineries would help to resolve the demand shortages and prevent Nigerians from experiencing further hardship during the festive period.
‘Rumours’ on Social Media Led to Hoarding and Panic-Buying, Which Led to and Eventual Scarcity: The GMD of NNPC, Mr. Maikanti Baru, stated that speculation and fake news in the media greatly contributed to the hoarding of fuel by distributors and panic-buying by the public, which eventually led to the scarcity that the nation experienced. The GMD said: “News in the media, especially social media was one of the reasons why some marketers were hoarding the products. We tackled that by re-assuring Nigerians that there is enough of the product.”
The Need for the Private Sector to Get More Involved in Nigeria’s Petroleum Industry: Thomas Olawore, the Executive Secretary of the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), stated that there was a need for members of the private sector to be given increased roles to play in Nigeria’s petroleum industry. Mr. Olawore also emphasized that the practice of government agencies shutting down defaulting petroleum retail outlets was counter-productive. Olawore underscored the importance of the Petroleum Industry Bill, which is currently making its way through the National Assembly. “The end result should be deregulation,” he said, “So that in the long run the private sector can come in and build more refineries.”
The Need for Nigeria’s Security Agencies to Pay More Attention to the Smuggling Our of Petroleum Products: Chairman of the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Mr. Kassim Bataiya, stated that the diversion of petroleum products happened as a collaboration of forces. He highlighted the fact that all the security agencies in the country needed to go back to the drawing board to look at how smuggling of petroleum products could be prevented — as it also contributed to the scarcity experienced at the filling stations. “If the customs can prevent the smuggling of bags of rice into the country, they should be able to prevent the smuggling of petroleum products out of the country,” Mr. Bataiya said.
The Fact That N800 Billion is Being Owned To Oil Marketers: Mr. Dapo Abiodun, the Chairman of DAPPMA, the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association, stated that in order to have an effective petroleum industry, the marketers of petroleum products could not be taken out of the equation. He stated that the marketers needed to assume their rightful role of importing 70%, while NNPC focused on importing only 30%. He also revealed that the federal government currently owes N800 billion due to delayed subsidy payments which have accrued significant interest.