At a time Nigerians are expecting respite from the pangs of the lingering fuel scarcity in the country, Minister of State for Petroleum, Mr. Ibe Kachikwu, has dashed their hopes, stating that the current queues at gas stations would persist till late May. The minister, who doubles as Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, added that he was not a magician to make the queues disappear overnight.
According to him, it is even a “magic” that the stations are still getting volume of products they dispense to the public, judging from the prevailing circumstances at NNPC. The minister also revealed that NNPC’s import rates had moved form 50 per cent to all-time rate of 100 percent, saying the 445,000 barrels allocated to crude swap now service 50 to 55 per cent importation of refined product. But giving a glimmer of hope on how to achieve lasting solution to the product scarcity, Kachikwu said government was working to beef up the reserves. He stated that when the refineries come on full stream, locally refined products would be left unsold in the reservoir to boost supply and availability of the products.
The minister was fielded questions from State House correspondents after leading officials of Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas, NUPENG, and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, to a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja,yesterday. He said: “One of the trainings I did not receive is that of a magician but I am working very hard to ensure some of these issues go away. And let’s be honest, for the five, six months, we have been here, NNPC has moved from a 50 percent importer of products to basically a 100 percent importer. And the 445,000 barrels that were allocated was to cover between 50 and 55 percent importation. So, it is quite frankly sheer magic that we even have some amount of products at the stations. We are looking to see how to get foreign exchange input. The President and I discussed extensively on how to get more crude directed at importation.
“His excellency will rather have less crude but have individuals in the society suffer less with inconveniences than have more crude and have them continue to suffer. So, we are going to put a new model to enable us increase the pace and actually get majors as part of the crew of those to bring in more products, so that the NNPC will sort of go back on the capacity of what it used to do and the majors will take over the balance of importation. I think if we do that, although I don’t want to put a time frame, but I will expect that over the next two months. Of course, you are aware the SAP programme begins in April. So, over the next two months, we should see quite frankly a complete elimination of this. Our strategy is that whatever is produced in the refineries will not go for sale. We are going to keep them in strategic reserve because the key problem here is that there is no reserve. Any time there is gap in supply, it goes off. So we are going to dedicate the next couple of months to moving all the products that we produce to strategic reserve so that we can pile up reserves in the nation and that will push up the reserves in the nation. Believe me, this is giving me and my team sleepless nights and we are working on it and we are committed to making this go away. Nigerians should please bear with us.”