By Our Correspondents –
Apparently disturbed by the harsh condition the lingering fuel scarcity has imposed on Nigerians as they celebrate Christmas today, President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed regret over the unfortunate situation.
This year’s Christmas celebrations to mark the birth of Jesus Christ is a mix grill of excitement and despair, with many Nigerians marking the day at filling stations where they have been languishing on queues to buy fuel for their vehicles.
Despite assurances from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources that fuel queues will soon disappear, the situation has continued unabated, leaving commuters and motorists stranded.
A cross section of Nigerians had criticised the president for keeping silent since the fuel scarcity started.
But President Buhari yesterday sought understanding from Nigerians, even as he ordered a clampdown on hoarding of petrol at filling stations across the country.
In a statement personally signed by the president, which was posted on his verified twitter handle, Buhari said the scarcity was regrettable.
He disclosed that he was being briefed regularly on the matter, assuring that the NNPC was on top of the situation.
He said, “The fuel scarcity being experienced nationwide is regrettable. I sympathize with all Nigerians on having to endure needless fuel queues. I’m being regularly briefed, especially on the NNPC’s interventions to ensure that there is enough petrol available during this period & beyond.
“I have the NNPC’s assurance that the situation will improve significantly over the next few days, as new shipments and supplies are distributed across the country.
Noting that he has ordered that fuel hoarding at petrol stations be curbed, the president said, “I have also directed the regulators to step up their surveillance and bring an end to hoarding and price inflation by marketers.
“Let me also assure that the relevant agencies will continue to provide updates on the situation. I thank you all for your patience and understanding”.
Govt Rules Out Pump Price Increase
Meanwhile, the federal government yesterday assured Nigerians that it is not considering a hike in the pump price of petrol despite the rising cost of crude oil in the international market.
President Muhammadu Buhari gave the assurance through the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Dr Maikanti Baru.
Speaking on the current fuel crisis at a press briefing held at the Corporation’s headquarters in Abuja, Baru expressed deep concern and sympathy over the hardship Nigerians are facing, especially in major cities where people queue up for long hours to get fuel for their vehicles to travel for Christmas and New Year.
He stated that the government has resolved that despite the rise in the landing cost of petrol, which he said currently stood at N171.40 per litre, it will ensure that PMS is sold at ex-Depots price for N133.38 per litre as fixed by the petroleum product pricing and regulatory agency (PPPRA).
He added that the Corporation, in collaboration with other agencies in the petroleum sector, has put in place a monitoring team that will ensure the enforcement of the sale of PMS at pump price range of N143/N145 per litre across the country.
Speaking on palliative measures being put in place to resolve the situation, Dr Baru said, “Over the last two weeks, the national truck-out capacity has been beefed up to an average of 1,500 trucks (52 million litres) per day, much higher than the normal consumption of 850 trucks per day across the various depots in the country.
“This is coming at a time when NNPC is the sole supplier of PMS as a result of the inability of oil marketing companies to import due to higher landing cost and exchange rate”.
The NNPC, Baru said, has instructed a 24-hour loading and sales operations at all Depots and NNPC mega stations across the country.
He added that major marketers had been advised to carry out 24-hour operations, stressing that most of them have been complying with the instruction.
The GMD who confirmed meeting with President Buhari the previous day over the current fuel crisis expressed concern and sympathy for the general public for the uncomfortable situation Nigerians have experienced in recent times, including queuing for hours to get fuel.
In term of products availability, Baru said, “The NNPC has programmed the delivery of additional 300 million litres in December 2017 and January, 2018 to beef up national reserves to 45 million litres per day, well above the normal consumption requirements of between 27 to 28 million litres per day”.
According to him, the Corporation has taken delivery of 13 vessels of PMS while 3 more are expected before the year ends.
Meanwhile, the Corporation has activated a Fuel War Room to coordinate all intervention activities for supply and distribution of the PMS nationwide.
Commenting on allegation by marketers that government wants to increase the pump price due to the high Landing cost, he said such was false.
He said that at present the landing cost of the product is N171 per litre and NNPC sells to marketers at N133.28k.
“You can see that they still have profit. We are advising marketers to shun profiteering and stop suffering Nigerians. Government has no plan to increase the pump price, every effort now is to ensure that we handle all the challenges with distribution to avoid the repeat of this kind of situation,’’ he added
Also, Alhaji Abba Abdu Misua, Zonal Operation Controller, DPR, Abuja said the resources had been given directives to dispense products of any station that defaults instead of sealing it.
13 Vessels With 650m Litres Begin Discharge
Meanwhile, the NNPC has said 13 vessels laden with over 650 million litres of petroleum products are currently discharging their contents at the seaport, while three additional vessels have been lined up to berth early January 2018.
Group Managing Director of NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru, who disclosed this at a media briefing and follow-up tour of some fuel stations in Abuja yesterday, said it is part of measures put in place to bolster the current fuel supply and eliminate the extraneous factors that have led to the persistent petrol queues.
He expressed empathy and strong solidarity with members of the public over the lingering challenge in accessing petroleum products across the country.
Baru further revealed that within the last two weeks the national truck out capacity had been jerked up to an average of 1,500 trucks, translating to 52 million litres per day, which is much higher than the normal consumption of 850 trucks per day across the various depots in the country.
PDP Blames APC For Worst Yuletide
But the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday said it is disheartening that Nigerians could not celebrate the yuletide due to the current biting economic hardship worsened by acute fuel shortage.
The party, blamed the situation on what it described as the shambolic policies, sheer incompetence and gross insensitivity of the All Progressives (APC)-led federal government.
It, however, called on Nigerians not to despair but to use the occasion of this year’s Christmas to show love, care and encourage one another regardless of religious, ethnic and political inclinations.
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement yesterday, described the nation’s economic situation as a national embarrassment which cannot be glossed with deceit, lies and propaganda, urging Nigerians to overcome the situation by rallying around one another in true love as epitomised in the birth and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The statement reads in part: “Indeed, this is the worst Yuletide ever. There is no way one can sugarcoat the fact that the anguish Nigerians face today is because of the incompetence of the APC Government, which has also amply demonstrated that it does not care about the welfare and happiness of the citizens.
“Our country’s economic situation has astronomically gone from bad to worse in the last two years and painfully, there is no hope in sight under this APC regime. As we speak, many families are completely stranded; many more can no longer afford their basic needs.
“Nigerians have become ravaged by economic hardship because the APC-led Federal Government has abandoned them and refused to channel the abundant resources available in the nation for the good of the people. Instead, they are heartlessly diverting such resources for their selfish political purposes while the people suffer”.
President, Saraki, Dogara Preach Peace
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari, Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives yesterday called on Nigerians to emulate the great virtues of humility, love, peace, forgiveness and reconciliation as they celebrate this year’s Christmas.
These, according to them, were the real reasons for the coming of Jesus Christ.
They felicitated with all the Christian faithful in the country and the world over as they celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ as symbolised by the Christmas festivities.
Buhari, in Christmas message to Nigerians noted that the commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ is an important opportunity for Nigerians to show love to one another and encourage unity by spending quality time with their friends, families and the less-privileged.
He said it is also an occasion to draw inspiration from the exemplary lifestyle and teachings of Jesus Christ, who he said constantly stood for what is right, true and honest.
He said, “The Holy Book describes Christmas as a festival of peace, joy, healing, hope and fulfilment. It kindles great expectations in the heart, irrespective of the challenges of the moment”.
Saraki, in a statement issued by his special adviser on media and publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, urged Christians to use the festive occasion to pray for unity, peace and prosperity of the country.
He called on all Nigerians to rededicate themselves to the service of humanity in line with the true teachings of Jesus Christ which emphasize tolerance, patience, brotherly kindness, care for the needy and love for one another, among other virtues.
He said, “The yuletide season presents us an opportunity once more to love, share and forgive. I urge all Nigerians to utilize the period to pray for unity, peace and prosperity in the nation.
“We must also rededicate ourselves to the true virtues of faith in God, love for one another, honesty and peaceful coexistence. It is time to make these virtue s more evident and practical in our daily lives”.
On his part, Speaker Dogara urged Christians to show love to their neighbours and remember the underprivileged as they celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Dogara, in a statement issued yesterday, said exhibition of unconditional love to one another would bring about positive change that would lead to unity and development of the country.
The speaker described Jesus Christ as an embodiment of sacrificial love as He gave up His life for the redemption of mankind.
“As we celebrate the birth of our Saviour Lord Jesus Christ, let us all remember that it is a time to spread the love of Christ with family, friends, neighbours and the underprivileged in the society”, he stated.
“We should bear in mind that the greatest command Jesus gave to his followers is love to one another.
“Not only does this have spiritual benefits, it will also make Nigeria a better place because love overcomes all things, including hatred, violence and other vices,” he said.
Also, deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, in his Christmas message to Nigerians, said Christmas is an opportunity to reflect on the humility of Christ and limitless love of God, who gave his only begotten son to be born as man in order to save and reconcile mankind unto Himself.
On its part, the All Progressives Congress (APC) urged Nigerians to rise above and shun divisive tendencies as only then can the nation achieve the aspiration for a better, unified, developed and prosperous future.
The party also implored religious and political leaders to, at all times, preach peace, tolerance and understanding just as it stressed that the nation’s challenges are not insurmountable.
This was contained in the party’s message signed by its national publicity secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi.
The message reads in part: “As we gather around family, friends and other loved ones for the season’s festivities, we are reminded that the spirit behind Christmas is that of giving and sharing.
“The Party implores Christians and non-Christians to use Christmas as a time to renew bonds of love, show appreciation for each other and build bridges of understanding, acceptance, and forgiveness among ourselves, irrespective of religious, ethnic, political and sundry differences”.
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