As fuel scarcity bites harder across the country, the Vice President of Industriall Global Union, Comrade Issa Aremu, yesterday asked the federal government to treat hoarding and diversion of the product as an act of terrorism.
He equally urged the government to find an urgent solution to the problem of fuel scarcity, noting it had inflicted severe hardship on the masses.
He further told Nigerians to resist any attempt by the government to hike fuel pump price .
Aremu who spoke in Ilorin, Kwara state during a special lecture organised to mark his 57th birthday warned that Nigerians should not leave the war against petrol price increase to the organised labour, which he said, singularly opposed similar attempt in 2016.
The labour leader said the nation was grappling with multitude of problems because it has been enmeshed in governance crisis and not fuel crisis as being insinuated.
He identified the crisis in the petroleum as fundamental, saying it requires sustainable domestic supply with availability of refineries in the country.
He called on President Muhammadu Buhari to rein in on cabals in the oil industry, who he alleged, were all out to inflict hardship on the entire populace.
“Better late than never. I commend the two stakeholders meetings recently convened by President Buhari and the Senate leadership on the petroleum crisis. I follow the deliberations keenly. Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu listed the problems facing the downstream petroleum sector, as lack of sufficient reserve, low clearance speed of petrol at the ports, diversion of products as some of the reasons for the ongoing fuel crisis being experienced in the country.
“All the identified problems show that Nigeria does not have fuel crisis but governance crisis. It is government through the NNPC that must have enough product reserve. It is the government that must clear products timely at the port.
It is the government that must fix refineries at home. It’s the government that must put an end to criminal corruption ridden products imports for which Nigeria spends as much as $12 billion annually.
“The federal government should not only make marketers responsible for every tank of fuel up until point of delivery, but there must also be severe consequences for product diversions. Diversion of critical inelastic indispensable product like petrol must be treated as an act of terrorism.
“The current fuel crisis shows that there is no substitute for good governance. As we can see near deregulation over the years means nothing but fuel price increases for the masses, trillions Naira reaps off for the cabals.
“The point cannot be overstated; President Buhari should know that market dogma in terms of deregulation, is no substitute for governance. There is the need for national as well corporate governance in both the upstream and downstream petroleum sector. There should be prompt sanctions for non-compliance and rewards for those who play by the rules. The National Assembly must make oversight function routine. Legislators must be more proactive. Notwithstanding their latest commendable efforts, their action is still reactive not proactive. Never again should government at all levels be off duty. Marketers are in business to make profit, which they would do through padded fuel price template or blatant products diversions as revealed not long ago by Minister of State, Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu.
“However the government is there to ensure the prosperity of the nation and the welfare of the citizens. It is wrong for government officials to privilege marketers who are just interested in profit making with special exchange rate with utter disregard for the real sector of the economy and welfare of all.
“The challenge facing the petroleum downstream sector goes beyond pricing. The fundamental issue is sustainable domestic supply, which can only be made possible through reinvention of the existing domestic refineries and building of more.
“Nigerians want to see the President and Vice President commissioning new refineries in line with the promise of Economic Recovery and Growth Plan that Nigeria will refine 80 percent in 2018. We don’t want to see Executive petroleum fuel attendant but Executive service and product delivery.
“Unfortunately Nigerians have not seen much activism on the part of the government in this direction. Getting “appropriate pricing” for imported fuel pushes Nigeria into permanent dependency making the economy vulnerable to vagaries of foreign exchange fluctuations. Nigeria must take advantage of the multiple benefits of crude oil by fixing existing local refineries, exploring local refining capacity and building petrochemical and gas plants. Minister Ibe Kachikwu once remarked embarrassingly that “It’s cheaper to import petrol than refine locally”. Nigeria spends as much as $10bn annually on importation of petroleum products, almost the same amount to build Dangote Refinery, the biggest private Refinery in the world with proposed 650,000 barrels per day in the Lekki Free Trade Zone (LFTZ) Lagos! Nigeria should move from policy distortions, policy corruption to a coherent sustainable policy on petroleum downstream sector.
”All compatriots must therefore rise and make sure our government seats up at all levels to ensure our welfare and security in line with 1999 constitution. We must support the President and resist another round of fuel price increases. We should not leave the resistance to NLC alone which, in 2016 single handedly fought against 60 per cent increase in the price of PMS from N86.50 to N145 by this government”, Aremu said.
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