The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has the right to be genuinely embarrassed that despite efforts on its part to ensure uninterrupted supply of petroleum products, the queues have continued to linger at fuel stations. The corporation has continued to insist that it pumps enough of the products into the market to erase any spectre of scarcity.
But one major factor is hampering the effective distribution of fuel which the corporation needs to urgently address. It is obvious that the lingering scarcity of the product is artificial, orchestrated by unscrupulous independent marketers intent on maximising their profits at the detriment of the consuming public. NNPC itself has made it clear that diversion of the products by these middlemen is making it look bad in the eyes of Nigerians who have persistently suffered frustration, spending hours and, in some cases, days at petrol stations around the country just to get supplies.
We commend the efforts by the NNPC, especially its recent move to pump 100 million litres daily into the market to ease the hardship Nigerians are going through. It further stated that two cargoes containing 50 million litres of petrol each would be brought into the country every day in February.
But it needs to involve other agencies of the government, especially the security agencies, so as to be able to bring these saboteurs to book. Its intelligence unit, working in collaboration with the security agencies, should intensify efforts to eliminate this odium that is making the country a laughing stock in the eyes of the outside world.
We believe that this is a necessary step that will check the activities of bad eggs in the system who are bent on taking advantage of other Nigerians. We appreciate the fact that the NNPC’s monitoring teams are out to bring an end to this unpatriotic act just as we point out that most of the diversion is cross border. Also part of it is within as series of arrests so far have indicated.
The marketers claim that they are confronted by other challenges as they strive to bring the products to the market. The leadership of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) allege that its members buy premium motor spirit (PMS) at ex-depot price of N162 instead of the official price of N133.28 per litre and use that as an argument against selling at the government controlled price of N145 per litre and even to justify the criminal diversion of the products in order to make quick profit.
In spite of these attempts to rationalise what, in our view, is an act of sabotage, we need to remind IPMAN that the Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF), an agency of the federal government, has confirmed that it pays out a minimum of N26billion annually as reimbursement to petroleum product marketers as palliative for transportation. That amount, in our opinion, ought to be enough to absorb whatever under-payment they are complaining about.
We are assuming without accepting that the alleged price differential actually exists. PEF is worried, and justifiably so, that despite this huge sum of money paid-out by the government to cushion the effect of product transportation, incidences of diversion remain a major challenge in the downstream sector of the country because some people who have become entrenched in the act of manipulating the supply chain to their advantage have refused to let go of their lucrative illicit activities regardless of the implication to the socio-economic circumstances of the country particularly with the loss of valuable man-hours as well as the negative effect on the health of consumers who go through anxious moments in the process of accessing supplies.
This newspaper lauds ongoing efforts by NNPC and other agencies of government to manage this man-made crisis. We also believe that they need to step up their game in monitoring fuel distribution in the country.
We, therefore, urge the corporation to adopt, as a matter of urgency, the use of electronic method in the tracking of trucks conveying petroleum products from depots to retail outlets as part of measures to check product diversion.
The NNPC may also consider re-opening contacts with major marketers under the auspices of Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) and engage them wholly in the fuel distribution and supply chain across the country. They have an image and integrity to protect and will be more efficient in service delivery. It is time NNPC ended the IPMAN blackmail.
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