By; ABDULLAHI SABIU
Just about three weeks ago, surprisingly, fuel queues surfaced in major cities starting from Lagos with Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano following suit. Many Nigerians were relaxed considering that similar queues that faded away in three days was experienced in December. The body language from Nigerians was that of “the queues will disappear soon” considering that we’ve enjoyed relative availability of PMS hassle-free for over 5 years now. As against the normal trend during festive periods and ember months.
But just before we could begin to be disturbed by the continued presence of these queues, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) made a press statement urging Nigerians to keep calm and avoid panic buying and attributed the trend to recall of low-spec fuel in circulation. For many of us, this term is new and while seeking further clarification, we understood that the NNPC has initiated a recall of the product as the presence of ethanol surpasses the specification required.
For a few days, the Corporation was overwhelmed with picking the importers of the product, recalling the bad fuel in circulation and staying top of their game to ensure steady flow of product to the end user. In the same period, the country was agog with news that global prices of crude oil was on the rise and therefore, the shortage was a preamble to a raise in petrol price. While some were of the opinion that the cost and logistics of the recall – which was about 100 million litres was – hindering availability of the product.
Normally, a pipeline connected country will overcome mere challenges of this nature in days. One is left to wonder why should we not maximize our pipeline for product delivery ? Why shouldn’t we have alternative sources of distribution but our own attitude seems to have limited our options right before ourselves. But in a country where pipeline vandalism is seen as normal and these vandals are celebrated as successful businessmen in their communities, then we must put up with the pains of manual distribution. So our inexplicable fairness as citizens to allow for infrastructures to work is partly responsible for this menace.
NNPC interventionsAs the fuel crisis lingers, the NNPC on a weekly basis has been updating Nigerians on measures being put in place to restore normalcy. Some of them Include:
*Temporary relocation of MD PPMC to Lagos* – this move came in the first week of the crisis on the orders of the GMD NNPC, Mallam Mele Kyari on the observation that, loading and distribution should be monitored from the starting point which is Lagos. The presence of Mallam Isiyaku Abdullahi MD PPMC was also meant to oversee the mopping of the low-spec and ensure stability of the product in and around Lagos.
*24-hour Loading, Dispensing of PMS* – Soon after the Lagos mission was accomplished, the problem at the Abuja end was still present then came the 24-hour loading initiative. The NNPC in a statement said this effort was designed to speed-up distribution which was mainly the problem behind the shortage. This initiate was a partnership with Major marketers, Depot Owners, IPMAN, DAPPMAN, MOMAN etc and this chain puts every player in the supply chain on board to clear the queues.
*Boost to reserves beyond the national target* – Also, the NNPC in another intervention, boosted its reserves with additional 2.3 billion litres of PMS. This move was all secured in two weeks to guarantee steady supply. The Management through GED Downstream, Engr. Adeyemi Adetunji in a press statement said 1.3 billion litres of PMS was in stock and the 2.3 billion was more of security should there be any problem. Quite commendable and when the queues eased-off for some days, the ripple effect of logistics still bounced back to limit supply. This action was further buttressed by the GMD/CEO of NNPC, Mallam Mele Kyari while addressing the Ad-hoc committee of the House of Representatives investigating the circumstances surrounding the importation of the adulterated fuel into the country where he said “I am assuring more supply plan. We will contain this development”, as “2.1 billion litres will be injected into the system before the end of the month”. And he reiterated that the NNPC is a law abiding company and will do everything within its power to ensure normalcy.
*PPMC intervention* – I noticed the presence of trucks of A.Y.M Shaffa offloading PMS at a Conoil station which was relatively strange and inquiries led us to understand that, it is a PPMC Intervention. The concept they said, was to help bridge the gap and the move was given an inter-retailer approached where supply is based on need not given any peculiarity to location or truck ownership.
It is good to draw a clear line with what has been put in place. Obviously, what led to this was an effort to save Nigerians from the effects of the low-spec PMS.
Most pump stations in the country have and dispense PMS but a carefull study shows a panic gap and this cannot be far from black marketers who are seen selling in containers. Since these black marketers don’t refine Crude, the PMS they hawk is a backdoor acquisition originally meant for the average Nigerian.
And to check the excesses of these black marketers, we learnt the NNPC on Friday 25th February engaged security agencies to ensure all products loaded get to the right destination. Hopefully the end of black market is here. Then, if trucks will take about 4 days from loading to most destinations, particularly across the Niger, then time and sustained effort is key to defraying the queues.
*Why the latest challenge of queues in some parts of this country* In spite of all the efforts and assurances of the Group Managing Director, Mallam Mele Kyari and his competent lieutenants on closing and maintaining supply of PMS across Nigeria, there is an international problem that constituted fresh challenge. That fresh challenge emanated from the ongoing Russian/Ukranian war. Be that as it may and the in-country major players role of price arbitrage, the queues are thankfully disappearing.
*The final picture* From my observation, what we have at hand is a backlash of the corrective measures as against the normal scarcity with previous administrations. It is worthy to commend President Muhammadu Buhari for giving us Mallam Mele Kyari as GMD/CEO of NNPC Ltd and Engr. Adeyemi Adetunji as GED Downstream. We are forever grateful to Malam Mele Kyari for saddling Mallam Isiyaku Abdullahi as MD PPMC for his interventions, major players in the industry for their commitment and largely Nigerians for their patience. Together we should bridge the gap.
Abdullahi writes from Wuse II, Abuja.