The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, has said that there is no evidence that marketers are hoarding petroleum products and as such, there is no reason to punish them.
He stated this after a meeting between a Federal Government delegation led by the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, and fuel marketers as well the heads of the Department of State Services and the Nigeria Immigration Service, and representatives of other paramilitary services.
The meeting was held at the Old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
According to Kachikwu, the meeting was not a fault-finding one but meant to find a lasting solution to the problem of fuel scarcity and ensure that it does not recur as directed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The minister told journalists at the end of the meeting, “This is a major concern that Nigerians should not be made to suffer, that Nigerians do not get through the kind of thing they went through this December.
“We want to find a lasting solution and that is what the committee will come out with in the resolutions tomorrow (Wednesday).”
He said there was no evidence to punish any marketer for hoarding Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, assuring all stakeholders that part of the demands of the meeting was to name marketers who erred.
Kachikwu stated, “The thing is even the Nigerians, who have suffered, will want to be sure that we find a lasting solution and find evidential basis upon which to punish people.
“This is a democratic government. I don’t have one (evidence) yet; if you have one, I will like to have it.”
The fuel marketers, however, insisted that they could no longer import and sell Premium Motor Spirit, popularly known as petrol, at the controlled price of N145 per litre.
They also denied insinuations that they were responsible for the recent scarcity of the product across the country.
The Chairman, Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association, Dapo Abiodun, disclosed these to State House correspondents at the end of the meeting.
Abiodun said neither the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation nor the independent marketers could be blamed for the recent fuel scarcity.
While stating that marketers did not hoard fuel contrary to the belief in many quarters, he explained that since the price of crude oil went up as a result of Hurricane Harvey in the United States in September, the marketers could no longer import and sell at a controlled price of N145 per litre.
The DAPPMA chairman stated that the meeting was called to consider issues surrounding the recent fuel scarcity with a view to identifying the causes and finding lasting solutions.
He said a committee had been constituted that would meet on Wednesday under the chairmanship of Kachikwu to further go into the details and forestall a recurrence.
Abiodun added, “From our point of view as marketers, we made our submission known to the government and we emphasised the fact that this was not a marketer-related problem.
“There was no hoarding on the part of any marketer. Marketers are your brothers; they are Nigerian citizens; they are businessmen. No marketer makes money from hoarding petroleum products. Our business is to take petrol and sell.
“We explained that the problem that you saw is not wilful on the part of anyone, either the NNPC or the marketers.”
He added, “The situation from our point of view is that from January to December, the price of crude remained relatively stable; but following the hurricane in September to October, crude prices went up and marketers lost the ability to import and sell at N145 per litre.
“Since the price of crude is directly proportional to refined products, we cannot import petrol and sell at N145 anymore.”
He said fuel importation was a partnership between the marketers and the NNPC, with both parties bringing in a certain volume.
Abiodun stated that in the past, marketers were bringing in about 60 per cent, while the NNPC was bringing in between 35 per cent and 40 per cent.
But by October last year, the marketer had stopped importing fuel because there was no more subsidy on petrol, stressing that the situation made the burden of importing 100 per cent to fall on the NNPC.
The President, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chinedu Okoronkwo, said the meeting reached a resolution that would see the fuel supply problem resolved once and for all.
“They (government representatives) have also assured us that the refineries are coming on stream with installed capacities. This is good news,” he said.
Other members of the Kachikwu committee are the Group Managing Director, NNPC, Maikanti Baru, most parastatals under the ministry, IPMAN, DAPMAN and labour unions, among others.