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Fuel scarcity to persist till May– Kachikwu

The Minister of State for Petroleum, Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, has said that queues at petrol stations across the nation will persist for the next two…

The Minister of State for Petroleum, Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, has said that queues at petrol stations across the nation will persist for the next two months.

Kachikwu said this in an interview with State House journalists Wednesday after he and the leaderships of Nigeria Union of the Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG) and the Petroleum and Natural Gas‎ Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN)  met with President Muhammadu Buhari.

The minister asked Nigerians to bear with the government measures,  saying measures were being taken to build fuel reserves with a view to sustaining supply.

Responding to a question on when the current long queues at filling stations would disappear, Kachikwu said: "Although  I don’t want to put a time frame, but I will expect that over the next two months. Of course, you are aware the SAP programme begins in April. ‎So, over the next two months, we should see quite frankly a complete elimination of this.

"Believe me, this is giving me and my team sleepless nights, and we are working on it, and we are committed to making this go away, Nigerians should please bear with us."

According to him, the government’s strategy is that whatever produced in the refineries will not go for sale but will be kept "in strategic reserve because the key problem here is that there is no reserve; anytime there is a gap in supply, it goes off. 

"So, we’re going to dedicate the next couple of months to moving all the products that we produce to strategic reserve so that we can pile up reserves and that will push up the reserves in the nation."

Kachikwu stated: "One of the trainings I did not receive is that of a magician, but I’m working very hard to ensure some of these issues go away‎. And let’s be honest, for the five, six months we’ve been here, NNPC has moved from a 50 percent importer of products to basically a 100 percent importer. 

"And the 445 barrels that were allocated was to cover between 50 and 55 percent importation. So, it’s quite frankly sheer magic that we even have the amount of products at the stations. We’re looking to see how to get foreign exchange input. The president and I discussed extensively on how to get more crude directed at importation. 

"His Excellency will rather have less crude but have individuals in the society suffer less with inconveniences than have more crude and have them continue to suffer. So we are going to put a new model to enable us increase the pace and actually get majors as part of the crew of those to bring in more products so that the NNPC will, sort of, go back on the capacity of what it used to do and the majors will take over the balance of importation", he said.

He said the two unions expressed concerns over the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), fuel scarcity, refineries, utilization of depots, logistic issues and loss of jobs in the industry.

"The unions want us to obviously work harder than we do and try to get the PIB passed as soon as possible. They’re worried about the fuel scarcity issue‎ and want a long time solutions to finally resolve this issue, they’re worried about the refineries and are thankful we didn’t sell the refineries without looking to work collaboratively with them to see how to make the refineries work. 

"They’re worried about the utilization of depots and how best to do that. They’re worried about all kinds of logistics issues that plague the oil industry. They’re worried about job loss in the sector arising from the position of majors who feel that the economy is giving rough end of the sticks and then try to whittle down staff", he said.

Kachikwu assured that the government would work with the oil majors to prevent  loss, saying Buhari was willing to work with them "to bring good jobs, tasking them as agents of change within the respective areas where they work‎".

PENGASSAN President Olabode Johnson ‎said Buhari expressed concern about the hardship Nigerians were going through and bore their pains.

He said President Buhari also showed concern over pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft. 

NUPENG President  ‎Igwe Achese said Buhari assured that both unions would continue to be part of the ongoing restructuring in the sector

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