The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, yesterday said the federal government had no plans to increase the pump price of petrol.
Alison-Madueke said this at the 2014 budget defence of the ministry and its parastatals before the House of Representatives Committees on Petroleum Resources (Upstream and Downstream) and Gas.
According to her, there was a strange rumour that the ministry was going to announce an increase in the pump price of petrol.
â€œI said categorically that we have no plan to increase the pump price of petrol anytime in the near future,â€™â€™ she said.
She noted that the development had only helped to instigate hoarding and diversion of petroleum products. The minister said the ministry would flood the country with petroleum products next week.
â€œIt was quite obvious that there was a hitch in supplies about a week ago and that had been remedied now,â€™â€™ he said.
She warned that any filling station caught in the diversion of petrol, be it private or government-owned would be sanctioned accordingly.
The minister, who decried inadequate funding of the ministry, said that it was the intention of the ministry to consolidate on its achievements in spite of the challenges.
â€œWe will continue to bring quality investments to the petroleum sector,â€™â€™ she said.
The Chairman, House Committee on Petroleum Resources Upstream, Hon. Muraina Ajibola (PDP-Oyo), has urged the minister to ensure that petrol is available to Nigerians. On his part, Dakuku Peterside (APC-Rivers), said the ministry required enough funding because of its importance to the countryâ€™s economy.
He enjoined the minister to judiciously utilise the little allocated to the ministry.
The sum of N61.9 billion was proposed by the ministry and its parastatals in the 2014 budget.
Meanwhile, Alison-Madueke has disclosed reasons why the federal government decided to suspend its decision privatise the countryâ€™s four refineries.
The minister stated in Abuja that one of the major reasons why the government decided to back down on the refineries privatisation policy was because it reached an agreement with members of the labour unions who had been opposed to the move.
Although, she did not state the content of the agreement the government reached with the labour unions that led to its suspension of the privatisation, the minister however stated her belief in the policy as the panacea to the countryâ€™s challenges with sustainable supply and distribution of petroleum products.
A statement from the acting Group General Manager, Public Affairs of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Ibrahim Omar, stated that the minister made this clarification after the ministryâ€™s budget appraisal for 2013 and budget defence for 2014 before the Senate and House of Representatives Joint Committees on Petroleum Upstream, Downstream and Gas.
The statement indicated that she also took time to explain that there are no plans to increase pump price of fuel now or in the near future. The minister in this regard called on marketers to collaborate with the ministry to eradicate the fuel queues from filling stations across the country.
In another development the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), yesterday alleged that the failure of the federal government to pay-off backlogs of petrol subsidy claims of its members and other petroleum marketers in the country was responsible for the lingering fuel scarcity across the country.
IPMAN stated yesterday in Abuja that so far, the federal government was yet to make subsidy payments on petrol allocated and supplied by marketers in the last three quarters.
It explained that while subsidy claims for Quarter 3 (Q3) 2013 allocation has been partly paid, no payments have so far been made for Q4 2013 and Q1 2014 cycles, even though supply obligations within these periods were met by most marketers and verified by relevant government agencies.
The President of IPMAN, Alhaji Aminu Abdulkadir, said shortly after a meeting of the central executive committee of the association that it had become necessary to clarify the true cause of the shortage of petrol across the country, especially in view of the ongoing blame games between the government and petrol marketers who have been accused of perpetrating unwholesome acts within the supply and distribution chains of the product.
He also said that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), has remained the only source for supply and distribution of petrol across the country, adding however that the corporationâ€™s 50 per cent coverage of the market was not enough to alleviate the scarcity.
â€œShortage in supply today is as a result of non-payment of marketersâ€™ oil subsidy; partly Q3 has been paid, Q4 completely not paid and we are in Q1. For our national consumption today, NNPC supplies 50 per cent of the national consumption.
I want to reveal to all of you here today that it is only that 50 per cent of NNPC product that is in circulation. They have stepped up their supply, trying to do what every stakeholder should be doing but it is evidently clear that they cannot do it alone,â€ Abdulkadir said.
He further stated: â€œI therefore use this medium to appeal to the minister of finance as a matter of urgency to intervene and pay marketers accordingly so that the augmentation of this shortfall can be achieved in a short while and this scarcity will be a thing of the past.â€
Speaking more on the associationâ€™s claims of non-payment of subsidy claims, the president said: â€œWe are talking about major fracture in the system. Only 60 per cent of Q3 subsidy claims have been paid.
The whole of Q4 has not been paid and we are in Q1.
â€œI am aware that there are some companies with a large heart and they are still importing. We have NIPCO still importing in Apapa and they have brought in their Q3, Q4 and 50 per cent of their Q1, but they cannot continue.
â€œI am also aware that Mobil and Conoil have brought part of their Q1, and all these companies have supplied fully their Q3 and Q4 allocations, but Q1, which started in January is still in progress. You can imagine if the whole of Q4 has not been paid and we are about finishing Q1, how can we have this product sufficiently, it is not possible.
â€œNNPC is working within the 450,000 barrel of crude allocated to it daily and that is just barely 50 per cent of our domestic consumption. The Q3 of last year is part of what has not been paid and the whole of Q4 last year has not been paid as well as well as Q1 2014 and if you calculate them, it is about six months on the average,â€ he added.
Abdulkadir also referred as irrelevant, claims by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke that marketers may have opted to unwholesome product diversion, thus aggravating the scarcity.
â€œOn the diversion that is taking place, I want to define it. There is no diversion that is taking place that is illegal. All are legal diversion, if you make product available to Abuja and you have not made product available to Kano, Kaduna and Nassarawa what do you expect, for them to come to queue in Abuja,â€ he said querried.