• Friday, February 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Queues will return soon, say stakeholders

fuel-queues

The last may not have been heard of the harrowing experiences of Nigerians over fuel scarcity which has almost paralysed economic activities for the past two weeks.

Stakeholders in the downstream sector of the oil and gas industry insist that the Nigerians would sooner or later return to the filling stations, queuing for fuel.

The stakeholders say failing to  privatise, upgrade and  rehabilitate the refineries and  the ancillary infrastructure in the downstream sector, whatever succor that is being enjoyed now in terms of  adequate  supply  to the filling stations would be temporary.

Already, the scarcity is taking a toll on schools, as proprietors are shifting resumption dates scheduled for today in some schools.

Some parents have started receiving text messages over the weekend advising that their wards should still remain until the fuel situation improves.

“We are constrained by the prevailing fuel scarcity in the country to postpone resumption from Monday, 11th April, 2016 to Wednesday 13th April 2016, hoping the fuel situation would have improved. Kindly bear with us. Thank you.” Says a message from a school on Oba Akran Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos.

Some parents whose children attend public schools in Lagos State have appealed to the state government to re-schedule the resumption date for the third term of the 2015/2016 academic session due to the lingering fuel scarcity. They made the appeal in different interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria.

A parent who does not want his name mentioned said, “it is becoming unbearable, transport fares have doubled, few motorcycles and buses are available to transport people. If this persists, how are we going to take our children to their schools?”

They also said no matter how the government tries, except it allows reason to prevail on these critical issues that have bogged down the downstream sector of the oil industy, Nigeria would be back to square one.

Alex Ogedengbe, a former managing  directors of Port Harcourt and Kaduna Refineries wondered why  government is afraid of privatising and deregulating the downstream sector of the  petroleum  industry.

Ogedengbe said if we get these queues away as predicted in the next  three weeks, they will certainly come back,  as far as the government continues with its present way of maintaining  refineries.

Ogedengbe who spoke on Channels TV programme, said investors would not be ready to come to the sector because government regulates price.

“It is unrealistic to have the same price through the country because it costs money to move those products from one place to another”.

  He said no one would ever know the market price of the product until the owners of the refineries are made to be market oriented.

He said government can give incentives to owners of refineries if she fears that the price of the product would be higher after privatisation.  Such incentive, he observed, could be in the form of tax free holidays for a few years or crude t a descanted rate.

“These are the kind of incentives that would bring investors that can run refineries, the private organised people that know how to run refineries.It would also allow for a sustainable investment that runs from year to year.

Also talking to BusinessDay, Babajide Soyede, a former general manger of Warri Refinery and Petrochemical concurred with the views of Alex Ogedengbe when he said that the current approach would only give temporary relief as the queues would only disappear for a while and then come back except if the government hands off the downstream of the industry and limit its function to regulation.

According to him keeping the refineries the way they are is a waste of money and resources as they only producing fuel oil which brings less value than the crude that was supplied.

The refineries must be upgraded, rehabilitated and privatised or at least a joint venture arrangement whereby the government would have minority share should be put in place.

But Justin Ezeala, executive director supply and distribution of the Nigeria Products Marketing Company (NPMC) maintained his position that with the arrangement on ground there is cause for alarm.

Ezeala said after saturating the major cities with the product, they would begin to push into the hinterland and  that the government is also finalising arrangements to ensure a sustainable supply of petrol in every part of the country.

He insisted that the supply of 30,000 metric tons (40 million litres) of petrol everyday in order to ease off the fuel scarcity cannot be compromised.

Meanwhile the fuel situation at the weekend continues to improve, as motorist enters the filling stations with ease.

Olusola  Bello & STEPHEN ONYEKWELU