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Author Name: Ifeanyi Izeze
Number of articles: 174

Before the current Petroleum Minister, Mrs Diezani Allison Madueke is allowed to go, she and her... (0) Comment



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Govt Has Failed Nigerians Over Fuel Distribution: Between “Ali Baba And The Thieves”
Author: Ifeanyi Izeze | February 04, 2010



Wonders shall never end in this country and if at all itâs going to end, obviously it is not in a hurry to do so. How could anybody have imagined that Ahmadu Ali would publicly berate the federal government for its abject failure to do the right things as at when due especially in ensuring availability and effective distribution of petroleum products in the country? Hear the former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and now the Chairman of the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA): âWe must learn to call a spade a spade, as we all know that government has failed us. We will not be where we are today, if we have done the right thing. We should not be deceived; government has failed Nigerians in the area of refinery capability in this country. Urgent measures are required to revive the sector from total collapse.â Hip! Hip! Hip! Hurray! The lamentation that Government has failed would have been taken seriously if not that it came from the same Ahmadu Ali that has remained synonymous with Government and the ruling clique right from the military era into the current PDP junta-like dispensation. As the former PDP Chairman has said âwe must learn to call a spade a spade,â Ahmadu Ali should be told equally that he has been and continues to be a very influential part of that government that has terribly failed the generality of Nigerians. He should rather say: I and members of my cabal have failed Nigerians. It was an insult for him to extricate himself from the serial maladministration that has befell this great nation. We will not be where we are as a nation particularly in this fuel matter, if the likes of the new PPPRA chairman who have remained in government for over 30 years have done the right things over time. Now we are calling a spade a spade! Nigeria has four existing refineries (2 in Port Harcourt, 1 in Warri and 1 in Kaduna) which were aptly described by the Bureau for Public Enterprise (BPE) as âname plate refineries.â With a combined installed capacity of 445 barrels per stream day, the four refineries by design, would have been able to churn about 20 million litres of petrol on daily basis representing about 60 percent of the petrol need of the country in addition to diesel, dual purpose kerosene amongst other products. However, the performance outings of all the refineries could best be described as comatose with some completely on âsick leave,â due to high level of administrative incompetence (not technical), inbred corruption in government through the NNPC system, past and present servicing their masters in the Presidency. Truth be told, the major part of the problem bedeviling the nationâs downstream oil sector especially in the area of availability and effective distribution of fuel products is the continued assignment of the Ahmadu Ali-like Nigerians to oversee critical aspects of the sector. There are so many well trained and vast-experienced Nigerians from all sections of this country that have workable ideas on how to address the pathetic state of the nationâs fuel production and distribution. But because they are not from certain sections of the country; not in the PDP; and not close to the people in power, such competent Nigerians would never be given the opportunity to bring in their relevant experiences to address the nationâs ever-increasing challenges in critical sectors of the economy. The National Assembly should with all intent and sincerity please serve the people of this country whom they are supposed to be representing by outrightly scrapping this ill-conceived and resource-draining agency now that we are talking of petroleum industry reform. The PPPRA was solely packaged by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo to service his political loyalists during his dual role as the president and the sole administrator of the nationâs oil sector (NNPC/DPR) and the agency at best, has continued in that light. Why should somebody like Ali be there if not that itâs a chop-chop arena? The truth is that as long as the PPPRA or anything that looks like it continues to exist as an agency of the Federal Government, no single refinery can operate optimally anywhere within this country whether government or privately-owned. Mark my word! Look at the kind of money passing through the agency for doing nothing: it does not refine, it does not even directly import products at least on the surface, it does not market. The agency just exists to confuse Nigerians with the calculus of real and regulated prices of fuels and the vagaries of the global crude oil market. How long can we continue like this? What pricing are you regulating when artificial scarcities are deliberately created to bleed Nigerians and petrol sells for between N250 and N65 per litre depending on where you are in the country? Why is the PPPRA chairman not canvassing for a taskforce approach in the management of the nationâs existing refineries or even harmonizing per litre price across the country? What is actually the use of PPPRA to the ârealâ people of this country? Itâs just another conduit for the misuse of public funds and that is why we keep seeing funny people take charge of the agency. Just look at the magnitude of the fund that passes through the agency on monthly basis for doing nothing and I mean nothing. No wonder to âtheyâ scramble to head or serve in the agency. It has severally been said that the continued existence of the PPPRA is one glaring test of sincerity of the Dr Rilwanu Lukmanâs oil sector reforms. If the reform sets out to unbundled the NNPC because the organization has over the years become a mere cost centre, it should more desperately scrap the PPPRA (and the PIB- proposed PPRA) which since inception has remained a worse cost centre or rather an outright drain pipe compared to the corruption and fraud problems in the mainstream NNPC. The conspiracy in the controversial PIB to metamorphose the PPPRA into Petroleum Products Regulatory Authority (PPRA) is an outright aberration to the entire concept of cost-cutting reforms in the nationâs oil industry. The crucial question Nigerians should ask is: Who are the people involved in the ongoing offshore petroleum product import and NNPCâs bridging aberration? Whosoever that supervises the massive fuel import racket in this country should be challenged to publish a manifest of all the companies involved in the business, their owners (foreign partners and local associates) and the volume each contractor brings in on weekly and monthly basis from designated countries. If that can be done, it will help to unmask the masquerade behind this racket. And if that is not done, no single refinery will operate efficiently in this country as long as this evil cabal continues to exist in and around government. It is very unfortunate that all pronouncements coming from government on this embarrassing fuel scarcity issue point to the rulersâ glaring inability to tackle a most basic need of the country. And instead of seeking workable solutions to this disgraceful problem, the NNPC as usual, in place of efficient, adequate supply of oil, are spending energy and resources feeding Nigerians daily with more blame trading and excuses. The Group Managing Director of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Mohammed Barkindo, just last week attempted yet another unsatisfactory defense. His words: âWe were taken aback by a recent happening when one of the jetties diverted a large amount of petroleum products that was put at its disposal, which we had to refer to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate and recover the value, if not the products.â What a shame? Did the owners of the jetty divert the petroleum products to the spirit world? Was it not into the same Nigerian market where the PPPRA was supposed to be regulating and supervising? The nation cannot be spending over N600 billion almost quarterly as subsidy to oil marketers - all in an effort to enhance steady supply and yet no tangible result and nobody seems to be bothered in government. Why out of the over 18 licenses for private refineries dished out by Obasanjo, no single licensee even attempted to mobilize to site even before Yarâadua came with his confusion of revoking some of the licenses for what he rightly described as glaring fraud in the oil-for-infrastructure deal? It has suddenly become easier for vandals to cook out petrol and diesel than for the NNPC to churn out products from the existing refineries. These are issues we have to address with the urgency it deserves and now is the time. IFEANYI IZEZE IS AN ABUJA-BASED CONSULTANT ON STRATEGY AND COMMUNICATION (iizeze@yahoo.com)

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