Minister of state for petroleum resources and the group managing director of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Ibe Kachikwu yesterday apologised to Nigerians over the lingering scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise known as petrol, across the country.
He also assured them that the perennial scarcity of the product would end in the second week of next month.
The minister made the pledge while fielding questions from members of the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream) at the National Assembly where he was summoned to address the hardship wrought by scarcity of PMS.
“We are working hard and we will end the fuel queues by first week or second week of April,” Kachikwu said yesterday.
“Escravos to Warri pipeline was just recovered to be able to pump crude after six years and 90 per cent of fuel depots have not been in use for several years, so we are trying to fix the depots.
“We have expanded the logistics requirement which has been a nightmare to NNPC. NNPC over-extended itself from what it was set up to do, to new duties”.
The minister told the Senate that the NNPC was working out a plan to supply 47 per cent of petroleum products to the market, while independent marketers will supply the remaining 53 per cent of the products until 2019/2020.
He also apologised to Nigerians for his earlier comments, where he was reported to have said he did not possess the magic to end fuel queues.
“I share the pain of Nigerians. I feel that pain every day and I have given 24/7 attention to the industry. The problems I met are unbelievable, to use a nice word. I said that jocularly with my journalist friends. The phraseology that I used in responding to the problem may be acceptable to the industry that I play in, but may offend the sensibilities of some people and for that I apologise”.
The minister who said he came into office about five months ago and met about N600billion as the outstanding amount to be paid for subsidies to petroleum products marketers, however, disclosed that the backlog had been cleared.
Kachikwu attributed the crisis in the petroleum sector and the lingering fuel scarcity crisis to the avalanche of problems he inherited from his predecessors.
He disclosed that the structure of the industry was already undergoing an overhaul to end the corruption that has for decades bogged down NNPC operations and worsened the plight of Nigerians.
According to him, “By the time we came in, people had reached a breaking point and having regard to the difficulties in paying subsidies, we stopped importation, and then we had to assume that responsibility (of supplying Nigerians). There has also been the problem of pipeline vandalism that has gone up to unprecedented levels.”
The minister sought the cooperation of the National Assembly in ending the problems in the sector, and urged the passage of the long-awaited Petroleum Industry legislation, which he opined would address the hiccups in the petroleum sector.