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The Limits Of Kachikwu’s Magic Wand, April 7 Deadline

Posted: Apr 4, 2016 at 12:55 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

 

 

Sylvester Enoghase, Lagos

 

As the last-minute rush for fuel cargoes that would bring fuel to Nigeria continues, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has said that the persistent fuel scarcity would ease off in about two weeks. This followed the assurance last Thursday by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, that concrete measures had been put in place to end fuel shortages by April 7, 2016.

 

April 7, Fuel Normalcy Deadline

Less than 72 hours before Nigeria’s lingering fuel scarcity is suppose to end, according to Kachikwu, who said that normalcy would return on April 7,  there is no sign of preparation evident on streets in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt where millions of Nigerians sleep at petrol stations for days to buy  fuel.

A sign that Nigerians were getting ready for the purported fuel normalcy April 7, 2016 was when a top NNPC official on Sunday said the situation would ease in the next two weeks, following the completion of repairs on the vandalised pipelines supplying crude oil to Kaduna Refining and Petrochemical Company (KRPC), which they said, was now ready to commence production.

The Group Executive Director (GED) and Chief Operating Officer (COO), Upstream Sector, NNPC, Bello Rabiu, gave the assurance when he embarked on a facility tour of the KRPC Plant.

He disclosed that the Warri and the Port Harcourt refineries were also set for adequate fuel supply in the country, saying the era of shortage in supply of the petroleum product would soon be over.

“As you can see the whole country is under siege because of fuel supply, we are looking at the entire value chain to solve the problem. I come here to see the readiness of this refinery to be back on stream. We were actually having problem with the supply of crude oil to this place from Warri. It is about 640 kilometres line. That line is almost ready so that we would start pushing the crude here,” he said.

 

Kachikwu’s Magic Wand

Ibe Kachiwu’s appointment as the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) last August, to most Nigerians, was seen as one of the best appointment the current President Muhammadu Buhari led administration made to drive its change agenda in the oil and gas sector.

Even, some of the critics of President Muhammadu Buhari could argue less that the emergence of Kachikwu as the helmsman of NNPC was a square peg in a square hole to turn the institution around for good.

Kachikwu, a first class lawyer came with a lot of baggage as former Vice President of ExxonMobil and intimidating credentials that leaves one with no doubt that he was the ultimate man for the job.

He left reporters spell bound at his maiden press conference in Lagos few weeks after his appointment, where he reeled out his agenda on how to reposition the NNPC in order to serve Nigerians well and compete favourably with its contemporaries in order parts of the world.

He actually did the yeoman’s job in the corporation in a way that warmed him into the hearts of many Nigerians, who said he would perform exceptionally well if the current administration gives him more responsibilities in the oil and gas sector.

Kachikwu eventually emerged the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources at the first major cabinet appointment announced by the current government. That he combined this new role with the position of GMD of NNPC speak volume of Kachikwu’s magic wand to some of the knotty issues plaguing the nation’s oil and gas sector.

He used his magic wand to among other things do away with some of the personnel of the NNPC, revitalize the operations of the NNPC, although this was not enough, remodifies the Petroleum Industry Bill, maintains heavy stance against the deregulation of the sector and unbundled the NNPC recently.

The hydra-headed scarcity of fuel which reared its head in several weeks ago in the country didn’t catch Kachikwu unaware for the NNPC which he superintends has been the sole importer of fuel for some time.

Some of the refineries which Kachikwu promised would be fully back on stream by December 31, last year, could not just produced enough product for the consumption of the country.

The scarcity of fuel keeps trickling in and thinning out while the NNPC devices measures to control its spread. Currently, it is obvious that Nigeria is currently facing fuel crisis without any political undertone.

Last Wednesday, Kachikwu had, while speaking with State House correspondents shortly after he led a joint delegation of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria and the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers to meet with Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said since he was not a magician, the fuel queues could not be eliminated with a magic wand.

According to him, despite the efforts being put in place by the Federal Government, fuel queues might not be completely eliminated until about two months (May).

He said that with the reality on ground, it was by sheer magic that the country had the amount of products it currently had at the filling stations.

His emotional outburst and perplexity at the time Nigerians sleep in filling stations to buy fuel amid excruciating economic condition put the Minister in dark spot among labour unions, oil marketers, politicians and loyalists of the ruling party.

President of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, Comrade Bala Kaigama, implored Kachikwu to resign his appointment instead of giving Nigerians excuses on why it would be impossible to get fuel easily in the country before June.

He said: “If he is not a magician, he should resign now. What we are saying is that Nigerians are getting impatient with him. So, if he has no quick fix to it, he should just quit. We are getting impatient. He is moving from one unpopular policy to another, yet we cannot see any quick fix.’’

General Secretary of the NLC, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, queried the propriety of any agent of government to resign himself to a position that would subject Nigerians to months of long fuel queues.

“As far as we are concerned, one day of queues is unacceptable to Nigerians and the hardship Nigerians have been subjected to, through the queues over a long period now, is actually something that should be condemned.”

 

NNPC’s Unbridled Desire To Be The Sole Importer Of The Product

President of Nigerian Association of Petroleum Station Owners, Alhaji Yakubu Mohammed, who also punctured the Minister’s submission, blamed the current fuel scarcity in the country on the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s unbridled desire to be the sole importer of the product.

He alleged that the NNPC is still being controlled by cabals who profit from the current lopsided distribution of fuel in Nigeria, adding that the development is compounded by the fact that the corporation is not supporting moves by the Independent Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) to have access and distribute fuel in the country.

Perhaps, the most virulent criticism of Kachikwu’s position on the raging fuel crisis in the land came from the national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who said the Minister’s statement was unbecoming of an agent of government

He said: “Much public ire has been drawn to the statement made by the Minister of State (for Petroleum Resources) Ibe Kachikwu that he was not trained as a magician and that basically Nigerians should count themselves fortunate that the NNPC under his stewardship has been able to bring in the amount of petrol it is currently doing.

“Perhaps the statement by Kachikwu was made in a moment of unguarded frustration or was an awkward attempt at a joke. Whatever the motive, it was untimely and off-putting. The remark did not sit well with the Nigerian people; they were as right to feel insulted as the minister was wrong to have said such a thing.

“The fuel shortage is severely biting for the average person. They are forced to remain in lines far too long — for too much time — to pay too much money for too little fuel. This is no joking matter. Livelihoods and people’s welfare are at stake.

“With so much on the line, Kachikwu’s flippancy was out-of-line. He was basically telling Nigerians that they should be lucky that they are getting the inadequate supply they now suffer and that they should just be quiet and endure the shortage for several weeks more.”

According to him, Kachikwu’s intervention was unhelpful, adding that it rather panicked and disappointed the public as to the duration of the crisis as it insulted the people by its tonality. But the presidency has since replied Tinubu in a way that has now polarized the party between those who supports the former governor and Kachikwu.

 

 Downstream Sector Suffers From Overregulation

Director-General of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Mr. Muda Yusuf, said the downstream petroleum sector currently suffers from overregulation which has profound negative consequences for growth, investment and job creation in the sector.

He explained that the current model of managing the downstream petroleum sector is not sustainable, adding that it is at variance with the present administration’s vision to diversify the economy and create jobs.

It perpetuates the phenomenal of rent economy and detrimental to economic competition. It is important to stress that the citizens are the ultimate beneficiaries of a competitive market environment.

According to him, the weak compliance with the regulated price of PMS in parts of the country is largely a symptom of much deeper problems and distortions in the petroleum products supply chain, stressing that the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) has been spending valuable time and energy fighting the symptoms of a problem, rather than addressing the fundamentals.

He therefore urged the government to urgently liberalize the downstream petroleum sector for unfettered private sector participation and investment, subject of course to an appropriate regulatory framework.

He said the role of the NNPC needs to be clearly defined; stressing that it should not be an operator and still have regulatory powers.

“The roles of the DPR and the PPPRA need to be better defined as there are currently several instances of overlapping and duplication of activities and responsibilities,” he said.

According to him, the refineries should be operated as commercial business entities similar to NLNG model which would improve efficiency and reduce the burden of the refineries on the nations’ treasury.

He said the pipelines should the concessioned for a more efficient management and reduction of road haulage for fuel, while the Central Bank of Nigeria must ensure a more transparent process in the allocation of foreign exchange to petroleum products marketers.

Perhaps, Kachikwu may regain his magic wand if he applies the recommendations on how best to deal with the monster that has thrown the nation into tears and pains.