With the Federal Government seizing the initiative to address fuel scarcity with the composition of a 14-man Steering Committee on Petroleum Products Supply and Distribution Management, chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari, National President of Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Yusuf Lawal Othman, has applauded the move, which he said, would see to effective monitoring of products loaded from depots.
The team, which has Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva as alternate chairman, has among its terms of reference, to ensure national strategic stock management, visibility on Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) refineries’ rehabilitation programme and end-to-end tracking of petroleum products, especially Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), to eliminate smuggling.
Addressing journalists, yesterday, in Abuja, Othman decried what he called deliberate distortion of narrative surrounding the shortfall and non-availability of products by certain forces in the downstream sector, who keep blaming NNPCL retail outlets for the recurring scarcity.
Hinting that the retail outlets were doing their best to resolve the crisis, he insisted that certain players in the sector, who lack capacity for storage and effective distribution, were pushing the false narrative to demonise the national oil company’s business concerns.
The NARTO boss argued that public expectations were being met by the retail outlets, which sell petrol at the official pump price.
His words: “Whatever is written is not true, it is false. As far as we are concerned, the NNPCL retailers are the largest retail outlets in the country. As of today, they are the only marketing company that sells fuel at the same price everywhere in the country.
“The same price in Lagos, same price in Abuja. So, you will see some envy by other marketers and from experience, personally, my own company has been working with NNPC retail in the last 15 years. I know their pedigree and their capacity.”
Othman appealed to his members and others involved in haulage of petroleum products to refrain from activities that could sabotage government’s efforts to surmount the challenge crippling effective movement of goods and services.
He continued: “Let me use this opportunity to call on our law-abiding and patriotic members, who are into the transportation of petroleum products, to please desist from illegal bunkering, smuggling and diversion of petroleum products because these actions are detrimental to the economy of our great nation. This association will not support, defend or sympathise with anyone caught committing these crimes.”
Asked to give timeline for end to the scarcity, the NARTO president noted that some of the contributing factors were beyond control of government.
“Relating to the current supply and availability of petroleum products is not unconnected with the current Russia-Ukraine war. Two, is the high cost of transporting from the mother vessels to the daughter vessels and to the tank farms.
“Three, the exchange rate. But I know we have adequate fuel,” he said.
Othman urged government to review the high operational cost of doing business faced by players in the haulage of petroleum products.