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Crisis Over Fuel Scarcity Turns Messier

*Northern Youths, Others Lambast Tinubu On Comments Against Kachikwu

The crisis following the perennial fuel scarcity in the country has turned messier, with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) admitting that majority of oil marketers have abandoned the business of bringing fuel into the country, as a consequence of unpaid arrears due to them from the petroleum subsidy.

The NNPC made this revelation ahead of the invitation of the Senate to Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, who is also the corporation’s Group Managing Director for him to appear today and explain why the country had been groaning almost intractably under the fuel scarcity crisis for almost a month now.

The NNPC posted a terse message through its twitter handle yesterday evening, saying inter alia: “Challenge: Unpaid arrears arising from subsidy regime necessitated most oil marketers to stop all forms of involvement in products imports.”

The Senate after taking a tour of the Abuja metropolis for hours yesterday, checking and asking questions from fuel dealers and motorists on the persistent fuel scarcity, the upper legislative chamber described the situation as unacceptable, directing the petroleum minister to come over and explain why the situation is not abating.

The summon on the Minister was issued by the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream) which carried out the assessment task on behalf of the Senate as directed by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki.

However, the view of the National leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Bola Ahmed Tinubu on the lingering fuel scarcity has drawn the anger of the leadership of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) who described Tinubu in the negatives following his comments on the fuel scarcity and his blaming the situation on the junior petroleum minister, Ibe Kachikwu.

The NYCN in a statement issued yesterday by its National President, Barr. Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere said the comments passed on Kachikwu by Tinubu was not altruistic, but a smokescreen of a personal resentment to the petroleum minister.

While touring the Abuja city yesterday, the Senate Committee found out that most of the fuel stations were not selling the product as they said the much sought after Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) otherwise called Petrol was not available in the stations.

The fuel stations alleged lack of supply from NNPC Depot Suleja, Niger State, even as desperate motorists queued under the scorching sun for the non-available product.

The committee’s Acting Chairman, Jibrin Barau along with two of his committee members, said the Petroleum Minister must definitely appear before them today to explain what led to this situation and way out of it.

Senator Barau said, “this situation is very bad and unacceptable, hence, the need for the Minister to appear before us tomorrow ( today), and unveil his plan for the way out to us.

“Even if he doesn’t have any plan yet out of the lingering problem, the Senate President and the entire members of the committee are more than ready to rub minds with him for that needed purpose”, he said.

Senate Minority whip and a member of the committee, Senator Philip Aduda, called on the Federal Government to arrest the situation fast, by making fuel available to Nigerians, adding that “what Nigerians needed was fuel and not blame game”.

He said: “The government should look for petrol and ensure that it is given to the people, demands are meant for the people, for us, to Nigerians.

“It is unacceptable, we are Nigerians and it will be bad for us to continue remaining in queues. If the APC leaders like, let them blame themselves that is their problem, but the most important thing is for us to have fuel in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“That is what we are looking for and that is what we want. We want to see all these queues disappear”.

Meanwhile, petrol marketers at various stations visited, lamented that lack of supply and inadequate supply of petroleum products by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), in recent times, resulted in product scarcity of product as being experienced across the country.

Specifically, the manager of Forte Oil, opposite Transcorp Hilton in Maitama District, said while only three fuel tankers are being supplied daily now, as against five or six that the station used to have.

Isa Friday, manager of Oando Filling station, Zone 4, disclosed that it had been long the station got supply from NNPC depot in Suleja.

Finding faults with the motives of Tinubu on the attack on Kachikwu over the lingering fuel scarcity, however, Barrister Ugochinyere said he “would not have ordinarily joined issues with a political leader like Asiwaju Tinubu and especially where the issue is the present fuel scarcity biting hard on Nigerians and affecting many youth start up enterprises, but for the fact that the statement was a personal battle cloaked in the gab of altruism”.

He said the fact that Tinubu chose to go public with his feelings on the fuel scarcity rather than go to see the president and discuss the issue in private shows that he’s trying to get at Kachikwu for a personal reason.

“It is a fact that the Asiwaju has access to the villa to lay his complaints; rather he chose to, while claiming to stand for Nigerians, heavily sponsor his personally signed statement to make headlines in almost all national media. Otherwise what will explain the headlines or, is Tinubu’s voice louder than that of all Nigerians who are in pains daily and demanding for an immediate end to the fuel crisis?

“It is clear that the essence of the statement was not to help in any way to solve the problem but to cast Mr. Kachikwu in bad light and put pressure on Mr. President to sack the Minister of State.

“The reasons are not farfetched; Bola Tinubu vehemently opposed the appointment of Mrs. Onikepo Animashaun as the General Manager of the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), by Mr. Kachikwu.

“The appointment was in Tinubu’s view done on the recommendation of Pastor Tunde Bakare and with the blessing of Babatunde Fashola who is believed not to be in Tinubu’s political structure any longer.

“Asiwaju believes that for anyone from Lagos State to get an appointment in this administration, it would have to be with his express say so. Why should he play God when he is a man? Why must the Minister and indeed the Nigerian petroleum sector face turmoil just because the Minister refused to sack Mrs. Animashaun as demanded by Bola Tinubu. Asiwaju should know by now that he cannot always have it his own way.

“The attack on Kachikwu was a smokescreen plot by Tinubu to indirectly lower the ratings of President Buhari before the eyes of ordinary Nigerians because the ongoing reforms embarked by the Minister is not favouring the Interest of Tinubu, Hence he chose to attack the President indirectly by hitting on Kachikwu.

“The oil industry reforms by Kachikwu is working and within a short period of time the gains of this reforms shall provide sustainable energy problem solution for Nigerians.

“Nigerians have more stake in the Buhari administration than Tinubu because the failure of the administration will hurt more on ordinary Nigerians than Tinubu and we shall not allow him to destabilise the administration.

“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari and Mr. Ibe Kachikwu to concentrate on the urgent task of ending the fuel crisis and not be distracted by persons who because they over rate themselves are angry that the entire wealth of the nation has not been handed over to them”, the statement read further.