The Senate is to look into the causes of the current lingering fuel crisis
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Jun 1, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
AS the fuel scarcity persists in the country, the Senate on Thursday, May 21, ordered its committees on Petroleum Resources (Upstream and Downstream) to immediately commence investigation into the causes of the current fuel crisis in the country. The directive followed a motion by Senator Abdul Ningi, Deputy Senate Majority Leader, who prayed the upper chamber to pay serious attention to the biting fuel crisis which was creating great hardship for Nigerians at the moment.
Ningi, while moving his motion, said since the Senate still have the mandate of the people till June 1, it had the responsibility to intervene in the unfortunate development. “We need to know whether fuel scarcity has come to stay. We need to know whether it has become part of our lives. We need to plan. By planning and talking about it we are now sensitising Nigerians to brace up for the impending issue of fuel scarcity whether it is going to be here permanently or temporary.
“But we can’t know all these things until we hear from the experts. Therefore my prayer is to ask the committee on downstream and upstream to come up with explanations next Tuesday through which Nigerians will know and plan their future. Otherwise, I think it’s legally and morally wrong to keep silent about it, sweep it under the carpet and to continue to believe these things are usual,” he said.
Ike Ekweremadu, deputy Senate president, who presided over the plenary, noted that since Ningi raised the motion under personal explanation, the senate would not debate it but would rather approve his prayers. “Ningi’s prayers are simple and straightforward. He is asking us, as representatives of the people, to direct our committees on upstream and downstream to find out what is currently going on in the oil sector and possibly find a way of addressing it. In that regard, we now ask our committees on Petroleum Resources (Upstream and Downstream), to find out what is going on and what the government is doing about it and report back on Tuesday next week. That is our wish,” he said.
Meanwhile, the hopes of a ending the fuel scarcity on Tuesday, May 19, dimmed further as the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, and the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, began an indefinite strike. In Abuja, the protesting labour union members barricaded the entrance of the headquarters of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, thereby preventing the employees from resuming in their efforts to get its management attends to their demands.
Specifically, PENGASSAN called for a declaration of emergency in the oil and gas sector and urged the incoming government to do everything possible to address the plethora of issues bedevilling the sector in order to ensure its efficiency. Francis Johnson, PENGASSAN president, in a statement pointed out that there were many issues requiring urgent attention from the incoming government to reposition the industry for efficient and effective delivery of its benefits to Nigerians.
For instance, he canvassed the need for the Muhammadu Buhari-led government to call an all-inclusive stakeholders’ forum to critically examine and proffer workable and enduring solutions to all the problems in the larger interest of the country. “All the subsectors of the oil and gas industry have one challenge or the other and all these challenges are affecting the deliveries of the benefits of our God-given hydrocarbon resources to the country and the entire people of Nigeria. These challenges result from past neglects, wrong policies and policy summersault in some areas of the sub-sectors. All these are inflicting pains on Nigerians who ought to be enjoying the benefits of the natural resources that God bequeathed to the country,” he said.
According to Johnson, some of the challenges facing the sector include, pipeline vandalism, crude oil theft, state of the refineries, intractable and persistent scarcity of petroleum products, subsidy payment controversies, and divestment. Others are, illegal transfer or allocation of oil blocks, irregular Joint Venture, JV, funding with emphasis on delay in cash call payment, inadequate funding of government agencies in the sector and undue interference in the management of government agencies.
The union leader said that the stakeholders’ forum will chart ways of attending to the critical challenges affecting the industry and evolve a framework that would facilitate its stability, adding that machinery should be set in motion for periodic meetings to evaluate and review the success and workability of the framework.
NUPENG, on its part, said it was time the federal government assessed more critically how the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, was being managed with a view to ensuring that the guiding laws and rules relating to the operations of the company were kept. Adamson Momoh, assistant general secretary, NUPENG, said the strike against NPDC, which is an arm of NNPC, would continue until the management sees reasons with the workers.