Fears of scarcity of petroleum products as Nigeria approaches the Yuletide are strong, following allegations by stakeholders in the sector led by Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) that there are plans by cabals in the downstream sector to create artificial scarcity.
They accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) of according credit right to few oil marketers and perpetuating monopoly it claims to curtail just as they petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene.
A member of IPMAN, who did not want to be named for fear of victimisation, said in Abuja, yesterday, that there was imminent scarcity of petroleum products. His words: “The cabals are working hard to create artificial scarcity in order to give this government a bad name. The sufferings and the pains of the masses are their gains. The cabals in the downstream sector are used to free lunch and the day subsidy was removed was the day this free lunch was taken away from them.
“Ironically, the NNPC claims that it wants to open-up the market but this market is only open to a few cabals. How can the NNPC open-up the market by according credit right to few major marketers? I have over 40 distribution outlets across the country and about 1000 Nigerians make their livelihood from my chain of distribution. For over 20 years, we have never defaulted our credit status. One of my distribution outlets in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja requires a full tank on a daily basis to service our customers. A tank is over 30,000 litres. In all, we require seven tanks to meet up with the weekly demands of our customers. And for weeks, we have not had supply and this is what the cabals really want. They want queues to return to our filling station.”
“For weeks, my distribution outlets that service thousands of Nigerians do not have petroleum products. The era of scarcity is gradually returning. The government must act fast.
“Although the NNPC claims that it has withdrawn credit sales to all oil marketers across the country, but there are strong indications that the corporation has hand-picked major marketers and few independent oil marketers and accorded them the right to access credits from the government. By according credit right to few oil marketers, the NNPC is perpetrating the monopoly it claims to curtail.
“The petroleum sector, which has been the mainstay of Nigerian economy has been dominated and hijacked by some cabals who have been feeding large from the weak institutions of the sector. Successive governments have tried to put the activities of the oil cabals in check, but each time the government tries, the cabals bring new strategies, as they always appear to be ahead of the government.”
He added: “The cabals in the downstream sector are likened to the proverbial cat with many lives. The downstream sector has always been in a state of comatose even though government always strives to breathe life into a sector that is being dragged back.
“The efforts of the current government of President Muhammadu Buhari must be applauded but there is an urgent need to intimate the government on how the cabals are thwarting and frustrating the genuine efforts of government at restoring sanity to the hitherto derelict downstream sector that is notoriously known for its corruption and less popular for playing its expected role of making quality petroleum products available to all Nigerians.
“Although, whenever there is fuel scarcity in Nigeria, members of the public tend to blame IPMAN. It is true that we control about 85 per cent of petroleum outlets across the country; it is always our desire to make petroleum products available because that is the only time we make profit. We do not make profit when the products are not available. The NNPC in collaboration with some cabals in the industry always want to create artificial scarcity because the more the scarcity, the more the kickbacks accruable to them.”
Another independent oil marketer who has been a key player in the downstream sector said that inasmuch as members of IPMAN are ready to cooperate and support the anti-corruption efforts of the Federal Government, the government should not be oblivious of certain realities in the sector.
He decried the corruption in the sector and predicted looming scarcity of petroleum products if government did not take adequate measures.
According to him, “we have to be fair to the government of President Buhari; he has brought relative sanity to the sector. However, the government needs to know that there are some ‘big boys’ in the sector that are still working tirelessly to sabotage the efforts of the government.”
He added: “Sometimes in March 2016, the NNPC unilaterally and for unfathomable reasons abruptly withdrew the status of some independent oil marketers through an internal circular. It, however, reserved the status for only major marketers and few independent credit oil marketers.
“In the past, government used to provide credit facilities to all the independent petroleum marketers with stringent conditions, but the NNPC through its internal memorandum has abolished these arrangements and replaced same with draconian arrangements that favour only a few but powerful oil cabals.
“The decision by the management of NNPC is such that the major marketers and the other few independent marketers who are beneficiaries of the new draconian policy of the NNPC are given monopolistic right over petroleum products marketing in Nigeria. The cabals are re-strategizing, in flagrant connivance with some bad eggs in the NNPC.”