We’ll try and make sure from the (Federal) Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Dr. Rilwanu Lukeman (the Minister) and myself – that there are no queues at the filling sations that people became used to several years ago, that resulted in people having a very bleak Christmas because instead of spending time with your family, you are spending time queuing at the filling station.”
This assurance was given by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Hon. Odein Ajumogobia to Nigerians in an interview with The Tide in Abuja in reaction to long queues witnessed at some filling stations in Abuja.
Ajumogobia further assured: “We are doing everything in time to ensure that there is adequate supply of fuel. We are also doing what we can to ensure that people sell the product until such a time the market will be deregulated at the price that government has indicated and with the hope that we in the meantime will build the necessary stakeholders consensus on deregulation.”
The Minister was emphatic that the current situation of some filling stations in parts of the country where long queues are noticed will abate as the government is tackling the situation head-on to ensure no queue is seen at filling stations across the country throughout the yuletide season.
Ajumogobia who was speaking with The Tide after a tour of some filling stations in Abuja where long queues where noticed, including the NNPC mega station along Olusegun Obasanjo Way, Central Business District, blamed the situation on ‘hoarding’ of products and ‘inordinate ambition’ of some Nigerians to make profit at all cost, noting that government has risen to the challenge and would bring relief to motorists throughout the festive season.
“The queues you saw recently were not across the country, although I did see some media reports suggesting they were across the country; they were limited to Abuja. They arose out of a financial dispute between some members of the Petroleum Tankers Drivers’ Association and MTEL; and this led to an embargo of fuel into Abuja. But I am happy to say we were able to intervene and the embargo was lifted,” he said.
The Minister of State for Petroleum explained that the resurgence of the queues last week has been due to hoarding and corrupt tendencies where products have been loaded for distribution into Abuja but have been diverted and not been sold at filling stations in Abuja, adding that they discovered that the tankers often only offload part of their contents while holding on to the rest of it with the aim of profiteering. I think it is absolutely related to the marketers’ expectation of the removal of the subsidy and the deregulation of the market – people are, in anticipation of that, beginning to do what they often do at this time of the year which is to hoard and to try to make inordinate profit.”
He however added that due to the regulated nature of the market, only a few people have licences to import, so they control where their fuel goes and could easily exploit the situation to their advantage. Ajumogobia assured Nigerians that government was doing its best to monitor and regulate, warning that “we will bring to book those who take advantage of their dominant position in the market place by terminating the privilege that a regulation policy confers on them.
He said, the refineries were not functioning presently as a result of “senseless vandalism – damage to the crude lines that feed them, a situation that made the nation to be 100 per cent dependent on importation.
“What government is doing is to issue licences to major marketers under pre-existing arrangement to supplement NNPC’s guarantee of adequate supply. NNPC is doing its own bit to ensure supply but we have to appeal to those who market the product not to exploit their fellow citizens by taking advantage of the fact of this festive season when demand typically goes up as a result of lots of people travelling,” he enthused.
Asked to state categorically if Nigerians should expect a hitch-free Christmas, in terms of the availability and purchase of petroleum products across the country, he snapped: “Yes, we are working to make it hitch-free. We are doing everything we can.”
Ajumogobia assured the nation further: “I think, this is the third Christmas that I would have in the saddle and I think Nigerians will testify that this will be the third Christmas that has been hitch-free from the perspective of fuel supply despite myriad challenges.
Last year, we didn’t have queues at filling stations, the Christmas the year before – 2007 – the same. We hope that this year will be the same.”
Justus Awaji, Abuja
Traders Protest FG’s Move To Restore Festac Town
The move by the Federal Government to restore Festac Town in Lagos to its original status has sparked up protest among traders occupying Agboju Amuwo Planks and Building Materials Market.
The traders on Wednesday, protested at the FHA office in Festac Town against the demolition of their market, following the demolition of illegal structures by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) ahead of the restoration.
The Tide recalls that there was a petition to the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, in 2020 about illegal structures that had taken over Festac Town.
Speaking at a stakeholders’ meeting on the restoration of Festac town organised by FHA, last year, its South-West Zonal Manager, Mr Akintola Olagbemiro, said, “This year, we commenced the restoration of Festac town, following the consent judgement from the court against illegal occupants of Festac land.
“Our action is to save the residents from the insecurity that has taken over the entire Festac town as a result of illegal structures everywhere”.
The chairman of allottees of First Gate to Third Gate, Mr Kole Olatunji, in his remarks at the meeting said the land from First Gate to Third Gate was allocated between 1985 and 1999, noting that with the consent judgment, original owners of the land as allocated should take over their plots.
But the chairman of plank market, Muhammed Bello, protested the seven-day notice given to traders to vacate the place without alternative arrangements.
Bello said: “How do they expect us to remove our wares in seven days?
“What we want is that they should allow us to remain there and we will pay whatever amount they ask us to pay”.
Speaking in the same vein, the chairman of Cane Chair and Furniture Association, Emmanuel Okoye said: “We need freedom. Let them tell us where they want us to stay. That place was swampy. We filled the place with several millions of Naira which we got as loans.
“We also rely on loans to do our business. Whatever the government wants us to pay; we are ready to pay to remain there. We have been there for 27 years. What we lost to the demolition is over N300 million”.
Fuel Tanker Explosion Kills Five, Injures Two In Ogun
No fewer than five persons were on Wednesday burnt to death, while two others sustained first degree of injury in a fuel tanker explosion at Ajilete, along Owode-Idiroko road, in Yewa South local government area of Ogun State.
Eyewitness accounts revealed that a truck bearing 33,000 litres of petroleum product was descending the steep portion of the road when its tank suddenly detached from truck’s body and tumbled to the ground with a bang.
The explosion, the witnesses said, killed five persons on the spot, while two other persons were injured.
The Tide learnt that the seven victims were all residents of the area where the accident occurred.
Confirming the incident, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) Commander, Idiroko Unit, Akinwunmi Olaluwoye, said five deaths were recorded in the accident which occurred at about 8.15 am on Wednesday.
According to him, the remains of the dead had been claimed by their families.
He disclosed that a bus and a motorcycle were also caught in a web of the explosion and razed.
He said, “no vehicle rammed into the tanker. The tank dropped off from the back of the tanker and exploded. The number of persons involved are seven; five dead, two injured.
“The driver had taken away the head of the truck as at the time we got there. But we have allowed the police to take charge and handle that aspect”.
Travellers To Access $4,000 As CBN Boosts Forex Supplies
Nigerians travelling abroad can now access a maximum amount of $4,000 foreign exchange from banks following the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) announcement to increase forex supplies.
The CBN had said in a recent statement that it had concluded plans to increase the amount of foreign exchange allocated to banks to meet legitimate needs.
This followed the warning by the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, to Deposit Money Banks to desist from denying customers the opportunity to purchase foreign exchange.
The purposes to access forex included Personal Travel Allowance, Basic Travel Allowance, tuition fees, and medical payments as well as Small and Medium Enterprises transactions or for the repatriation of Foreign Direct Investment proceeds, the CBN had stated.
Sources from some of the banks said those travelling on business trips could also access a maximum amount of $5,000 for each trip.
At a virtual Bankers’ Committee meeting last week, the bankers discussed how the CBN intended to assist with forex to ensure availability for the upcoming summer period and the return of students to school in September.
The CBN also said the BDCs would continue to have their weekly allocations.
The committee observed that the rates were going up.
It stated, “The CBN has said that all the banks must make availability at all times and anyone who wants to buy BTA, PTA, medical fees, student school fees and all the eligible invisible purchases to ensure that Nigerians are not forced to go and queue in the parallel market.
“So what the Central Bank is doing is to encourage all banks to make sure that there is available forex at all times, and that his information should be communicated on all our platforms.
“We are asking our customers to come to the branches and for BTA, for example, present the required documents, which are basically your international passport, your visa, your valid ticket and fill up the form in the bank.
“And what we have been instructed to do is ensure that we don’t turn anybody back and that we should request from the Central Bank once we exhaust the forex that we have.
“The idea is to have a hitch-free summer period and the resumption for children to go back to school. The idea is to ensure there is less pressure on the forex and then the rates will come down”.
Speaking during the virtual meeting, the Group Managing Director, Access Bank, Herbert Wigwe, said, “I think again as part of the Central Bank’s role in terms of price stability and the need to support small and medium enterprises, there was highlight of the need for banks to go and support SMEs who import small raw materials for them to set up their businesses”.
The Managing Director, Ecobank, Patrick Akinwuntan, said, “All banks are available to ensure forex need is met.”
Managing Director, Sterling Bank, Abubakar Suleiman, said the CBN had provided sufficient foreign exchange to meet the needs of all legitimate Nigerian travellers and therefore, the idea of going to any other market should not arise at all.
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