’Femi Asu and Okechukwu Nnodim
The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry has called on the Federal Government to punish those involved in the importation of adulterated Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) into the country.
The LCCI also highlighted the need for an immediate overhaul of the country’s fuel import processes.
This came as oil marketers told our correspondent that although the supply of clean PMS imported into Nigeria had started arriving in states, the queues at filling stations would take some days to clear.
It was observed that queues persisted on Friday in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and many others states nationwide.
The LCCI said in a statement on Friday that Nigerians had trusted that there was a fuel importation system that could not be compromised in the manner it happened last week.
“This is disappointing, risky, and calls for immediate overhaul of our import processes and systems to forestall any chance of future occurrence,” the President of the chamber, Dr Michael Olawale-Cole, said.
He noted that there had been reported cases of damage to vehicles across the country before the adulterated fuel was withdrawn.
He said, “One cannot imagine the danger this portends if it had happened or should happen with aviation fuels for our airlines.
“Beyond the rhetoric of accusations and denials by the parties involved, there is a need to conduct an extensive and conclusive investigation to unravel the circumstances that led to the compromised importation. The results of the investigations should point to actionable penalties for all parties involved to serve as a deterrent against future occurrences.”
Olawale-Cole urged the government to conduct an audit of the current processes towards having a standardised system that meets international best practice.
He said, “These are necessary to forestall future occurrences and boost the integrity of our importation processes.
“However, the most sustainable solution to curtail these hazards and perpetually remove the burden of fuel subsidy is to have our domestic refineries in operation to refine our crude oil for local consumption and for export to boost our foreign exchange earnings. And as always emphasised by the Chamber, the government is expected to create an enabling environment where private refineries can thrive.
“Let us imagine that Nigeria will save about N6tn a year from fuel subsidies if we refine our crude and not accommodating any landing costs as the case presently. This figure represents about 50 per cent of our expenditures (when you add the recent proposed N2.56tn supplementary budget to cover six months fuel subsidy) in the 2022 Federal Government budget.
“We urge the Federal Government, therefore, to draw the courage of taking these necessary steps towards lessening the burden of consumption subsidies and investing more to boost our productive capacities.”
Olawale-Cole said the government should consider the economics of refurbishing and maintaining existing refineries to take a decisive action on whether to own the refineries or involve the private sector in their management for profitability and sustainability.
Speaking on the fuel supply situation, the President, Petroleum Products Retail Outlets owners Association of Nigeria, Billy Gillis-Harry, said private filling stations had joined NNPC in extending their work hours in order to clear the persistent queues.
He said, “We’ve been monitoring the situation and products are coming into states such as Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja and many others.
“Although there was a little issue in Lagos of not giving products to those who have paid at the local level and moving the products to only Abuja. But that has been resolved.
“So to discourage people from panic buying. We have suggested that our customers should find a creative way of doing it, where they can be in line, get numbers and then they will be called upon to take fuel at the right time.”
He added, “So they don’t need to spend long hours on the queue. Also, all registered PETROAN members have extended their working hours. Most of them who normally close by 5pm have now shifted it to 10pm.” (punch)