Some labour leaders have said that the recent threat by the Department of Security Service [DSS] against potential products saboteurs nationwide would not be effective until the security agencies get to the root of the problem.
A fortnight ago, to contain the lingering scarcity, the DSS had given a 48-hour ultimatum to the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited and oil marketers to make petrol available to Nigerians.
The Department said the challenge of fuel scarcity had assumed a dimension that is detrimental to the security of the country.
However, in a national television chat yesterday, PETROAN chairman, System 2E, Eastern Zone, Sunny Nkpe, said the threat issued by the DSS won’t change anything. “If they are serious they should start from the source.
“They should go to the depots, the private depot operators [PDO] and find out what’s going on there because that’s where we are getting products from for now,” he said.
He maintained that until the Department of State Service (DSS) curbs the excesses of a cartel operating among private depot owners hoarding the commodity, fuel scarcity would persist.
Describing the current supply situation as bad, he insisted that for the last six months, retailers have continued to get products from third parties, a development that has increased prices at the pumps, despite several representations to the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC).
Nkpe revealed that members of his association were currently buying between N220 to N250 from the so-called third parties, pointing out that if they were buying directly from the NNPC, products would be sold at N148.71, which is the controlled price.
Nkpe stated that in the past six months, there had not been a drop of allocation to the distributors’ system by the NNPC, despite efforts to engage the authorities.
He added that the NNPC was selective in handing down ATP (Authority to Pay) to operators, a development that has hobbled supply of the product.
“Until the cabal in that area is handled and taken care of, we cannot get any reduction or even fairness in the distribution of petroleum products because the products land there and the off-takers fix their prices there and load it for our members the way they like,” he stated.
Also speaking in the same programme, a former Trade Union Congress (TUC) President, Peter Esele, said a cartel is holding the industry to ransom.
According to him, in Port Harcourt for instance, products are being sold for above N220, with queues stretching kilometres. He argued that the sector has since deregulated itself, maintaining that if government was still paying subsidy, there should be value for money because there’s corruption within the system.
“Everything is done by who knows who and it means that we are going to have a bleak or chaotic Christmas,” he stressed.
The former labour leader urged the government to intervene in the matter, calling on the National Assembly to lead the investigation to unravel the cartel. He explained that if subsidy has been removed, the government should be bold enough to let Nigerians know the situation.
Esele stated that there was racketeering within the system which has subjected Nigerians to hardship, rubbishing the claim that the scarcity was caused by issues in Apapa road infrastructure.
He expressed delight that the DSS is stepping into the fuel supply matter, adding that that it was abnormal to pay with dollars for services within the country. He also asserted that there’s racketeering going on to the detriment of the people.
Meanwhile, more than forty-eight hours after the expiration of the ultimatum by the Department of State Services (DSS) to stakeholders in the oil sector, petrol scarcity has persisted in many parts of the country, including FCT, Plateau, Kaduna, Kogi and Kano states, Benue and Niger states.