TO permanently put an end to crisis in the oil sector, the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) has urged the in-coming administration to see to the removal of fuel subsidy and importation of petroleum products into the country.
The oil workers, while sympathizing with Nigerians on current hardship, said the perennial problem of scarcity would continue as long as local refineries are redundant, new ones not built and Nigeria remains import dependent.
President of the Union, Igwe Achese, while reacting to the fuel scarcity in Lagos, said the oil and gas sector was saddled with a lot of insincerities, both on the part of the government and operators, which the President-elect must review to restore sanity and revive the economy.
Besides, Achese denied that oil workers’ strike was behind the current scarcity. According to him, the oil workers were not on strike and remain committed to public service, notwithstanding the fact that oil marketers have prevented them from loading at the depots.
Addressing reporters on the current scarcity, the president said the oil marketers were holding the nation to ransom because the current administration continues to support the illegality of oil subsidy and conspiracies to ground the refineries.
According to him, “It is because of this that I’ve said that the scarcity will continue. It is though painful to say that because they have failed to do the right thing.”
Continuing, he said: “It is only in this country that government will keep subsidizing business for businessmen, in terms of paying loan interest and foreign exchange (Forex) differentials. This has continued because the government itself has failed to provide the necessary environment — that is, ensuring that the refineries are rehabilitated and build new ones,” he said.
Achese, flanked by his executive members, stressed that Nigeria cannot continue to depend on importation of fuel to service about 180 million people.
“The past government have never exornated themselves from this ugly situation. And I will keep saying that until our refineries are effectively working and those we’ve asked to manage the oil and gas sector also have the consciousness of doing the business well, we will not go forward. Today, the highest importer of petroleum product into Nigeria is the NNPC. And who operates the refinery? NNPC. Why will NNPC own depots that they are not using, and still contracting the function to private depots and pay them? These are some of the issues. Our problem is beyond N200billion that government is owing marketers and until government wakes up to her responsibility, we will always remain at the same point because we are dependent on importation,” he said.
The president said further that it was therefore their position that the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration should stop subsidy completely, and have the fund be re-channeled into rehabilitation of the refineries, construction of new ones and infrastructural development across the country.
Achese urged the government to review all the allocations and sales of oil blocs and private refineries in the country, observing that only Dangote is constructing refinery out of about 80 private refineries approved till date.
“For us, the government should deregulate as quickly as possible and remove the subsidy. Every businessman should go and do his business and pay his interest and the forex differentials to the bank.