The Federal Government has earmarked the sum of N251.2bn for the repair of three refineries. This disclosure was made by the Minister of Petroleum. Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke yesterday, Monday, when she appeared before the Senate’s Committee on Petroleum (Downstream).
The minister was at the Senate with the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Andrew Yakubu, and the Managing Director of Pipeline and Products Marketing Company, Mr. Haruna Momoh. They were summoned to explain the continued scarcity of Petroleum Motor Spirit and the increase in the price of the product by marketers.
Alison-Madueke said the government would be spending N251.2b on the Turn Around Maintenance of the three refineries in the country, adding that there were some adjustments in the timelines for executing the TAM. She noted that although there were plans to build new refineries, existing ones would still be maintained.
The minister, however, incurred the wrath of the lawmakers when her security aides prevented journalists from recording her testimony. She, at a point during her speech, pushed off a reporter’s tape recorder, insisting that the device should not be placed by her side.
Chairman of the committee, Senator Magnus Abe, had to caution Alison-Madueke and threatened to throw out her security aides if the minister refused to comport herself and allow journalists to do their work.
Earlier, the members of the committee had accused the PPMC of operating a system that bred corruption.
Chairman of the committee, Senator Magnus Abe, said a visit to the refineries on oversight functions showed that the style of operation at the depots was tardy and subjected the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria to untold hardship.
Abe said, “We were at the Port Harcourt Refinery and we saw about 5,000 people waiting to get products; some of them told us that they had paid for the products five months back and were yet to get the products. How do you expect them to sell at the official price?”
He asked the minister, PPMC and the NNPC to address alleged unwholesome practices at the depots. He added that it was the only way to ensure that petroleum products were objectively and effectively distributed.
Reacting, the minister said she was not aware of the observation raised by the committee regarding the practices at the depots. She explained that she had no preferences in the allocation of petroleum products.
Momoh noted that the problem of vandalising had been a major constraint to smooth product distribution,.
The PPMC boss said the easiest and cheapest means of transporting products were through pipelines but that continued disruptions by vandals had stalled the smooth distribution of the products across the country.
According to Momoh, the company has identified about 774 vandalised spots in the distribution network, adding that stakeholders and communities could help in keeping the pipelines safe. has identified sharp practices and shoddy operations at depots of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation as factors responsible for the increase in the price of Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) at filling stations.
Although NNPC officials said they were making efforts to make the product available and blamed the continued scarcity on the activities of recalcitrant marketers,Secretary of the Major Marketers Association of Nigeria, Thomas Alawore, admitted before the committee that marketers incurred hidden charges before they could access the products.
He said, “There are hidden costs. You have to pay some money to the unions. Even the security agencies along the line will collect their own. You may go home with an official receipt which states that you bought the product at N84.66 per litre, but you have to add those hidden costs.”