Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Allison – Madueke, has said that the privatization of the nation’s refineries remained the best way to tackle the problems in the petroleum sector, explaining that though the idea has been stepped down for now but would eventually be implemented at the appropriate time.
Allison – Madueke stated this when she appeared before the Joint Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources ( Upstream, Downstream and Gas) to defend her ministry’s 2014 budget.
The minister who was accompanied by senior officials of the ministry and heads of agencies under her supervision, however, said the Federal Government would continue with the rehabilitation of the refineries pending the time they would be fully privatized.
Allison-Madueke said the process of privatization would have been concluded had the various trade unions within the petroleum industry not protested against the action.
“The way forward is the privatization of the refineries because government should not be involved in the business of fuel sales”, she said.
The Minister who attributed the lingering fuel scarcity in the country to unfounded rumour on possible fuel price increase and outright sabotage by some petroleum marketers said more than enough supply have been made available to the market and that government has no plan to increase the pump price of petrol by whatever margin.
She said: “The shortage has a lot to do with a number of issues. First, there seems to have been some rumours that the federal government wanted to increase the pump price of petroleum products, and I have said it categorically that the Nigerian government had no intention of increasing the pump price of petroleum products, anytime in the near future. That is for certain,” she added.
According to her, “Secondly is whether it is as as a result of rumour or supply issue, there was a certain level of burden and we found out too that there was a certain level of diversion of petroleum products as well. All of these we are trying to ensure that they are brought to an end very stoutly in this period and as a result I have been going out to monitor the fuel distribution and talk to petrol station owners in Lagos and to consumers as well just to get an understanding of where they had had the worse shortages over the last couple of weeks but it is coming under control now.”
“We will be flooding the market with petrol over the next few weeks and beyond to ensure that whatever it is that is causing the shortage, whether it’s fuel diversion or rumours or pump price increment, it is dampened by force and we will ensure that going forward, those that are found to be actually diverting fuel or hoarding even after all that we had done, during the period, will undergo punitive measures.
“If we have found a filling station on our list to be diverting or hoarding, no matter who owns the station, whether it is owned by the NNPC, they would face the same punishment,” she added.
On the issue of 2014 budget estimate of the ministry, the minister said a total sum of N61billion was earmarked for the ministry for both recurrent and capital expenditures, which according to her, is a billion above the 2013 allocation out of which 50.2% was released resulting in 87% budget performance of the amount released.
According to her, the issues of funding, inadequate facilities sabotage and vandalism, as well as oil theft and oil spillage were all that affected the nation’s resources in 2013.
Breakdown of the ministry’s budget shown that of N60.9bn appropriated, N50.4bn is for personnel cost, N1.8bn for overhead cost and N8.1bn for capital expenditure.