Chris Steven, Abuja
The Federal Government has said it is keenly aware of the difficulties that Nigerians are currently facing over the lingering fuel scarcity and poor power supply, saying that it is working round the clock to provide the relief for the citizenry.
”As a government that was propelled into office by the power of the people, we cannot but feel the pains of our compatriots, and we deeply empathise with them,” the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said in Abuja on Wednesday.
”Our message to our compatriots is that this Administration, under the able leadership of
President Muhammadu Buhari, is working round the clock to ease the pains of Nigerians, and that very soon, the efforts of the government will begin to yield fruits for the benefit of Nigerians,” he said during a visit to the corporate headquarters of Daily Trust newspaper, as part of his tour of media establishments in the country.
Alhaji Mohammed said the Government is aware that Nigerians have started questioning the genuiness of its Change Agenda, adding: ”We understand the skepticism of Nigerians in questioning whether this indeed is the change they voted for. I can tell Nigerians that our Change Agenda is real, and that indeed Nigerians will get the change they voted for.”
On the fuel situation, the Minister said immediate measures are being taken to end the scarcity while medium and long term solutions are being worked out to prevent a recurrence.
”Petroleum supply and distribution have been ramped up across the country by the NNPC to ensure product availability in the country, but repeated trips to filling stations and the backlog are making it impossible to immediate feel the impact
”Monitoring has also been intensified to ensure full compliance with approved prices.
Violations of approved prices and hoarding of petroleum products attract severe penalties, including giving out of petroleum products free to the public, sealing off of fuel stations found to be hoarding petroleum products, payment of fine as well as withdrawal of Marketer’s License,” he said.
Alhaji Mohammed said that in the medium term, the supply constraints due to foreign exchange challenges are being resolved through collaboration with the Central Bank of
Nigeria on innovative ways of closing the gaps in accessing foreign exchange.
He also announced the willingness of the International Upstream Oil Companies to support major oil marketing companies with some of the required foreign exchange, thus complementing the efforts of the NNPC which has been solely importing the refined products, in addition to the fact that the Corporation is pursuing an improved model for ‘crude oil for refined product’ exchange to eliminate inefficiencies.
”The ultimate is to ensure self sufficiency in refined products supply by ramping up our local Refining capacity. All local Refineries will be made to run at a minimum 70% capacity utilization in the weeks ahead. This is in addition to the initiative of increasing the combined capacity of the domestic refineries through co-locating smaller but cost efficient modular refineries within the existing refineries premises,” the Minister said.
On the power situation, which he blamed largely on lack of gas supply to the power generating stations, he said the NNPC is seeking alternative sources of gas supply after the attack on the Forcados Export Pipeline forced the cut off of gas supplies to the stations.
Alhaji Mohammed said even the gas supply that was cut off following the attacks on the Forcados Pipeline would soon be restored as Shell, the operators of the pipeline, has awarded the contract to repair it.
In addition, he said, work is nearing completion on the transmission projects in five states in the South-East and South-South that will ensure that the power stations in those regions are able to work at full capacity, thus adding another 800MW to the national grid.