FG orders NNPC to end fuel scarcity before weekend


…As DisCos lament delay of N100b subsidy, others payment***

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday ordered the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Petroleum Ministry to ensure the current fuel scarcity in some parts of the country do not last beyond weekend.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, disclosed this to State House correspondents at the end of FEC meeting in Abuja.

Stressing that the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, could not attend the post- FEC briefing because of an urgent appointment, he said the minister gave FEC assurance that there was no cause for alarm.

According to him, Kachikwu told FEC that there is enough fuel in the country to last till January 2018.

He said there is no intention by the government to increase the pump price of fuel.

Meanwhile, the Group Managing director of NNPC, Maikanti Baru, has cut short his trip to London as queues returned to the country’s filling stations.

Baru was due to receive the Forbes Oil & Gas Man of the Year Award 2017, on Tuesday, but had to fly back to the country because of what he called “matter of urgent national importance”, Ndu Ughamadu, the NNPC spokesman, said in a press statement.

“For the umpteenth time, I wish to call on all Nigerians to stop panic buying. We have said times without number that NNPC has sufficient products to cater for the needs of all consumers,” Baru said before leaving London, according to Ughamadu.

Before departing the country, Baru had directed that more truckloads of petroleum products be dispatched to various parts of the country to cushion the effects of excessive demand caused by panic buying, Ughamadu said.

NNPC had on Monday said that there was no plan to increase the prices of petroleum products  “both at the ex-depot level and pump price ahead of the forthcoming yuletide”.

The NNPC said that the ex-depot petrol price of N133.38 per litre and the pump price of N143/N145 per litre had not changed and that there was enough stock of fuel to ensure seamless supply and distribution of products across the country.

In the meantime, the power distribution companies (DisCos) are seeking the payment of N100 billion subsidy owed them  by the Federal Government to improve their infrastructure.

The firms said the government, during the privatisation in 2013,  promised them N100 billion to cushion the effects of increased tarrifs on their operations, adding that four years later the government was yet to fulfill its promise.

They also seeking the payment of debts owed by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

The Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED) Executive Director, Research and Development, Mr Sunday Oduntan, said the development became necessary to change obsolete infrastructure.

He said the DisCos inherited  old facilities from  defunct  Power Holding Company of Nigeria(PHCN), adding that the problem was affecting the distribution of electricity in the country.

He said the payment of  the subsidy and debts  would help the firms in strengthening their operations.

He accused the government of breaching some of the agreements it reached with the investors during privatisation, urging it to fullfill its promises to move the sector forward.

Oduntan said: “By not paying the N100 billion subsidy, MDAs debts among fulfilling other things, it promised, the government has breached the terms of the agreement binding the investors and the Bureau of Public Enterprises(BPE)/Federal Government.’’

ANED, Oduntan said, has pleaded with the government to assist in building infrastructure for operators in the sector, adding that the government was yet to attend to salient issues that affecting the industry.

He said the DisCos are facing problems, such as poor collection, illiquidity, shortage of meters and other equipment, adding that the development has resulted in low optimal performance for energy distributors.

Shortfall, Oduntan said, has become a permanent feature in the industry, as operators across the value chain are experiencing one losess or the other.

The ANED’s director said power firms are either experiencing technical or operation loss, stressing the problem has reached a level, which they (power firms) cannot continue to bear.

He said the DisCos are unable to recoup their investments as their customers (individual and government) were not ready to pay for the energy consumed.

He explained that despite that the DisCos charge customers N30.80 per kilowatts of electricity instead of N80, customers do not pay their bills promptly, adding that this was frustrating the companies’ efforts to  invest.

He said any increase in the generation of electricity would lead to a corresponding increase in the DisCos’revenue.

He said DisCos were better off when there is an increase in power generation, pleading that the government  fulfill its promise, by fashioning modalities for the power generation companies (GenCos) to increase their output.

He said when GenCos increased their output, electricity supply would increase.

Oduntan also lamented the shortage of gas which, according to him,  has crippled operations in the sector. He blamed attacks on gas  pipelines for this problem.

Another area, which Oduntan said, is a source of concern to the power firms is energy theft.

He said the rate, at which consumers steal electricity, was becoming alarming, stressing that  those who engage in this were yet to stop, despite power fines to impose fine on them, among other penalities.

He said the DisCos has over  five million customers, when they took over the assets of PHCN in 2013 and that if the 11 utilities’firms were metering, about 100,000 customers yearly, they would have served them in five years.

He said estimated billing was introduced as an interim measure to assist consumers to use electricty and pay for it.

On the complaints against estimated billings, Oduntan said it was not introduced by the DisCos to make money, but to assist customers to pay.

Efforts to get the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commi-ssion (NERC) to comment on the issue proved abortive, as a text message sent to its Public Relations Officer, Mike Faloseyi, was not replied.

Citizen with additional report from Nation