How can anyone explain that the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Maikanti Baru, could go to the investigative public hearing by a Joint Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Petroleum Downstream to tell the whole world that 4501 trucks/tankers loaded with petrol could not be traced as they just vanished from the Nigerian radar? What did he actually set out to achieve by this gaffe?

The NNPC boss who disclosed that the nation lost about 148,533,000 million litres of petrol believed to have been diverted during the December fuel crisis was proud or rather bold to say his corporation could not track the movement of 4,501 trucks representing the quantity of the disappeared products. What kind of a government is this?

If NNPC could not track the movement of 4,501 trucks and the nation as a result of the corporation’s docility or rather dubiousness lost about 148,533,000 million litres representing the quantity of the disappeared products, why is Maikanti Baru not held to account for the loss? Walai, this is one too many! Are we also still going to sweep this under the table as we already did to the plethora of dubious transactions including the $25 billion secret contracts coming from this same office of the group managing director of NNPC? 

Is it not becoming obvious that the President Mohhamadu Buhari’s interventionist idea of running the nation’s oil and gas sector has become a question, not an answer because rather than solve the initial problems, it is expanding them and even creating a new one. So we should be clapping for Baru for informing us that of the volume of petrol he imported for the nation, 148,533,000 million litres evaporated without any trace whatsoever? Haba Mallam!

Tragically, throughout the session with the NNPC boss at the Joint Senate and House of Reps investigative panel and up till today, no single lawmaker was sensible or rather vexed enough by the callous disclosure  to actually take on Baru and his NNPC on the casual disclosure that a whopping 4, 501 trucks loaded with petrol imported and fully paid for by the Nigerian government disappeared into the spirit realm. Without mincing words, this actually shows the quality of representation we have at the National Assembly. People who say they represent us are so naive, empty and self-centred that the things that affect the common man do not touch their emotions at all.

As a matter of urgent national importance, the NNPC boss should tell us: the facilities (with their locations) where the 4, 501 petrol trucks loaded the products from. What locations across the country were they expected to discharge the products? No truckloads at any depot/storage facility whether owned by the PPMC or private operators without full details of the owners of the trucks, volume off-take and mandated discharge destinations. The NNPC boss should make public these details. This will enable even ordinary Nigerians to help the corporation track the missing 4, 501 fully loaded petrol trucks. Yeye country!

Truth be told, the statement by Baru at the Joint National Assembly Committee was a panic outburst in attempt to cover up existing gaps between what NNPC claimed it imported and the actual volume that arrived the various coastal facilities in the country. And this is where the probe has to come even by the civil society organisations.

How possible is it for a whopping 4, 501 tankers of 80, 000 litres each on the average as claimed by the NNPC boss to just disappear between the coastal storage depots and their discharge point in the hinterland without any trace by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Civil Defence, Police, JTF, DSS, Customs and all of them on our roads? 

Is it not surprising that no single person in the entire NNPC system, DPR or the Office of the Minister of Petroleum can authoritatively say the exact daily volume of petrol we consume domestically? All we have are projections based on faulty and dubious assumptions. Figures ranging from 37 million through 50 million and now to Baru’s 80 million litres have been thrown at us at various times.

If you don’t know what we consume, how are you going to plan for it? Uninformed extrapolations in this matter only breed opportunities for corruption and this has been the case since we started this near 100 percent dependence on importation. Those who know would agree that the gap between 50 and 37 million on one hand and 50 million and now Baru’s 80 million litres on the other are wide enough to accommodate all the wuru wuru in the product import bills in addition to subsidy and equalisation payments.

When this administration came into office in 2015, the government pegged the price of petrol was N87 per litre. President Mohammadu Buhari who is also the substantive petroleum minister and the NNPC in their wisdom jacked it up to N145 per litre as the appropriate price for the commodity. This represented a whopping 66.67 percent increase even when the crude oil prices at the spot markets at that time could literally be said to have crashed to less than $30 per barrel.

Now the only reason they are giving us for the unavailability of petroleum products for domestic consumption and the subsequent scheming to further jack up the price of petrol is that crude oil prices have grossly increased to almost $70 per barrel. “When the price of crude oil goes up in the international market, expect petrol scarcity as long as we still run a regulated market in the downstream sector,” not my words, Kachikwu’s. “Because Nigeria still can’t refine the crude it produces, Nigerians would have to pay for imported petrol as the international market dictates.” The question is: when crude oil price was less than $30 per barrel did the NNPC mark-down the pump price of petrol following the dictates of the oil market? Abeg make una go sit down!

All the talk about products prices being influenced by crude oil prices increased in the international markets are outright trash. As at the last check, NNPC still collects 450, 000 barrels of crude oil every day. That’s the one they even agree they collect, obviously, the corporation may be taking far more as nobody anywhere in any office in this country knows the exact volume of crude pumped out and taken away on daily basis from all our fields by NNPC and its joint venture partners.

The 450,000 barrels allocated to the corporation was supposed to be for domestic refining and the crude-for-products swap arrangement. But it is well known that despite what the NNPC would want to claim, none of the refineries is working. So what happens to the 450,000 barrels the corporation takes every day?

When Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, showed up before Joint Committee session of the National Assembly on Thursday, January 4, 2018, these were his words: “As a result of the N26 difference per litre between the current landing cost of the petrol which stands at  N171 and the pump price of N145, NNPC which had been singularly importing the product at the volume of 25million litres per day since October last year, has been incurring a daily loss of about N800-N900million, cumulatively reaching N85.5billion today, in just three months.”

The question is: are we spending this huge amount on the importation of petrol in addition to the 450, 000 barrels of crude the NNPC takes on a daily basis or the expenditure is the equivalent derivatives from the value of the crude allocated to carter for our domestic needs?  This is the kind of question our lawmakers and the civil society groups should be asking the managers of our nation’s oil business.  But would they ask? No, and the reason is simple: they are the same people! God bless Nigeria!!

IFEANYI IZEZE lives in Abuja and can be reached at: [email protected]; (234-8033043009)

Ifeanyi Izeze

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