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Buhari Mum As Fuel Crises Cripple Nigerians, Businesses

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By Eric Elezuo

Nigerians, for the umpteenth time in the life of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, have come under the excruciating pains of unending fuel scarcity, with the president yet to address the issue even as government officials continually make promises that have not seen the light of the day. Like a curse, the last parts of the year have remained an albatross when it comes to fuel scarcity as it has become a norm that Christmas seasons and scarcity of fuel products have become synonymous. But the life of the present administration has ensured that scarcity is not only a December issue, but an all year round crisis.

Rising from the delay of ministerial appointment six months after he assumed office in May 2015, Buhari made himself the Minister of Petroleum, with Mr. Ibe Kachikwu as the Minister of State for Petroleum. Nigerians have rejoiced at the prospect, believing that whatever crises witnessed in the sector over the years have come to an end. But that was not to be. For the three years and counting, Kachikwu held sway as Deputy Minister in the oil and gas industry, he grappled unsuccessfully to keep in check the lingering issue, even as Mr President maintained an undignified silence over the matter.

In January 2016, the country launched into a dire fuel crisis, which set the stage for the subsequent after effects still experienced till date. The crisis which lasted for about three months, was without the voice of Buhari, who was battling to save his life in a London hospital.

“I share the pains of Nigerians, I feel that pain everyday when I walk the streets: on Easter day, I was in Lagos monitoring fuel distribution and the depots, I had given 24 hours attention to the problems.

“I have continued to work with one sole purpose, which is that every problem must have a solution and I think that is the reason I was picked.

“I do apologise for the comment that I made jocularly with my friends in the press about being a magician and it offended Nigerians; it was not meant to be, it was a side jocular issue. I did go on to explain what needed to be done, I did not know that it would create the kind of hyperbole (exaggeration) that it did.

“Let me first admit that I am not a typically experienced politician, I am a technocrat: I come to work.” Kachikwu said while defending his position as the scarcity lasted.

In December 2017, another scarcity hit the nation spiraling deep into 2018. This was how it continued until Kachikwu was removed in August 2019, and replaced by former Bayelsa State governor, Timipre Sylva. However, the trend has remained the same, and growing worse. Yet, Buhari’s undignified silence remaining deafening.

Worse it in the scheme of things is the Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol. Its scarcity has grown worse across the country as massive queues were witnessed in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Warri, Nasarawa, Minna, among other places, according to The Punch reports.

A typical excuse by oil marketers remains that dealers could hardly access the product from the only two depots that were dispensing the commodity in Lagos State.

The few filling stations, particularly those of independent marketers, that dispensed the commodity sold it at between N250/litre and N300/litre, depending on area of purchase.

Oil marketers told The Punch that over 1,000 tickets, belonging to marketers which had paid for products, remained unattended to, at the few depots that dispense the commodity in Lagos. It was gathered that the tickets, which were for over 1,000 tankers, had continued to pile up due to the pressure on the two depots, namely MRS and Pinnacle.

It was also gathered that the cost of petrol could have been increased quietly by the Federal Government, as stations that used to sell the approved price of N179 – N180/litre had raised their prices to between N185 – N190/litre. The government has however, denied increasing prices.

While Lagos residents still managing to buy at 300 naira per litre, most residents of other parts of the country, notably the Southeastern parts, have lamented the total scarcity of the product, saying that when seen, a customer must have to part with as much as 400 to 450 naira for one litre.

Most motorists have packed their vehicles for want of the product while commercial drivers, who managed to still ply the roads, are charging exorbitantly to make up for the high cost of the fuel purchase. As a result, some commuters, especially in Lagos and major metropolitan cities have resolved to trekking to their destinations.

In the same vein, market women and men have hiked the price of their goods to reflect the huge cost incurred while transporting the said goods from one point to another. Even service providers, who have to shop for the high priced commodities have also increased the prices of your services to stay afloat of the situation. The situation has turned to a round robin affair with cost of both goods and services hitting roof top.

“Petrol has remained the pivot on which the economy of the nation revolves. As a result, whatever happens to the price or availability of the petroleum products with special emphasis to petrol, will sure have a reverberating effect on every other sector. It is just the way we have succeeded in wiring the country,” a motorists on a petrol queue told The Boss

Also commenting on the issue, the Secretary, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, (IPMAN) Abuja-Suleja, Mohammed Shuaibu, told The Punch that the concerns in the downstream sector would continue to linger as long as the government remained the sole importer of petrol into Nigeria.

“The Federal Government, through NNPC, is the only one importing this product and it is subsidising it. And they don’t have the facility to store the product.

“Some time ago we complained about this because when they store in private depots, the price is hiked and some of the depots continue to exploit the masses arbitrarily.

“However, as it is now, the government is bringing in products. But the issue now is that virtually all the depots that belong to major marketers in Apapa axis of Lagos are empty. So there is now pressure on MRS and Pinnacle depots where NNPC drop products.

“So, there are over 1,000 tickets of marketers who have paid to have their trucks loaded, but we don’t know what is happening. Today they will tell you that they are upgrading the system, tomorrow you will hear that the system did not capture.

“You know that it takes much time to transport this product from the South to the North. Some trucks spend one month, especially when they have problems on the road, others spend two to three weeks,” he said.

He lamented that the Buhari-led Federal Government has so far not done anything about the situation, which must be done fast, and the situation is deteriorating. He also added that pipeline vandalism, depot upgrade among other issues reasons the reasons other depots in Apapa and in other locations not selling products.

He said, “Last time we complained that some depots were exploiting us, and the depots argued that the cost of moving products from one end of their facility to another had Increased, as well as other issues. So we can’t tell whether that is another reason why NNPC stopped supplying some of these depots.

“Things were not worse like this before. As I’m talking to you now, some of our tickets have been there for close to a month. I did payment since but I can’t load. And the story is the same across their 21 depots. We can’t load.”

Meanwhile, Shuabu stated that unconfirmed information on the official pump price of PMS that filtered in on Thursday evening was that the government had quietly raised the cost of petrol.

“I cannot confirm it yet, but we are hearing that they have quietly increased the pump price of petrol, because major marketers in Lagos who used to sell at N179 – N180/litre, are now selling at N185 – N190/litre,” he stated.

The Public Relations Officer, IPMAN, Chief Ukadike Chinedu, blamed the scarcity on the changes being done by NNPC in terms of payment for products by marketers.

“NNPC has moved independent marketers from PPMC Marketers Express to the NNPC Retail portal. That NNPC Retail portal is where marketers will be able to buy their products. However, they told us that the portal is in place now.

“Another concern is that they (NNPC) are also having an issue with the remittance, which, according to them, has been resolved. But the impact of these issues will definitely be felt and it will take some time to clear.

“Marketers are calling on NNPC to supply products to some of the depots where independent marketers can access them since most NNPC depots are not functional because of pipeline vandalism,” he said.

The government has insisted on removing subsidy by May even as the signing of the Petroleum Industry Bill in August 2021 has not helped to ease petroleum crises over the years. Nigerians await to see if the removal of the subsidy or emergence of a new president in May will bring to an end the perennial fuel issues.

But before then, the problems of Nigerians continue even as feelers reveal that an early resolution of the problem is a mirage as supply hitches may not end any time soon. The Punch quoted a senior official in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources as saying that the fuel scarcity might get worse in the days and weeks to come as there were many issues affecting the smooth supply of the product across the country including the inability of the NNPC Limited to import sufficient volume of Premium Motor Spirit (petrol).

The source also explained that the inability of the country to produce enough crude oil to meet its Organisation of Petroleum Export Countries’ quota was another problem, noting that insecurity and crude theft had significantly affected the production capacity.

He added, “Another issue is the failure of the crude swap for refined products deal that the NNPCL had with major international oil firms and traders. The inability of the NNPCL to meet its own side of the deal by supplying the required quantity of crude has frustrated the arrangement.

“While Nigeria has been taking refined products from the partners, it has not been able to supply the crude equivalent and the international firms and traders have stopped shipping products to the country.”

Oil marketers has also alluded to the problems in the downstream sector and predicted that the current scarcity would not abate until the government comes out with a clear position on subsidy removal, full deregulation and price determination.

It still remains to be seen when the fuel issue will be settled.

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You’ve Nothing to Offer Nigerians, Only Insults, Akwa Ibom Gov Slams Tinubu

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Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel, on Monday, replied the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, saying that he (Tinubu) always resorts to abusing and insulting people during campaigns because he has nothing to bring to the table for Nigerians.

He also said that despite being insulted by the former Lagos State Governor, he would prefer to allow peace to reign by ignoring him and focusing on helping install good governance to rescue Nigerians from their present woes.

Emmanuel spoke on Monday evening at Government House, Uyo while inaugurating newly appointed Permanent Secretaries, Chairmen and Members of Boards and Commissions, as well as a Transition Committee to ensure the smooth transition of power to the next administration.

Recall that Tinubu had during his rally in Uyo Monday afternoon, reportedly said, “Akwa Ibom, that boy wey bring Atiku here, wey de call himself Governor, tell him enough is enough! He lives in my backyard in Lagos, If no be say we be one, I would have driven him home. You see that mansion he is living, I would just use lizards, pigeons and scorpions to put him inside.“

But reacting few hours later, the Akwa Ibom State Governor said, “for the country to remain in peace, one party must ‘play saint’ and that is why he would refrain from replying Tinubu.

Emmanuel who is the Chairman of the PDP presidential campaigns said, “I also go to other states, and if you watch our campaigns, my principal (Atiku Abubakar) has never spoken about any Governor, he has never spoken openly about Asiwaju before.”

He added that it was unfortunate that Tinubu, who was granted state-owned facilities such as the airport, security, stadium, and a good atmosphere to come in and sell his manifesto, ended up coming to insult the integrity of over 7.9 million Akwa Ibom people.

The Governor wondered if it is possible for any Akwa Ibomite to go to Lagos that Tinubu stays or the actual state that he hails from, to insult Tinubu in like manner and still be allowed to safely return home, “but here our people at the stadium including some state governors just laughed and applauded him.”

“What makes him think he will govern Nigeria? If I reply him now, people will call me and say, haba oga you are not like that. But I will reply him one day. There is nothing like ‘emilokan’ (it is my turn) here, Nigeria is in God’s hands.”

He maintained further that despite being the highest revenue contributor to the federation account, Akwa Ibom State has not gotten a single kilometre of road from the APC-led Federal Government for nearly 8 years adding that the poor response from the Federal Government also caused the delayed commencement of the seaport in the state.

Meanwhile, the governor thanked the newly appointed Permanent Secretaries for accepting the onerous task of service, and urged them to see themselves as ambassadors and work towards raising the bar of leadership which would encourage productivity and promote good working relationship with subordinates in the service.

“This is one thing I promised Akwa Ibom people that appointment of Permanent Secretaries shall be totally on merit and not by mercy, let those that can do the work be given the opportunity. Permanent Secretary is not a promotion, it is an appointment on merit.

Governor Emmanuel also reiterated his commitments towards enhancing efficiency within Civil Service, noting that during his administration civil servants have been promoted on yearly basis.

He assured that before he exits office more Permanent Secretaries would be appointed into the service to fill vacant positions left by the ones who retired.

Addressing Chairmen of Boards and Commissions, Governor Emmanuel who described them as pillars in government, acknowledged their commitment particularly, Chairman, Akwa Ibom State Environmental Protection & Waste Management Agency, Prince Akpan Ikim, for winning laurels for the state through his outstanding performance in keeping and making the state the cleanest in Nigeria for five consecutive years from 2018 through 2022, and tasked others to create an impact that will stand them out.

In the same vein, the Transition Committee members were handed the task of ensuring a seamless transition of government to an incoming administration, and also verify all projects executed by the present administration.

The newly appointed Permanent Secretaries are; Mfon Inuaesiet Edemekong Esq., Dr. Stephen Effiong, Atim Chelly Okoko, Iquo Okon Abia Esq., Uwem Sunday Andrew-Essien, Isaiah Robson Ntekim and Emaeyak Nyong Akpan as Auditor-General for Local Government.

The Transition Committee has Mrs. Ekereobong Umoh -Chairman, Uko Udom SAN, Prof Augustine Umoh, Dr. Ini Adiakpan, Mrs. Nsemeke Daniel, Dr. Nathaniel Adiakpan, Mr Elijah Udoiyak, Mrs. Esther Inyang, Pastor Uwem Andrew-Essien, Mr. Isaiah Ntekim, Mr. Effiong Ekpenyong and Mrs. Bella Akpanya as members.

The Punch

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PDP Condemns Attack on Buhari in Kano, Blames Tinubu, Ganduje

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The Peoples Democratic Party Presidential Campaign Council, has blamed the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and the governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, for the attacks on the convoy of President Muhammadu Buhari, during a visit to the state on Monday.

The spokesperson of the campaign council, Dino Melaye, who shared one of the videos from the reported attack, wrote, “The fight between Tinubu and Buhari is entering a new dimension. The attack in Kano was properly coordinated and funded allegedly by Asiwaju.

“The meeting to push Buhari to submission or face sponsored attack in the north was said to be hatched in Bourdillon. Me, I am busy with Atiku.”

A political activist, Deji Adeyanju, who shared another video of the reported attack, said, “They are showing Buhari and APC Shege in Kano and many northern states.”

Similarly, the PDP in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, on Monday also blamed Tinubu and the Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, for the attack.

According to the party, the attack was designed to undermine the Presidency, cause confusion, trigger violence in the country, disrupt the conduct of the 2023 general elections “and derail our democracy having realised that he cannot win in a peaceful, free and fair electoral process.”

The statement read in part, “The PDP invites Nigerians to note how Governor Abdullahi Ganduje attempted to abridge President Buhari’s movement and even tried to stop him from visiting Kano State.

“More disquieting is the fact that the APC Presidential Campaign sought to humiliate and harm President Buhari while performing his official duties in Kano.

“It should be noted that the APC presidential candidate has been displaying open aversion and making inciting statements against President Buhari since Mr President’s declaration, in line with democratic best practice all over the world that Nigerians should freely vote for any candidate and party of their choice in the 2023 general elections.

“The apparent frustration of Asiwaju Tinubu to resort to encourage or condone violence is fueled by his entitlement mentality, that it is his turn to be President, despite his numerous ineligibility and disability baggage.”

Ologunagba reminded Nigerians about Tinubu’s infamous statement in London where he declared to his supporters that “political power is not going to be served in a restaurant, it is not served a la carte.”

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Organ Harvesting: Ekweremadu Battles for Freedom, Appears in Court Tuesday

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A former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, will on Tuesday appear again in court in the United Kingdom where he has been accused of human trafficking.

The lawmaker was in June 2022 arrested at Heathrow Airport in London after Staines Police Station received a report from a young man claiming to have been trafficked into the UK.

The young man, who made the report shortly after arriving in the UK from Nigeria, also alleged that he was made to undergo some medical tests, none of which he consented to.

Ekweremadu was immediately arraigned before a Magistrate’s Court for bringing a child into the UK to harvest his organs.

While the lawmaker had been in custody since June 23, his wife, Beatrice, who was arrested with him, was granted bail by a criminal court in London shortly after their arrest.

Monday (today) makes it 221 days since Ekweremadu was placed in the custody of UK authorities.

The case against the lawmaker which had been slated for May was later scheduled for January 31.

The 60-year-old, who denied the allegations against him, will again appear before High Court Judge, Mr Justice Johnson.

His daughter, Sonia, had on November 7, 2022, appeared in court to defend the accusation of trafficking a homeless man into the UK to harvest his organs for herself.

According to Daily Mail, the 25-year-old, who is battling a kidney-related illness, pleaded not guilty to the charge level against her when she appeared again in court on January 13.

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