There are fears the ongoing fuel scarcity may resurface after a short period of relief, despite efforts to make the commodity available.
As multinational petroleum marketing companies continue to promise that they will provide needed foreign exchange to finance their own fuel allocation in the second quarter, there is likelihood others with no international affiliation won’t be able to do the same, and have, therefore, pointed accusing fingers at money deposit banks for selling foreign exchange above the official rate of N197 to a dollar to the marketers.
The Executive Secretary, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Mr. Femi Olawore, said banks are selling to his members at above N300 to a dollar, adding they had already made official complaint to the Central Bank of Nigeria through the Minister of Petroleum, who is already discussing the matter with the banks.
Olawore said only two International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating in the upstream and downstream of the oil and gas sector are ready to assist with needed foreign exchange for the offshore purchase of the commodity.
“The Ministry of Petroleum is talking to the IOCs for assistance on forex. For now, only two of them are assisting with forex. They are the ones operating upstream and downstream. The Minister is talking, and we hope the assistance would be constant and massive enough for us to bring the fuel,” he said.
Olawore stressed that forex is essential to the lingering fuel crisis, adding that banks are not helping matters, as they insist on selling to marketers at the prevailing parallel market rate.
“Forex must be made available for fuel to be available. All major marketers have concluded arrangement to bring in products, but we need forex to back up the arrangement. We have the naira, but we don’t have forex. Banks are giving us forex at above N300 to a dollar. We appeal that the Minister will continue his engagement with the IOCs. And we will be glad if the President comes into the matter, because we are not getting forex from banks at the official rate. We are discussing with the Central Bank and we hope they will oblige us because it has since stopped allocation of forex to marketers. They should give us more priority.”
He said a more permanent solution to the persistent crisis is the deregulation of the oil and gas sector, backed with strong regulatory framework. According to him, “Deregulation is a song we have been singing and we will continue to sing. That is the only way to go. We only need to put in place a strong regulatory framework, so that people don’t misbehave.”
The MOMAN Executive Secretary also condemned the previous arrangement, which made the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) the major importer of petroleum products, saying, “NNPC alone cannot do it. There has to be partnership and there should be no junior partner in the arrangement.”
According to him, NNPC has no infrastructure to play the role of major importer of petroleum products, as it lacks the capacity to do so. “Their pipelines are bad. They don’t have storage facilities, so they need us,” he said.
Authoritative sources at two money deposit banks, who responded to allegations on sale above official exchange rate by the major petroleum marketers, said allocation from the CBN had since dwindled, adding that banks have been sourcing forex from other sources for their customers.
“Our allocation from CBN is nothing to be considered now because it comes in trickles. So, we rely on other sources to satisfy our customers,” said a source at Fidelity Bank last week.
Spokesman for the apex bank, Mr. Isaac Okorafor, declined comment on the allegation by fuel importers against the banks.
Despite the difficulties in sourcing foreign exchange for the procurement of the critical commodity, Mobil Oil Company has promised to fund its own fuel allocation during the second quarter of the year.
“Based on our previous performance, we should be given more allocation. We have placed order for the second quarter allocation and they will arrive in accordance with delivery date given by PPPRA. Mobil will do all it can to bring the product because we will source forex from alternative sources,” said Mr. Akin Fatuke, Manager, Public Affairs Manager of Mobil Oil Company.