The Nigerian government promised on March 14th to punish fuel distributors for diverting oil products amid the country’s worst fuel crisis in over a decade.
Nigerian Information Minister Jerry Gana said that: “This is no longer a question of supplies. It’s a question of diversion. It’s a question of sabotage.”
Petrol stations have run dry throughout the West African nation, although gasoline and other products are readily available on the black market for more than triple their original prices.
Gana has accused oil marketers of smuggling products into neighboring states for much higher returns, and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) has been ordered to shut any petrol station or outlet that is found diverting fuel.
“If within three days the fuel lifted from depots does not arrive at the station it is meant for, the DPR is mandated to close such a station,” Gana said.
Until now, the government of Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has blamed fuel scarcities on problems with the country’s four refineries, which have been running at levels far below their combined nameplate capacity of 445,000 b/d.
The government is also pushing for deregulation of fuel marketing as means of attracting more investors and ensuring adequate fuel supplies.
Obasanjo has said that ending costly government fuel subsidies to allow market forces to determine prices is the only way to guarantee steady supplies, but the Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC) says that deregulation will drive up prices and has scheduled a series of rallies against the plan beginning on March 19th.
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)