Oil traders said on Sunday that the Federal Government should evacuate and release products currently trapped in warehouses that were recently closed by Nigeria’s Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority.
Marketers said the products should be dispensed at the regulated rate of N148/litre to help address shortages of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called gasoline, in some states, rather than leaving them stuck despite the fuel crisis in the whole country.
But the NMDPRA argued that it made its calculation to ensure the effect of closed depots did not significantly impact affected areas, as it revealed that it would now check gas station tanks and other depots to stop gasoline hoarding.
On Saturday, the Federal Government announced that it had shut down the operations of seven depots in various locations in Nigeria for dispensing outrageously priced gasoline to outlets.
Disclosing this to reporters in Abuja, NMDPRA chief executive Farouk Ahmed said the action of the affected depots was in contravention of the provisions of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021 and also contributed to the recent PMS supply crisis. in the downstream oil sector.
Responding to this, the secretary of the Nigerian Independent Oil Traders Association, Abuja-Suleja, Mohammed Shuaibu, told our correspondent that the government should go beyond depot closures.
He said: “It’s not just closing the warehouses. If you close the warehouses when there is product in them, and do not evacuate the products to the public at the regulated price, then you may end up causing more PMS supply problems.
“If you’re a regulator, go in there and enforce, let them open the doors, bring in tankers to evacuate the products to the public so there’s a surplus of fuel that will help drive the price down.
“But by the time they close the depots and the products remain in their tanks, we won’t get the products, and who suffers when two elephants fight? The masses will suffer and we are suffering now. These are the consequences.”
Shuaibu added: “So the NMDPRA should open up the warehouses and allow them to dispense the products at the regulated price. You should also make sure that you monitor it to the letter. But by the time you close and open tomorrow, and these are businessmen, are you helping the situation or causing more harm?
“These people have products and they are shutting them down, why not regulate them if they want to enforce them? And if anyone is found wanting, punish him, not closing him.”
But the NMDPRA dismissed fears that the closure of the depots could lead to fuel shortages in many parts of Nigeria.
Ahmed said: “When closing the depots, we calculated to see what effects it would have on the flow and distribution of petroleum products. We have enough products throughout the country.
“We also looked at availability at other depots within the zones and realized that even if we close all seven depots, the effect on supply within those zones will not be significant.
“It will also help us get the hoarders to get the produce out because the next step is to go and start checking the tanks at the gas stations and warehouses to make sure that no trader or retailer is hoarding the produce.”
Ahmed said there was also distribution by trucks, adding that the next course of action was to monitor the trucks and make sure they were delivered to the various assigned destinations.