President Muhammadu Buhari, weekend, met behind closed doors with Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum, Downstream, Kabir Marafa, on measure taken to avert fuel scarcity during the festive season, following the threat by Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG.
The meeting took place at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Briefing State House correspondents after the meeting, Senator Marafa, who is representing Zamfara Central senatorial district said though there were some technical issues threatening the free flow of the products, there were adequate quantities of the petroleum products in the country that will last six months. He said from the outcome of the meeting with the President and coming meetings with stakeholders in the next few days, he was optimistic that the issues bordering on the payment of subsidies, forex differentials and interest, will soon be resolved. On the reason for the meeting, Senator Marafa said: “Basically, there are two issues. One is regarding the committee I chair in the Senate, which is the committee on downstream. “There has been some disquiet in the industry regarding marketers’ payment with ministry of finance, DMO and the Central Bank, which we feel if not carefully handled, some enemies of the administration might bring about technical issues that could lead to queues on the line, especially government has provided enormous quantities of petroleum products across the country that can last the country up to six months through NNPC. “So, some people are not too happy about it and they want to sabotage the efforts of the government. “So, I’m the chairman and the President being the Minister of Petroleum Resources, I came to share some information and tap on his versatile experience in the industry as a former Minister of Petroleum Resources forty years ago, so there is abundant experience there.” On the threats by depots owners to shut down with the festive period around the corner, he said, “That is what I said, so we are now talking of technicalities, there is fuel in the country, in our seas, in our depots all across the country. But there are some technicalities now regarding payment of subsidies, forex differentials and interest, which this government inherited. “They are not a creation of this government. However, government is a continuum and when the President came in he was confronted with it and he agreed and said fine I have stopped subsidy but since there are claims, we will look into it and pay.” He said that bureaucracy has been hindering smooth payment of outstanding arrears owed depot owners, which was inherited by the current administration. According to him “But now the bureaucratic nature of the computations is what dragged up to this time and depots owners are not too happy with what the ministry of finance has done and may be some other agencies. “So, we have been on it in the Senate and the House of Representatives for almost two weeks now. Finally, today, I have had quality time with Mr. President and we have looked into the whole thing. “By next week (this week), we will invite all the stakeholders. I believe we should be able to get to the root of the matter. As for the depots owners, we are going to plead with them again to give more time, especially now that we have discussed with the head of the executive arm of government. So, I’m sure everything will be resolved in the next few days.” On the second reason of meeting with the President, Senator Marafa who was one of the governorship aspirants of the All Progressives Congress, APC said he discussed the political situation in his state, Zamfara. Recall that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had said that Zamfara will not field any candidates in the 2019 elections for allegedly not meeting the deadline to conduct party primaries which resulted to litigations. But Senator Marafa expressed optimism that the issue will be soon resolved out, though; he declined to comment more on that, adding that the meeting was also to tap on the President’s experience of governance and conflict resolutions. “We have had very good time and I got enormous advice on the way forward,” he said. Further pressed to disclose what he discussed with the President concerning the political situation in his state, he said “That is for me and him and not for me and you. So, we have discussed and the most important thing is for me to know what to do and where to go. So when he tells me something pertaining to you, I will tell you.” Asked if the controversy surrounding the APC governorship ticket was resolved, he said, “We are still on. We are in court and hopefully we believe in the next couple of weeks, maybe two weeks from now, the courts will provide a way forward. “We all know what happened and it will be prejudicial now to start discussing the issues on pages of newspaper or television. We are on our way to an amicable resolution of the problems.”