Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, says the government is aware that Nigerians are now doubting its change agenda, but he has assured them that the Buhari administration is “working around the clock to provide relief for the citizenry.”
“As a government that was propelled into office by the power of the people, we cannot but feel the pains of our compatriots, and we deeply empathise with them,” he said in a statement issued in Abuja on Wednesday by Segun Adeyemi, his special adviser.
“Our message to our compatriots is that this administration under the able leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari is working round the clock to ease the pains of Nigerians, and that very soon, the efforts of the government will begin to yield fruits for the benefit of Nigerians.
“We understand the skepticism of Nigerians in questioning whether this indeed is the change they voted for. I can tell Nigerians that our change agenda is real, and that indeed Nigerians will get the change they voted for.”
On the scarcity of petrol in the country, the minister said that immediate measures were being taken to end the situation just as medium and long-term solutions were being worked out to prevent a recurrence.
“Petroleum supply and distribution have been ramped up across the country by the NNPC to ensure product availability in the country, but repeated trips to filling stations and the backlog are making it impossible to immediately feel the impact,” he said.
“Monitoring has also been intensified to ensure full compliance with approved prices. Violations of approved prices and hoarding of petroleum products attract severe penalties, including giving out of petroleum products free to the public, sealing off of fuel stations found to be hoarding petroleum products, payment of fine as well as withdrawal of marketer’s license.”
Mohammed said that in the medium term, the supply constraints owing to foreign exchange challenges were being resolved through collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria on innovative ways of closing the gaps in accessing foreign exchange.
He also announced the willingness of the international upstream oil companies to support major oil marketing companies with some of the required foreign exchange, thus complementing the efforts of the NNPC, which has been solely importing the refined products, in addition to the fact that the corporation is pursuing an improved model for crude-oil-for-refined-product exchange to eliminate inefficiencies.
“The ultimate is to ensure self-sufficiency in refined products supply by ramping up our local Refining capacity. All local refineries will be made to run at a minimum 70 percent capacity utilisation in the weeks ahead. This is in addition to the initiative of increasing the combined capacity of the domestic refineries through co-locating smaller but cost efficient modular refineries within the existing refineries premises,” the minister said.
Regarding unstable power supply in the country, Mohammed blamed the lack of gas supply to the power generating stations for it. He said the NNPC was seeking alternative sources of gas supply after the attack on the Forcados export pipeline forced the cut off of gas supplies to the stations.
The minister said even the gas supply that was cut off following the attacks on the Forcados pipeline would soon be restored as Shell, the operators of the pipeline, has awarded the contract to repair it.
In addition, he said, work was nearing completion on the transmission projects in five states in the southeast and south-south that would ensure that the power stations in those regionswere able to work at full capacity, thus adding another 800MW to the national grid.
“While we give no excuses for the challenges currently being faced by Nigerians, because they voted for us specifically to address those challenges, we appeal to them to bear with us as we strive to provide the much-needed relief in the days ahead,” he added.