The Executive Secretary of the Petroleum Products Price Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, Reginald Stanley says that the agency with a staff strength of 249, supervised by an unwieldy 22-man strong board, earning a scandalously whopping salaries and allowances of N57.9 billion per annum is a blessing to Nigeria. For him the company’s monumental achievement in the last one year as a result of selfless service of the staff and the quality of leadership provided by the minister of petroleum calls for celebration. PPPRA, according to him has become so transparent in the last one year that only unpatriotic elements and enemies of progress will fail to see such self evident achievements. Indeed, for him, if there had been any criticism of PPPRA at all, it could only have been the work of “fifth columnists who are out to spread odium, hatred and campaigns of calumny” because of the body’s “resolve to support the minister of petroleum resources to make the difference’.
Last week, during a Channel Television programme, he had in a tone soaked with patriotic fervour, declared: “No amount of intimidation or smear campaign can make us to derail in our resolve to serve our fatherland with integrity and honesty of purpose”. He then went on to remind Nigerians that “the minister of petroleum resources has put measures in place that consistently prevented corruption in the downstream sector of the oil industry in recent years”. He did not however tell us if “recent years” covered 2011 when through acts of omission of the minister and Ahmadu Alli, former chairman of PPPRA, a whopping N1.7 trillion was, according to House committee probe report, allegedly stolen by those with close links with PDP and government.
But nonetheless, he went ahead to reel out what he considered unmatched achievements of PPPRA in the last one year: Bringing sanity to the downstream sector of the oil industry; reducing the level of fuel consumption by Nigerians from 60.25 million in 2011 to 39.66 litres in 2012 and pruning down of the number of fuel importers from unwieldy 128 in 2011, to 39 in 2012″
He ignored the House Committee report that dismissed the level of consumption claimed by PPPRA as false and the fact that it was the reckless decision of the minister and the then chairman of PPPRA that saw the number of fuel importers moved from less than a dozen to 128 all in effort to spread patronage among PDP members and sympathizers.
Stanley also wants Nigerians to congratulate PPPRA for reducing the N2.1 trillion the body fraudulently claimed it spent on phantom subsidy in 2011 to less than one trillion in 2012. He pretends as if we don’t have the ongoing court cases arising from National Assembly probe which recommended some leading light of PDP and their siblings for prosecution for allegedly forging documents to claim fuel subsidy when in truth they, to borrow a phrase used by Audu Ogbe, a former PDP chairman, “never imported a bottle of fuel”.
And finally, in what amounts to an unprovoked assault on our sensibilities, the PPPRA Executive Secretary said we should all celebrate PPPRA and the minister of petroleum for “bringing integrity, creating system, processes and stability in product supply”. How much more can a people take from a group of self-proclaiming patriots who treat all of us as if we are all kindergarten pupils? It is incredible how some government officials who in other climes should be in court defending their integrity freely apply pepper into our eyes, and ask us to laugh instead of crying.
Beyond puerile attempt by civil servants with no ambition beyond serving political office holders to hood wink us, a closer focus on the emergence of PPPRA itself will show it was like the monetization policy, an ingenious creation of PDP new breed politicians designed to confiscate our common wealth. In other words, policy formulation and policy implementation have become instruments of corruption to further impoverish our people.
By strange coincidence, PDP assumption of power in 1999 was greeted with long queues at the filling stations, a development not brought about by market forces of demand and supply but mainly due to manipulation of the market to create artificial scarcity. Cynics say it was a strategy by cash-strapped PDP’s newly elected politicians to recoup their investments following their public confession that they sold private properties to fight the 1999 election.
As parts of achieving this objective, contracts for the refurbishment of the refineries were awarded to politicians instead of multinationals that built them. The refurbishment exercise failed as was planned.
As if working to answer, President Olusegun Obasanjo set up the Petroleum Products Pricing Committee which in turn recommended PPPRA with a mandate to “liberalise the downstream sector of the petroleum industry, privatise the refineries, deregulate and liberalise the imports of petroleum products and, generally, make the products available at reasonable prices”. The Bill for the establishment of PPPRA was promptly passed into law in February 2003 and assented to by Obasanjo in May 2003 because PDP had vested interest. (PIB has been pending for over five years}
But PPPRA’s assigned functions turned out to be mere duplications of functions of Pipelines and Product Marketing Company, (PPMC) which was set up in 1988 to “profitably and efficiently market refined petroleum products in the domestic as well as export markets, especially in the ECOWAS sub-region, provide marine services and also maintain uninterrupted movement of refined petroleum products from the local refineries.”
For those behind PPPRA, the end justifies the means. Not even the existence of the NNPC Act 1977 which saddled the minister of petroleum with the responsibilities of “regulating and fixing petroleum product prices and supervising the MPR/DPR that has sole regulatory authority over technical standards, refining, and logistics in the sector”, was going to stop them.
Today, 10 years down the line, PPPRA has served only the interest of those who set it up. The lot of the poor is worse today than it was 10 years ago. They still cannot afford the cost of cooking gas while the so-called subsidized kerosene sells for about N140 naira outside NNPC filling stations.
It has also turned out that the argument of both Sanusi Lamido, the CBN governor and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minister of Finance, that it was only the middle class owners of two cars and diesel engine generators who were beneficiaries of government’s so-called subsidy has been proved to be more political than economic. As a result of their false prognosis, many industries that depend on diesel to run their factories have all folded up. Those managing to survive cannot compete with fake and substandard goods flooding the market due to import licenses selectively allocated to party members. It was on account of this Dangote Cement temporarily suspended production not too long ago.
Unlike, PPMC, PPPRA has shown more commitments to importation of refined petroleum products than making our own refineries work. Instead of using NNPC facilities or rehabilitating the over 4,000 kilometres of petroleum pipeline commissioned by Obasanjo in 1979, PPPRA depends on the storage facilities of members of Depot Petroleum Products Marketers Association (DAPPMA) (Obat Petroleum is reputed to have the largest and most modern storage facilities in the world). It also patronises Independent Marketers Company (NIPCO) that has invested billions in storage facilities and a jetty in Apapa. It also relies to some degree on the services of Oando and Zenon petroleum companies that jointly control over 200 trucks and a jetty owned by Zenon.
We now know without consulting the duo of Sanusi and Okonojo-Iweala, that a government that expends so much of our resources through PPPRA to patronize parasites instead of buildings refineries serves not our interest but those of the parasites.
PPPRA that guzzles N57.9 billion every year serves only the interest of those who set it up to recoup money spent on election. With N600 billion, we will probably build two medium refineries that will end our dependency on imported fuel and provide job for a few of our 29 million unemployed youth. Of course, it will force current beneficiaries of the so-called deregulation presently falling over each other to erect the largest storage facility in the world and rent to government that can neither manage existing refineries nor NNPC tank farms, to stop feeding on our blood.