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FUEL CRISIS NOT ENDING SOON – GOVT, MARKETERS

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Amid the lingering petrol scarcity in the country, a senior government official and marketers have dashed the hope of an early resolution of the problem by claiming that supply hitches may not end any time soon.

The senior official in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, who spoke to Sunday PUNCH on condition of anonymity on Saturday, said the fuel scarcity might get worse in the days and weeks to come as there were many issues affecting the smooth supply of the product across the country.

According to him, the inability of the NNPC Limited to import sufficient volume of Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) is primarily responsible for the current scarcity.

He explained that the NNPCL did not have sufficient funds to import the required quantity of fuel for domestic consumption and the situation was compounded by the falling value of the naira as the company had to source for scarce forex to buy petrol from abroad and pay shipowners, who convey it to the country.

The official stated, “The dollar issue is a major problem as the NNPCL is running helter-skelter to get forex to import fuel, yet the product cannot be sold at the market value; so, it is bearing some part of the cost in the form of subsidy. You can’t get products at higher rates and sell at lower rates and there won’t be crises.

“The Federal Government is worried that the removal of subsidy a month to the general elections will be disastrous as the organised labour will mobilise the citizens to resist it and the security agencies may not be able to contain the attendant upheaval. This, of course, will affect the chances of the ruling All Progressives Congress in the elections.

“The President does not want to leave a country in turmoil for his successor and that is why he made provision for subsidy till June. It will be the decision of his successor to retain or remove it. Whoever wins the presidential election will face a tough time.”

The source also explained that the inability of the country to produce enough crude oil to meet its Organisation of Petroleum Export Countries’ quota was another problem, noting that insecurity and crude theft had significantly affected the production capacity.

He added, “Another issue is the failure of the crude swap for refined products deal that the NNPCL had with major international oil firms and traders. The inability of the NNPCL to meet its own side of the deal by supplying the required quantity of crude has frustrated the arrangement.

“While Nigeria has been taking refined products from the partners, it has not been able to supply the crude equivalent and the international firms and traders have stopped shipping products to the country.”

Oil marketers, on Saturday, also alluded to the problems in the downstream sector and predicted that the current scarcity would not abate until the government comes out with a clear position on subsidy removal, full deregulation and price determination.

They also faulted the claim by the Federal Government that it had not increased the pump price of petrol, as they continued dispensing the commodity at exorbitant rates.

The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, had announced on Friday that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), did not approve any hike in petrol price.

This was after oil marketers stated that the government might have commenced the gradual removal of subsidy on petrol, as they stated that the cost of PMS was raised on Thursday from N175/litre to N185/litre.

One of our correspondents observed that PMS was sold for as high as N250/litre and N300/litre in the few outlets of independent marketers that had the product in Lagos and Ogun states as well as Abuja on Saturday.

Few filling stations operated by major marketers dispensed the commodity at between N185/litre and N194/litre in the state and the Federal Capital Territory contrary to the minister’s statement.

Khalif Civic Oil & Investment Limited, for instance, which is a filling station located in Kubwa, a satellite town in Abuja, sold petrol for N295/litre and still had queues.

Other outlets that dispensed fuel, particularly those operated by major oil marketers, also had long queues.

The Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority did not confirm whether it had approved an increase in the pump price of petrol or not when contacted on Saturday.

“I cannot confirm that to you know, because I don’t have information on that right now,” the NMDPRA spokesperson, Kimchi Apollo, stated.

However, officials of the NNPCL and NMDPRA attributed the fuel scarcity in Abuja and environs to gridlock following an accident involving three oil tankers on the Bida-Agaie Road in Niger State on Friday.

They disclosed this during a special visit to assess the situation at the Suleja Depot, adding that though the development had affected the free flow and arrival of tankers in the Suleja area and some northern states, the situation was being resolved and normalcy was expected to return before Monday.

The Executive Vice President, NNPCL, Adeyemi Adetunji, stated that to resolve the distribution logistic issues and restore normalcy, the cost of marine transportation with the marketers was being resolved.

He said with the Yuletide season now over and people returning to Abuja from the holidays, all depots had been advised to remain open and sustain their dispatch operations.

The Executive Director, Distribution Systems, Storage and Retail Infrastructure, NMDPRA, Ogbugo Ukoha, said the authority would continue to collaborate with the NNPCL and other stakeholders to ensure seamless and efficient supply and distribution of petroleum products nationwide.

Ukoha said to ensure more product availability at filling stations, a total of 121 trucks were dispatched from the Suleja Depot to filling stations within Abuja and neighbouring states on Friday and gave an assurance that the tightness in terms of distribution would be eased before Monday.

But as at Saturday evening, queues in the few outlets that had the product were still long. Many filling stations in Abuja, Nasarawa, Niger and neighbouring states were closed due to lack of products to dispense.

In the few filling stations selling the product in Lagos, motorists spent several hours in queues and those who managed to buy petrol paid far above the official rate.

In Obalende, one of our correspondents observed that most filling station operators were collecting f as much as N2,000 from motorists to jump the queues and get privileged access to the stations.

A motorist, Lamidi Oba, who spoke to Sunday PUNCH, claimed that he had to pay N2,000 to one of the attendants, who told him to use the exit as entrance into the filling station.

He said he had been waiting since 9pm on Friday and was able to get in around 10.50am on Saturday.

“The fuel scarcity is terrible. Yesterday (Friday), I bought from black marketers at almost N700, and the fuel was adulterated. It almost knocked my car engine. I have been here for more than 10 hours. I slept here just to get fuel,” he said.

Some filling stations around Oniru, Victoria Island, increased the pump price to N382/litre. Most of the attendants openly collected bribes from motorists who agreed to pay N400 to shunt the queues. Also, motorists were asked to pay a ‘gate fee’ of N2,000.

A housewife, Mrs Nkechinyere Uzoma, said she bought petrol for N400 from a filling station in Yaba, Lagos, on Friday.

“I heard that Total Energies are still selling at N163 or so per litre. I am coming from there now to this place only to meet this long queue. Some people are even paying to get in, and I even drove out because my tank is dry. The government needs to help us,” she said.

In Ikosi, Ketu, one of our correspondents observed that the Total Energies station on Ikosi Road still sold at N163/litre, but the queues were unending.

Many motorists claimed to have slept in the queues on Friday night to Saturday morning just to get the product.

“I slept here last night. At one point, the attendants had to rest. They too are human beings. One time, they even said they no longer had products. God should save this country. The situation is getting worse,” a motorist who gave his name only as Kehinde said.

In Ogun State, the situation worsened as most motorists lamented the outright unavailability of petrol in filling stations on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

A journalist, who did not want his name in print, said he had to drop his keg with an attendant on Friday after paying a bribe of N1,000.

“When I met her (attendant), she said there was no product. I was stuck. I simply asked that I keep my keg with her, but she insisted that I must pay her a bribe. I had to give her N1,000 for her to fill my keg whenever the product comes on Saturday. I had to sleep in the office,” he said.

He also claimed that the filling station refused to sell for N160/litre but N212/litre.

A resident of Mowe, Mr Salako Adeleke, said he had parked his car permanently as he could no longer afford to buy fuel.

He claimed to have spent hours at different stations but ended up buying from black marketers who mixed the products with other liquids.

“The last time I fuelled my car was three days ago, and I bought it from a black marketer, who sold it at almost N400. How can I buy fuel for N400 in this country?” he said.

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Politicians Frustrating Nigerians, Another Protest Worse Than Endsars Looms — Aisha Yesufu

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Popular socio-political activist, Aisha Yesufu, has said corrupt politicians in Nigeria are frustrating the masses, which can lead to another nationwide protest.

Yesufu said the anger burning in the hearts of Nigerians may sponsor another protest hotter than the one experienced in 2020 tagged ‘EndSARS’.

In 2020, Nigerians staged demonstrations across the nation to call for the end of the police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, notorious for brutalising youths.

The protest, which started on Twitter (now X), resulted in mass demonstrations occurring in all major cities of the country and accompanied by violence.

It led to the death of many young Nigerians, especially after military personnel shot at peaceful protesters at Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos. 

Yesufu, the co-convener of the BringBackOur Girls, who was one of the activists at the centre of the protest, said Nigerians might just be caught unaware in another demonstration. 

She made this known via X account, writing: “Nobody saw the #EndSARS protest coming. Nobody will see the next uprising coming.

“Sadly, it might end up being violent. There is simmering anger fuelled by the impunity and brazenness of the corrupt politicians and rulers, who have rigged their way into power. Nobody will be spared.”

Vanguard

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Decision Day In Imo, Bayelsa, Kogi: INEC Affirms Readiness, DHQ Uncovers Plot To Cause Mayhem

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• There will be injurious consequences, DHQ warns unknown gunmen
• ICPC deploys operatives to prevent vote-buying
• Police read riot act, warn perpetrators of violence, sponsors

The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has said there are intelligence reports of plans by desperate politicians to cause violence with hoodlums wearing military uniform.

Responding to questions from newsmen at the bi-weekly briefing in Abuja yesterday, Director, Defence Media Operations, Major General Edward Buba, issued a stern warning to gunmen planning to disguise in military wears to cause violence during Saturday’s off-cycle governorship elections in Kogi, Imo, and Bayelsa states.

He warned that there would be injurious consequences for their actions, adding that the Nigerian military will not fold its arms and watch its image dragged into the mud during Saturday’s election.

He issued the warning while briefing journalists on military operations to counter threats of terrorists, bandits/kidnappers, oil theft perpetrators and other forms of insecurity across the country.

“For the off-season elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi states this weekend, here is a message for you. The military is deployed in strength for the election to create a safe environment for voters to peacefully come out and cast their votes.

“However, we are aware of plans of some people to disguise themselves in military gear to orchestrate havoc and disrupt elections in some areas. Our message to such a group is that there will be injurious consequences for such an action,” he said.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday, distributed electoral materials to all 27 Local Council Areas of Imo State ahead of tomorrow’s governorship election. The distribution took place at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) branch in Owerri. The electoral materials distributed were Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machines, ballot papers and result sheets for the polls.

Speaking to newsmen on the movement of the electoral materials, the Southeast National Commissioner, Kenneth Ukeagu, said INEC was ready for the election, adding that the election would go freely as INEC officials have been trained properly to do the needful. He also urged the electorate to come out en masse and participate in the election.


According to him, “we are ready for the election. We are distributing sensitive materials to all the LGAs in the state because elections will take place in all the LGAs in the states. We have received assurance from the security agents for providing adequate security during and after the election. On our part, we are ready and on top of our plans. The people of the state have to come out on Saturday and elect a governor of their choice.”

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), yesterday announced that it had deployed its operatives to monitor Saturday’s election in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi.

Spokesperson of the commission, Mrs Azuka Ogugua, stated that ICPC operatives had been deployed in the 56 local government areas and 649 wards in the three states to monitor and prevent vote-buying and other electoral malpractices at the various polling units during the electoral exercise.

The monitoring exercise, according to her, was a response to the invitation by the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, for ICPC to participate in ensuring that the electoral processes in these states are free and fair.

Ogugua charged operatives to strictly adhere to the ICPC guidelines for monitoring elections, adding that they should always act with discipline and imbibe the spirit of integrity while on the field, while adding that the operatives stay close to each other and work as a team to achieve the desired goal.

There are fears that distribution of materials by INEC, threats and counter threats by Biafra agitators may challenge tomorrow’s governorship election in Imo. Aside from fears of availability of commercial drivers to convey sensitive and non-sensitive materials to the flash spots, factions of the Biafra agitators are speaking differently about the exercise.

Already certain spots, including Ohaji/Egbema, Oguta, Orsu, Ihitte Uboma, Isiala Mbano, Okigwe local councils of the state have been identified as dark spots.

A faction of the agitators, led by Simeon Ekpa, asked residents to stay away from the election, while the Nnamdi Kanu-led Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) urged residents to go and vote, threatening to deal with any INEC official caught conniving with politicians to rig the election.

“All those employed and drafted to various polling units to help rig this election will be doing so to their own and family risks; their families must call them to order or they all will sorely regret having participated in this election. Anyone that enthroned evil on the people deserves no mercy. IPOB eyes are at every corner in the state monitoring the activities of political jobbers and criminals”, IPOB said in a statement by its spokesperson, Emma Powerful.

The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kayode Egbetokun, has deployed the Deputy Inspector General (DIG), in charge of Training and Development, Frank Mba, to oversee the election with assurance of protection of lives and property.

Mba has arrived in the state. No fewer than 2,300 soldiers and other security personnel, and other para-military officials are to guard the exercise at various parts of the state.

On Thursday, the Commissioner of Police in Enugu State, Kanayo Uzoegbu said the command was moving 1,500 men to Imo state. He stated that the idea was to boost security and ensure free and fair exercise at the end of the day.

INEC has assured of enough ad-hoc staff to carry out election duties in the prone dark spots. The Commission has deployed nine Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs), to assist the Imo REC, Prof. Sylvia Agu, in ensuring transparent elections.

Meanwhile, Head of Mission, International Organisation for Sustainable Development (IOSD), Dr. Timothy Ihemadu, told The Guardian, on Thursday, that they were concerned about heightened tension in six local government areas of the state, which are volatile.

“If citizens are not confident of their right to vote, the right to be voted for and free and fair atmosphere, in terms of security, it limits their confidence and fundamental right to vote.

“We want security deployed to protect the people and not to intimidate them. The security personnel should be professional and must understand the importance of human rights policing that seeks to protect the people first to avoid voter apathy.

“The NLC order as it concerns Imo and the blackout and air travel is anticipated to affect smooth conduct of the election as the importance of electricity to power election gadgets cannot be over emphasized, as well as arrival of critical personnel who may be challenged to arrive at their duty post”, he stated.

Amid the heightened tension created by alleged stockpiling of arms in Bayelsa and invasion of thugs from neighbouring states, the police, yesterday vowed to arrest and prosecute perpetrators of violence and their sponsors in Bayelsa.

The palpable tension, which is already causing apprehension in the state, was further heightened by the two major contenders and political stakeholders who continue to trade accusations over alleged plans to perpetrate violence.

Addressing a stakeholders’ meeting yesterday at the Police Officers Mess, Yenagoa, the DIG in charge of Saturday’s election, Sokari-Pedro, while assuring that the IGP, Egbetokun, is totally committed to the free, fair, safe and unhindered democratic atmosphere during the election, warned that no electoral offender will be spare.

He stated that though Bayelsa is a peaceful state, the three Senatorial zones are all volatile when it comes to election, while some local governments have already been identified as flashpoints.

“Officers have been directed to carry out a show of force, all the perpetrators of violence be put out of circulation and their sponsors, any civilian that is armed at any polling centre shall be arrested and failure to do that by the police, the police themselves or the sister agent who is responsible for such a lapse will be arrested.

“Any orderly or guard that escorts his principal to the polling centre shall be arrested and thereafter tried in the orderly room, in this case, if care is not taken, may lead to his dismissal.”

In Kogi, INEC reiterated that it is fully ready for the election.  Speaking during a critical stakeholders’ meeting preparatory to the election, the INEC chairman, Yakubu said the commission is fully ready for the election. National Commissioner in charge Kogi, Kwara and Niger states, Prof. Sani Mohammed Adam, who spoke on behalf of the chairman, noted that sensitive and non-sensitive materials are on ground.

Given the volatile nature of election conduct in the state, the IGP, Egbetokun warned trouble makers to relocate from Kogi before Saturday. He also warned politicians and the electorate to allow security agents deployed to the state to do their jobs without being subjected to blackmail.

Already, 40,000 policemen and 3,000 men of the civil defence corps have been deployed to the state for the election, in addition to the heavy deployment of military that will complement the efforts of other security agencies.

Meanwhile, the Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello has urged the operatives of the Nigerian Police and other sister agencies to ensure adherence to professional conduct during the Saturday polls. He noted that his party, APC in Kogi State, holds a track record of peaceful electioneering. The governor was speaking when he received the Inspector General of Police, on Wednesday.

The Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) on Thursday, called on INEC to work diligently to reaffirm citizens’ confidence. IPAC also called on citizens in the three states to come out en-masse to exercise their rights to vote.

National Chairman of IPAC, Yabagi Sani, said IPAC has introduced an innovative intervention through Election Results Management System (ERMS), which was recently brought to the attention of INEC Chairman, all 19 National Chairmen and political party candidates.

Sani said: “Choosing leaders based on merit, vision, and their potential impact on the community is vital. Citizens should prioritize candidates who genuinely represent their interests and are committed to the welfare and development of their respective States. By doing so, they can ensure that their votes lead to the election of leaders, who will work towards the betterment of their lives and communities

“Citizens should be proactive in shaping the future of the nation. Grassroots involvement is fundamental to the success of any democracy. By disregarding the negative tactics of political actors and focusing on making informed choices, citizens can contribute to the establishment of a robust and accountable democratic system in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi by their conduct in the forthcoming election.

“The involvement of security agencies in the electoral process must be based on professionalism, neutrality, and a commitment to the defense of our democracy, rather than partisan interests. The citizens must feel secure in their participation in the electoral process, knowing that their safety and security are assured.”

Guardian

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113 Terrorists Eliminated, 300 Others Arrested In One Week – DHQ

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The Defence Headquarters says the troops of the armed forces have eliminated 113 terrorists and apprehended 300 others in different operations in various theatres across the country in the last one week.

The Director, Defence Media Operations, Maj.-Gen. Edward Buba, said this while briefing journalists on the operations of the armed forces on Thursday in Abuja.

Mr Buba said the troops also apprehended 25 perpetrators of oil theft, rescued 91 kidnapped hostages and recovered 129 assorted weapons and 717 assorted ammunition within the period.

In the North East, he said the troops of Operation Hadin Kai, while conducting fighting patrols, arrested BH/ISWAP logistics suppliers in Kukawa, Damboa, Monguno and Konduga Local Government Areas of Borno.

The defence spokesman said the troops eliminated 17 Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists, arrested 16 and rescued six kidnapped hostages, as well as recovered different calibres of arms and ammunition during the period.

He added that the air component of Operation Hadin Kai had, on Nov. 2, engaged terrorists hibernating in the Degbewa area, where several of them were neutralised and had their logistics destroyed.

In the North Central, Mr Buba said the troops of Operation Safe Haven conducted cordon and search operations in parts of Kaduna and Plateau States, killing five terrorists, arresting 14 and rescuing 15 kidnapped hostages.

He added that troops of Operation Operation Whirl Stroke conducted a raid operation at suspected criminal hideouts in parts of Nasarawa, Benue and Plateau States, neutralising two terrorists, arresting 10 and rescuing three kidnapped hostages.

In the North-West, Mr Buba said the troops of Operation Hadarin Daji neutralised 30 terrorists, arrested seven others and rescued 31 kidnapped hostages in Katsina, Kebbi and Zamfara States during the period.

He said the troops also recovered 15 AK47 rifles, one RPG Tube, five RPG bombs, six hand grenades, five pairs of desert camouflages, 10 pairs of magazine purges, IED-making material, unconfirmed no of ammo and the sum of $16,200.

He added that the air component had, on Nov. 2, acquired and conducted an interdiction at a terrorist leader’s residence in Kankara Local Government Area of Katsina State.

According to him, the terrorist leader known as Badaru had several terrorists hibernating at the residence who were neutralised in the air strikes.

“Troops of Operation Whirl Punch conducted an offensive operation against terrorists in Birnin Gwari and Chikun Local Government Areas of Kaduna State, neutralising 23 terrorists, arresting 83 suspects and rescuing four kidnapped hostages.

“Troops recovered 12 AK47 rifles, two pistols, one unserviceable AK47 rifle, 141 rounds of 7.62mm special ammo, one magazine, one motorcycle and three mobile phones,” he said.

In the Niger Delta region, Buba said the troops of Operation Delta Safe denied oil thieves an estimated sum of N571.7 million during the week.

He said the troops discovered and destroyed 76 dugout pits, 35 boats, 95 storage tanks, 10 vehicles, 129 cooking ovens, five pumping machines, 13 speedboats, six outboard engines, one vessel, three motorcycles and 49 illegal refining sites.

“Troops recovered 514,640 litres of stolen crude oil, 339,315 litres of illegally refined AGO and 775 litres of DPK,” he said.

In the South-East, Mr Buba said the troops of Operation UDO KA apprehended 10 suspected IPOB/ESN criminals and recovered one GT3 rifle, one locally fabricated pistol, two pump action guns, two dane guns, 30 live cartridges, two motorcycles and one cutlass amongst other items.

“All recovered items, arrested suspects, and rescued hostages were handed over to the relevant authorities for further action,” he added.

(NAN)

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