Femi Falana, human rights lawyer, says Maikanti Baru, group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), and Ibe Kachikwu, minister of state for petroleum, deceived Nigerians by saying there was enough fuel to supply consumers.
In a statement on Monday, Falana said despite the assurance given by the duo, the scarcity of the product has persisted, causing some people to sleep over at filling stations just to buy fuel.
“In view of the shortage of petrol throughout the country it is indubitably clear that Messrs Kachukwu and Baru deliberately set out to deceive the Nigerian people when they gave the misleading impression that there was enough fuel to cater for all consumers,” Falana said.
“On December 7, 2017, the federal executive council (FEC) was reported to have ordered the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the ministry of petroleum resources to address the fuel scarcity in some parts of the country at the material time.
“The decision was conveyed to Nigerians by the minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed at the end of the FEC meeting which held in Abuja on that day.
“The minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachukwu who could not attend the meeting was said to have given FEC assurance that there was no cause for alarm. According to Mr. Mohammed, Kachikwu had told the FEC that there was enough fuel in the country to last till January 2018. And that there was no intention by the federal government to increase the pump price of fuel.
“Nigerians were also informed that the group managing director of NNPC, Maikanti Baru, had cut short his trip to London as queues returned to the country’s filling stations.
“Before leaving for London, Baru had said, ‘For the umpteenth time, I wish to call on all Nigerians to stop panic buying. We have said times without number that NNPC has sufficient products to cater for the needs of all consumers’.
“Baru was further reported to have directed that more truckloads of petroleum products be dispatched to various parts of the country to cushion the effects of excessive demand caused by panic buying.”
Falana said neither Baru nor Kachikwu has apologised to Nigerians for the hardship caused by their assurances.
He also said President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the minister of petroleum, has failed to explain to Nigerians the cause of the fuel scarcity.
He added that if the federal government claims it has fuel, it should make the product available throughout the country.
“Since the assurance was given over three weeks ago, the fuel crisis has been compounded without any solution in sight,” he said.
“Up till now, both highly placed officials have not tendered a public apology for engaging in public deceit. Neither has the substantive minister of petroleum resources, President Muhammadu Buhari explained the cause of the ongoing fuel crisis which has subjected the Nigerian people to untold misery and agony.
“Although the federal government has continued to assure the nation that there is no plan to increase the price of petrol, the independent marketers have said that they can no longer import refined fuel and sell at N145 per litre.
“Convinced that the government lacks the political will to deal with them the marketers have illegally increased the pump price of the product to N300 per litre in several parts of the country.
“The cheap blackmail of the importers ought to be rejected because they were importing the product, selling at N145 per litre and smiling to the banks when a dollar exchanged for over N500 last year.
“Since the federal government claims that there is enough fuel to cater for all consumers the police should be mobilized to monitor the supply of the product throughout the country and ensure that all saboteurs are arrested and prosecuted forthwith.”