In the midst of the biting fuel scarcity that Nigerians faced over the holiday season, the federal government maintained one narrative: that the fuel marketers are to blame.
In his New Year Broadcast on Monday, President Muhammadu Buhari doubled down on the claim, saying that marketers were responsible for the “unnecessary fuel scarcity across the country.” He vowed to deal with the saboteurs.
“I am determined to get to the root of this collective blackmail of all Nigerians and ensure that whichever groups are behind this manipulated hardship will be prevented from doing so again,” he said in the speech.
However, the Minister of State for Petroleum has taken a slightly different view. According to him, there is no evidence to back up the claims of sabotage by marketers.
He spoke to pressmen, alongside the chairman of the Depot and Petroleum Marketers Association at the close of a meeting involving government officials, labour leaders and stakeholders in the oil sector chaired by Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari at the Presidential Villa.
Here are two issues from the meeting and they point to the fact that despite the FG’s tough talk, it does not have evidence to back its claims.
There is No Evidence, It’s All Allegations
Kachikwu said the Chief of Staff wants people to be punished but it is probably not going to happen.
“The Chief of Staff instructed that specific names should be put on the table, those who have gone against the rule, done certain things that are against the book should be punished.
“But the greatest difficulty in Nigeria is that people make allegations, but when you ask for evidence, even one, everybody now goes back into the safety nets.
“You cannot prosecute except you have evidence.”
He informed the press that the country is going to collaborate with marketers to work out a long term solution and he has been appointed head of the committee to drive the process. He listed the members to include – “the GMD, most of the parastatals in the ministry, DAPMAN, IPMAN, NOMAN, Labour unions.
“We are to meet in my office tomorrow (January 3) and dig deeper into this thing and find a long term solution,” Kachikwu said.
The Government Had No Clue
The Chairman of Depot and Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Dapo Abiodun informed the press that the government called the meeting chaired by Kyari to find out exactly what happened.
This is quite strange since the Presidency, NNPC and other arms of government sounded so sure that marketers were responsible and embarked on a rather dramatic clampdown exercise on fuel depots giving out fuel for free at many instances.