There are strong indications that President Muhammadu Buhari has initiated moves to forestall the escalation of the festering feud between the All Progressives Congress National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Ibe Kachikwu.
It was gathered on Monday that Buhari believed that Kachikwu’s statement and Tinubu’s criticisms could tear the party apart.
It was learnt that the President had therefore cautioned the APC chieftains and members of his cabinet against taking sides in comments and issues that could divide the party and derail his government.
A member of the cabinet, who confided in The PUNCH, said the President was of the view that any comment by the APC on the propriety or otherwise of Tinubu’s statement would divide the party and his government.
It was gathered that Buhari had told the minister that he should concentrate on how to end fuel scarcity before May, the time Kachikwu had proposed that there would be smooth fuel supply in the country.
The cabinet member stated, “I am aware that the President has moved in and cautioned ministers and party chieftains against divisive statements on the seeming feud between Tinubu and Kachikwu.
“At this time of the nation’s history, the President needs all the support of Nigerians. There should not be any distraction. The minister has been told that his main focus should be how to end fuel queues.”
Kachikwu had, in an interview with journalists in Abuja on Wednesday, said fuel queues could not be eliminated before May, adding that he was not a magician.
But Tinubu had, in a statement on Saturday, criticised the minister, saying Kachikwu’s position amounted to an act of insubordination to Nigerians, who voted public office-holders into their offices.
The National Secretariat of the APC on Monday kept mute over the controversy generated by Kachikwu on the fuel situation in the country, which was roundly condemned by Tinubu.
The National Chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, and the party’s National Secretary, Mai Mala Buni, could be reached for comments on Monday.
Calls to their mobile telephones indicated that they were switched off while responses to text messages sent to them were still being awaited as of the time of filing this report.
However, a source within the party said, “The statement by our revered leader is not ambiguous. I honestly don’t see any ambiguity; he issued the statement and signed it in his personal capacity.
“He, like every Nigerian, has every right to speak out when he sees anything going wrong in the polity; you cannot deny him that right.
“Besides, I understand that the matter is being handled at the highest level; it is an internal party affair.”
Meanwhile, the Senate has directed Kachikwu to appear before it on Tuesday (today) to explain the cause of the embarrassing fuel scarcity across the country.
The Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream) issued the summons after carrying out an on-the-spot assessment of the fuel situation at major filling stations within the nation’s capital, Abuja.
Members of the committee were confronted with long queues of vehicles at many filling stations.
The operators did not dispense the product to motorists, alleging lack of supply from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s depot in Suleja, Niger State.
The Acting Chairman of the committee, Senator Jibrin Barau, said the petroleum minister must appear before the panel to explain what led to the scarcity and the way to resolve it.
He said the fuel scarcity had become pathetic, forcing Senate President Bukola Saraki to call on the committee to assess the situation and the way to resolve it.
Barau added, “This situation is very bad and unacceptable, hence, the need for the minister to appear before us tomorrow (today) and unveil his plan of the way out to us.
“Even if he doesn’t have any plan yet out of the lingering problem, the Senate President and the entire members of the committee are more than ready to rub minds with him for that needed purpose.”
The Senate Minority Whip and a member of the committee, Senator Philip Aduda, called on the Federal Government to arrest the situation fast by making fuel available to Nigerians.
Aduda said, “What Nigerians need is fuel and not blame game. The government should look for petrol and ensure that it is given to the people.
“This situation is very and unacceptable. We are Nigerians and it will be bad for us to continue remaining in queues.
“If the APC leaders like, let them blame themselves; that is their problem, but the most important thing is for us to have fuel in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“That is what we are looking for and that is what we want. We want to see all these queues disappear.”
One of our correspondents observed that petrol marketers at various stations visited, lamented lack of supply and inadequate supply of petroleum products by the NNPC in recent times.
Isa Friday, the manager of Oando Filling station, Zone 4, Abuja, said it had been long the station got supply from NNPC depot in Suleja.
In a related development, the official pump price of petrol, otherwise known as Premium Motor Spirit, was largely upheld in just one state in the month of February 2016 out of the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, the National Bureau of Statistics has said.
According to the bureau, the average monthly price paid by consumers for petrol in Edo State was N86.5 per litre, while in Ogun, the price was close to the official rate as petrol users paid an average price of N86.53 per litre during the period under review.
The official pump price for petrol as approved by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency is N86 per litre for petrol stations run by the NNPC, and N86.50 per litre for outlets managed by other major and independent oil marketers.
The NBS, in its PMS Price Watch for February 2016, revealed that petrol was sold for as high as N122.88 per litre during the review period.
A study of the bureau’s report showed that the average cost for the product in Abia was N112.5 per litre; Bayelsa, N120.6; Cross River, N116.65; and Yobe, N122.88. The average price of PMS in February was higher in these states.
States that recorded average prices that were close to the official pump price included Lagos, N87.03 per litre; Borno, N87.88; Delta, N87.5; Oyo, N87.21; and Katsina, N87.95.
In its bid to ensure strict adherence to approved prices, the Department of Petroleum Resources recently announced the constitution and deployment of special intelligence monitoring teams nationwide to ensure the prompt delivery of products to designated filling stations.
“The teams would enforce government approved price regime and ensure the right quantity and quality of products are dispensed,” the DPR had said in a statement issued in Abuja.
Also, motorists on Monday pleaded with the Federal Government to step up efforts in ensuring that fuel queues disappear.
Motorists, who spoke with one of our correspondents while waiting to be served petrol in front of some filling stations in Abuja, wondered why it was becoming difficult for Nigeria to complete a full year without experiencing severe fuel crisis.
“This is becoming something that we must experience every year and it’s not good at all for an oil producing country like Nigeria,” said Onyema Christopher, a motorist, who was in queue at one of the NNPC’s mega stations on the Kubwa-Zuba Expressway, Abuja.
“The government should please look for a lasting solution to this problem and let Nigerians, at least, enjoy one whole year without experiencing fuel scarcity and the problems associated with it.”