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Fuel crisis, Leadership Failure: Why PPMC MD should go NOW!

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current Managing Director, Mrs. Esther Nnamdi-Ogbue

Photo: The Managing Director of the Pipelines and Product Marketing Company Limited, Mrs. Esther Nnamdi-Ogbue standing between Group Managing Director of NNPC, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu and Managing Director of the Kaduna Refining and Petrochemical Company Limited, Engr. Saidu Mohammed during a facility tour of the plant by the GMD

On the homepage of Pipelines and Products Marketing Company, PPMC, a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, is found the following assertion. “The creation of PPMC is perhaps the most significant event of the 1988 reorganisation of the NNPC, because the establishment of this subsidiary is directly responsible for the comparative ease with which petroleum products are sourced and distributed to all parts of the country at uniformed price: a phenomenon which Nigerians have come to take for granted.”

 With this pandemic and protracted crisis of fuel scarcity, sky rocketing of pump price, and endless queues in the few operational fuel service stations now, the above can no longer be said of PPMC today under its current Managing Director, Mrs. Esther Nnamdi-Ogbue.

In corroboration, the various national dailies are adorned with screaming headlines, such as, “Motorists Groan as Fuel crisis Lingers Nationwide”; “Petrol Price Soars as Scarcity Persists across the Country”; “Nationwide Fuel Scarcity Looms as Key NNPC Depots Run Dry”; “Marketers Demand Probe of PPPRA over Fuel Import Allocations”; to mention but a few.

Undeniably, PPMC under its present headship has failed monumentally to fulfil its statutory responsibility of facilitating the smooth sourcing and efficient distribution of petroleum products to all parts of the country at a uniform price. 

This has led to a situation where Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, sells for as high as N500 per litre in some places. This fuel crisis have regrettably led to the vigorous grounding of economic activities nationwide; accompanied by its excruciating consequences.

Regrettably, the shortest fuel service station queues are at least 300 vehicles at any given time! This is so because a majority of the existing fuel service stations in the country have remained closed for weeks with fuel pump attendants claiming that their tanks have been empty. 

As a result, motorists who visit the very few fuel service station that are dispensing petroleum products end up spending a staggering four to six hours averagely on the queue.

Sadly, the loss of valuable man-hour is not the only debilitating consequence of these staggeringly endless queues. An aggressive competition is also sparked off with its attendant tension as motorists are forced to scramble for the limited supply. This has led to traffic gridlocks along major roads where such fuel service stations are located.

Vehemently, citizens have expressed frustrations, pains and agony emanating from this crisis via every forum they found and are still doing so. Their cries are everywhere. One of which is that of a transporter in Lagos, Mohammed Yusuf. In a random interview with a Vanguard correspondent, he complained that the fuel crisis has subjected transporters to immeasurable hardship as it has increasingly become very cumbersome to get fuel to carry out their businesses. 

Another commuter, Yusuf Samaila had this to say: “I do not know why we suffer for basically everything in this country. There is no frequent power supply and now that we have a generator to use, getting fuel is also a problem. I have been on the queue for more than two hours.”

Furthermore, there was a report on Vanguard of one motorist, by the name Olu Akinyo who lamented that fuel pump attendants were exploiting this situation of fuel shortage by indulging in sharp practices. However, business owners are not left out of this endless list of citizens whose businesses have been undeservingly grounded by this fuel imbroglio.

Expectedly, citizen groups have been weighing in on the situation by diagnosing and recommending the way forward. One of such came from the Rivers State branch of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) which blamed private depot owners however for the ugly situation. 

TUC Chairman in the state, Mr. Chika Onuegbu, accused most of them of selling products only at night at exorbitant prices. Onuegbu said it was worrisome that this could go on particularly after the Federal Government had approved payment of N413 billion to cover backlog of petroleum subsidy.

Furthermore, Mr. Onuegbu described the action of private depot owners as shameful and called on Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, the state government and other relevant agencies to wade into the matter. He had this to say: “Trade Union Congress, Rivers State is worried by the determination of the private depot owners to starve Rivers people of petroleum products. Currently, they have shut their depots and only selling at night at exorbitant prices.” 

“We call on the DPR, law enforcement agencies and the Rivers State government to force the depots open and ensure that the available products are released to petroleum marketers including IPMAN since President Buhari has approved about N413 billion subsidy payment backlog.”

However, some Oil Marketing and Trading (OM&T) companies have alleged corruption in the fourth quarter 2015 allocations for petroleum products import and are calling for a detailed probe into the allegation.

Clearly, PPMC has failed woefully in its statutory responsibility of ensuring the direct ease of sourcing and distributing petroleum products across the country at a uniform price. It has clearly shown that it suffers lack of leadership, in spite of the fact that a new Managing director was appointed on August 11, 2015.

Irresponsibly, the Managing Director of PPMC, Mrs. Esther Nnamdi-Ogbue has refused to give us daily briefings directly or by proxy, on what happened; how they are going about it, or even what they are doing to forestall a reoccurrence of this melodrama. In civilised climes, public officials who fail in their responsibility, even to magnitudes lesser than this, apologise to their people and resign from office. And nothing less is expected from her.

Sadly, her silence is complicit; and portrays the demeanour of one who still lives in the dark past of secretive authoritarianism which characterised the successive military regimes in Nigeria that ran down all the refineries, depots and pipelines infrastructures.

Before her appointment, PPMC has been placed on the path of resurgence by her predecessors with 18 out of 21 loading depots active. One would expect that she would continue on that nobly progressive path to bring the remaining ones to 100% performance and do more to secure the existing PPMC pipelines that have become increasingly more perforated by vandal during her tenure.

Rather, her presence has created a leadership lacuna and majority of tankers have to rely on private depots in Lagos for supplies. Information out there is that she has fully decimated the office and structure of PPMC. Key members of staff who were in the engine room of that resurgence have been posted out of the headquarters to places where they are now without a desk in NNPC. It can safely be said that the only administrative structure still in existence in PPMC is the Office of the Managing Director.

Definitely, it is only a Managing Director that lacks leadership qualities and capacity that can disrupt and degrade the structure of an organisation that she has been put in charge. It is this deficiency which has become too obvious that the private depots owners are capitalising on by hoarding fuel. PPMC under her control has truly lost control of the market and is not respected by marketers.

It is in the light of the above that the current MD of PPMC, Mrs. Esther Nnamdi-Ogbue should tender an unreserved apology to the people who her crass ineptitude and cluelessness has brought untold hardship to and take the honourable way out as we cannot risk another fuel crisis or energy meltdown any time soon.

Mark Olise is a Freelance Researcher, Social Justice Advocate; Twitter: @Mark_Olise

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