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FG May Still Privatise Refineries- Allison-Madueke

Source: thewillnigeria.com
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Says No Plan to Increase Fuel Prices BEVERLY HILLS, March 11, (THEWILL) - The Federal Government said on Tuesday that it has not totally ruled out the plan to privatise the nation's four refineries.

Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison Madueke , who disclosed this however said the plan is without prejudice to on-going rehabilitation of the refineries .

She also denied the insinuation that the Federal Government was planning to increase the pump price of petroleum products as she warned that marketers who hoard or divert the products would be dealt with severely.

Allison- Madueke made the disclosure when she appeared before a joint Senate Committee of Petroleum Upstream, Downstream and Gas to defend her Ministry's 2014 budget.

She maintained that the government should not be in the business of running refineries or any major infrastructure adding that the best way forward is for the government to privatise the refineries.

"On privatisation of refineries,let me put it this way, the Federal Government is continuing the rehabilitation programme, up till the time of privatisation.

"At least to some extent, as we know, the unions fought us strongly and so we stepped back for some time to look at it again but I have always said that the government should not be in the business of running refineries, I don't think it should be, or any major infrastructure, I think the best way forward is the privatisation of our refineries though rehabilitation continues.

"The unions stopped us, it was clear at the time, we met with the unions, they were not comfortable with the privatisation and as a result of our negotiations that time, we stand down on the privatisation for this period in time.

"We are still with the ongoing discussion on that but the rehabilitation side of it never stops at any point even when we put forward the issue of privatisation of the refineries, " she said.

On why there was no budgetary allocations for the frontier exploration this year, the minister explained that it was not in the budget because the exploration is under the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and not her ministry "In terms of the frontier exploration agency, it is definitely still there and it is funded, it is not under the ministry but under NNPC, that's why it doesn't appear there.

It's a unit under NNPC.
And in 2013 because of the heightened security issues in those areas, we were actually not able to do as much as we have done in the past unfortunately, but in 2014, we hope it will be a better year for us in frontier exploration," she said.

Speaking to journalists shortly after the defence, she reiterated that the government has no intention to increase the price of petroleum and threatened that diverters and hoarders of petroleum products will be made to face the full wrath of the law "I won't call it a recurring PMS shortage in the country, I think the media can testify to the fuel shortage for some time now, so I will hardly call that reccurring, as if it has been happening for the past six months, it is not the case, so it has a lot to do with a number of issues.

First of all there seems to have been some scare that we intended to increase the pump price of fuel and I have said categorically several times that the Federal Government of Nigeria has no intention of increasing the pump price of PMS anytime in the future, that is for certain.

"Secondly whether as a result of this rumour or some underlying issues, there was a certain level of hoarding and diversion as well of petroleum products, all of which we are trying to ensure are brought to an end in this period of time.

"As a result I have to go out as well to petroleum stations in places like Lagos and to consumers as well just to get an understanding of the shortage over the past couple of weeks, it is coming under control now, we will be flooding the market in the next week and beyond to ensure that whatever it is, diversionary or any other reason, will be dampened by force " We will ensure that going forward those that are found to be actually diverting fuel after all that we have done and during that period as well will be punished with the full extent of the law and like I have said before if we have found a station on our list as diverters or hoarders, no matter who that station is, the full wrath of the law will be brought on such hoarders or diverters, " she said.

EMMA UCHE,ABUJA