Stakeholders within the aviation sector on Thursday alleged sabotage via hijack of aviation fuel by forces within the supply chain, thereby driving up the price through artificial scarcity which further exacerbated the crisis in the industry.
These concerns were discussed during a hearing by the House of Representatives ad hoc committee chaired by the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ahmad Wase, investigating the scarcity of aviation fuel.
During the session, the stakeholders expressed worry over the safety of airlines in Nigeria, adding that they were disturbed in the face of continuous hikes in the price of aviation fuel.
They said that operators were struggling to maintain their jets as fuel now took over 115 per cent of operating costs.
Mr Allen Onyema, the CEO of Air Peace, said within two weeks, the price of aviation fuel moved from N190 per litre to N670 per litre.
Onyema said the operators would have shut down operations if not for the political season and to support the current administration that had been supportive of the sector.
He said that the operators could not survive the next 72 hours because they were indebted and risked takeover by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).
However, Mr Ugbugo Ukoha, Executive Director, Distribution System for Storage and Retailing Infrastructure in the Nigeria Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority slammed the regulatory authorities for their insincerity, noting that the country has excess supply of Aviation Turbine Kerosene (ATK).
He said that the country had 34 days of fuel supply, hence, the report of scarcity was false.
Onyema, while responding to the presentation by Ukoha, said he was surprised with the claim that fuel was in abundance.
“To say that I am saddened by certain responses is playing it down. The product is not available, I am surprised that he, Ukoha, is saying there is sufficiency that will last for 34 days.”
This allegation by Ukoha elicited a furious response from Rep. Idris Wase, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Reps who chaired the hearing.
Wase berated Ukoha, for accusing him of being used to blackmail the government in a political season.
He warned that no one would blackmail the government.
“As a politician, I want to tell you that I am concerned, we are moving into an election period, nobody should blackmail our government,” he said.
He noted that the surge in price was sequel to hoarding by marketers and negligence of the regulatory authorities to do their work.
Wase also blamed the Executive Vice Chairman of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), Babatunde Irukera, for not monitoring the activities of the ATK marketers.
The Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Musa Nuhu, said the hike in the cost of jet fuel made the NCAA consider grounding some airlines from operating to avoid air mishaps.
Mr Mele Kyari, Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said the request by the operators to reduce the price of ATK to N200 per litre would not be possible.
He said that the current landing price of the product was above N400 per litre, adding that unless the country wished to start paying subsidy on the product.
The committee, however, urged Ukoha to provide the committee with the list of all licenced marketers to meet with the committee on March 14.
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