By Yemie Adeoye &Â Luka Binniyat
LAGOS â€” LONG fuel queues have hit Lagos State and other major cities across the country, as the problem of logistics hinders efforts by the Pipeline Products and Marketing Company, PPMC, a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, to discharge products from its imported cargoes for distribution to marketers.
However, major and independent marketers, who spoke to Vanguard, punctured the claim by NNPC that it has products on the high sea.
According to them, such claim does not translate to products availability at the filling stations.
One of the independent marketers also said that his company loaded only 30 trucks yesterday as against an average of 80 trucks it used to load when products were available.
â€œIf NNPC has products on the sea, can we go there to get the products? They have to discharge the products to the private depots they hired for us to go there and lift products. The problem is the same at MRS and Oando. They have paid for the products and they have NNPC tickets but have not been able to get products for the past four days. Before now, once you pay and NNPC gives you ticket, you go to any of the private depots and lift products within 14 hours. But now it takes up to one week to get products after you have paid,â€ he explained.
Also, a highly placed official of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources who spoke to Vanguard on the condition of anonymity claimed that the NNPC is simply trying to deceive the Presidency that it has enough products in stock. If they have enough products then why are there queues? He queried.
According to him, â€œyou can only claim you have products when they are available in the tanks, if they are on the high sea, how can you take that into account as part of your stock. As a government agency in charge of these products, they are simply to ensure that there are no queues in the country, and that has failedâ€. He said.
Meanwhile, a close source at the NNPC told Vanguard on phone that the present scarcity of petroleum products across the country is due to the scheme by marketers not to lift products as well as their refusal to sell the stock in their tanks thereby hoarding the products.
According to him, most of the marketers believe that the deregulation plan of the Federal Government was only put on hold because of the just concluded Under-17 World Cup tournament hosted by the country. â€œThey believe that government would go back on the deregulation plan since the tournament has ended and as such there are uncertainties as to the pricing and availability of products.â€
Another marketer told Vanguard that if the marketers, both majors and independent, had been given products, there would be no queues.
He stated that under the new arrangement, it is only the NNPC that imports products, adding that the corporation claims to have enough on the high seas but none at the filling stations owing to the problem of distribution.
He stated that though the government has given the marketers approval to import, it will take a few weeks before the cargoes start coming in.
â€œWe were only given approval last week and it takes sometime, to open letters of credit. You have to negotiate with the banksâ€, he said.
Executive Secretary of Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, MOMAN, Mr. Femi Olawore, also punctured the claim by the NNPC that it has enough products, adding that it was only on Sunday that some marketers started receiving products from PPMC.
â€œIf anybody tells you that he has 40 days sufficiency, ask him where he is hiding the products,â€ he said. He however, noted that since the majors cover over 50 percent of the supply chain and have concluded lifting by yesterday the scarcity would still be a thing of the past and the queues would also disappear.
But the Public Affairs Manager of PPMC, Mr. Ralph Ugwu insisted that PPMC has 40 days sufficiency and argued that there was no need for the queues.
â€œAs far as we are concerned, we have maintained the same level of supply as before. We have a robust supply and the queues are uncalled-for. We have over 40-day sufficiency and we have not changed our distribution system. There has not been any change in the supply situationâ€, he said.
Efforts to reach NNPCâ€™s Levi Ajuonuma proved abortive as he was said to be in a meeting at the time of filling this report.