By Hector Igbikiowubo & Victor Ahiuma-Young
LAGOSâ€”ANOTHER round of fuel scarcity became apparent nationwide, Monday, 10 days to Christmas, leaving commuters stranded, businesses paralysed and Nigerians fleeced at the few filling stations where the product was available.
Checks revealed that in view of the current realities, several motorists- weary of being stranded- were compelled to purchase petrol at deregulated prices within and outside filling stations at prices ranging between N80 and N180 per litre, depending on the part of the country.
Areas monitored by Vanguard yesterday included Lagos, Ibadan, Osogbo, Abeokuta, Ile-Ife, Akure, Benin, Warri, Asaba, Onitsha, Enugu, Owerri, Aba, Port Harcourt, Yenagoa, Uyo, Abuja, Jos, Kaduna, Kano and Maiduguri.
Although the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, had, in the last one month, issued statements blaming the scarcity on hoarding by petroleum marketers andÂ tanker driversâ€™ strike, among others, indications are that the current fuel importation regime superintended by it may have gone terribly wrong.
It was reliably gathered that some of the depot owners contracted by NNPC to aid the supply and distribution of the product may not have remitted upwards of N20 billion to the corporation.
The non-remittance has, therefore, caused a snarl in the supply and distribution chain, while other petroleum marketers who felt left out of the NNPC partnership deal simply sit back and gloat.
Vanguard learnt that the corporation had at the beginning of the third quarter entered a throughput agreement with Capital Oil and Gas Industries Limited, Rahamanniya and Yinka Folawiyo Petroleum Company for ease of petroleum productsâ€™ supply and distribution.
Efforts to contact the management of the Petroleum Products Marketing Company, PPMC, for its reaction to this development, proved abortive at the time of filing this report.
Although Automated Gas Oil, AGO, also known as diesel, is readily available at petrol stations, investigations revealed that marketers are well disposed to importation of the product because, unlike petrol, the pump price is deregulated.
Last August, the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, had refused to grant import licences to marketers under the pretext that it was trying to check rising subsidy.
Similarly, PPMC had also curtailed allocation of proforma invoices to stem the rising racketeering and profiteering.
These actions, though well-intentioned, closed up the operating space and limited the participation of certain players.
In Lagos, Abeokuta, Ibadan, Ile-Ife, Osogbo, Akure and Benin-City, very few filling stations were dispensing the product, leaving long queues, while motorists also had the option to patronise the black market operators who sold 10 litre kegs of petrol for N1,500.
In Warri, Asaba, Onitsha, Enugu, Owerri, Aba, Port Harcourt, Yenagoa and Uyo, it was discovered that very few filling stations were dispensing the product owing to a shortfall in supply.
Although motorists, industrial and residential consumers suffer perennial scarcity of petroleum products in the South-Eastern part of the country, checks revealed that most towns in the South- South Zone including Warri, Port Harcourt and Uyo now suffer the same fate owing to a shortfall in supply.
Vanguard investigation in Port Harcourt metropolis, yesterday, revealed that only the Oando Filling Station in Rumuomasi was dispensing petrol, leaving motorists to source their product needs from the black market at cut-throat prices.
Reports from Abuja, Jos, Kaduna, Kano and Maiduguri indicate that the product scarcity has not abated, leaving motorists to grapple with exorbitant prices and commuters forced to pay high fares.
Reacting to the resurgence of fuel scarcity across the country, the immediate past President of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, Mr. Peter Akpatason, absolved the members of the union of blame, stressing that NUPENG is neither on strike nor planning to strike.
He explained that the scarcity was caused by inadequate supply from NNPC and the marketers. â€œI have told a lot of callers that we are not on strike. The problem is shortage of supply from NNPC and marketers.â€