By OUR REPORTERS
LAGOS—Indications are that the current fuel scarcity across the country may persist for a long while, as NNPC cannot meet the current demand. Also it was gathered that major and independent marketers were yet to start full importation of fuel products.
Vanguard investigations across the country show that motorists are buying the product above the approved price of N97, as petrol now sells between N110 –N120 per liter at most filling stations in the country.
Concerned major and independent marketers, who spoke to Vanguard expressed fear that the situation is likely to get worse in coming months, as the demand is currently more than supply.
Situation in Warri
In Warri, Delta State, on Sunday morning, there was only one filling station, Oando, dispensing petrol, along the busy Warri-Sapele Road, from Airport Junction to Refinery Junction at a pump price of N110. Buyers did not bother about the price, as they were desperate to get it because it was not available in other petrol stations. The manager of the station was not available to tell Vanguard why the meter read N97, but the product was being dispensed at N110 per litre.
The fuel attendants were not in position to speak either, but a source said: “They are selling based on how they bought it. It is scarce. Go and find out from the Petroleum Pipeline Marketing Company, PPMC, in Warri; they are rationing petrol, it is hard to come by, so marketers buy from black market and sell to make little gain”.
At Total Filling Station, near the Refinery Junction, Effurun, near Warri, there was no petrol, as at Sunday morning. Vanguard was told there was no supply to the major marketer at that time.
A staff, however, said: “Total is a major marketer, we get our supply from the government depot, but it is not regular. We sell at the pump price of N97 when we get. Right now, we do not have”.
Vanguard survey in Enugu State shows that the state has been experiencing severe scarcity of petrol, which now sells between N120 and N125 per litre at stations owned by independent marketers. The price hike has lasted for one month but while the major marketers always lack products with their stations locked, the independent marketers usually have enough products on daily basis, which they sell at cut-throat prices with motorists and other buyers purchasing with grudges. Only few major marketers like NNPC Mega Station, Mobil, Oando and Total located within the Enugu capital city sell at the official pump price of N97 per litre whenever they have the product. Apart from NNPC Mega Stations, other major marketers sell for few hours and shut down their stations apparently to hoard the product.
Investigations revealed that some of the major marketers allegedly divert their supplies to the independent marketers to sell to the public at N120 per litre, hence the gates of their stations are usually shut against buyers.
A manager of one of the private (independent) stations along Presidential Road, Enugu, Mr. Okey Ozoalor, told Vanguard that the product they sell since the price hike commenced were sourced from the major marketers and from other sources in Lagos at N110 per litre.
He said that even though they sell at N120 per litre, the profit they make was too meager to cope with the huge expenses incurred in bringing the fuel down to Enugu, adding that they (marketers) were not happy with the situation.
Some staff of the major fuel marketers approached said they were grossly under-supplied, making it impossible to meet public demand.
They said that the moment the supply situation improved, the independent marketers would have no option than to revert to the official pump price.
It’s fallout of subsidy saga — IPMAN
Chairman, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, Eastern Zone System 2E, Barrister Chuka Utazi, blamed the scarcity of petroleum products on the face-off between petroleum importers and the Federal Government over fuel subsidy.
He said that major importers refused to bring in products following the refusal of the government to release subsidy on fuel, stressing that the dispute had created a major problem for Nigerians and the economy.
“IPMAN is aware of what Nigerians are passing through but it is the consequences of the current fuel subsidy problem. Since the Federal Government refused to pay subsidy on fuel insisting that those indebted must pay before they talk of subsidy, the oil companies refused to import. The only option left for the marketers was to source fuel from anywhere to sell to the public.
“For now, it is only the NNPC that is importing and they cannot bring enough to meet the needs of Nigerians. Most of these ships that bring in fuel are customized and they are owned by oil marketers, who have grounded them in protest for non-payment of subsidy.
“Since NNPC is not importing enough, marketers go outside the refineries to source fuel above the government-approved pump price. There is no place to lift the product now. Warri refinery has been under turnaround maintenance for over three months now.
“In Port-Harcourt, we have products but all the people from the North especially Abuja, were permitted to lift from Port Harcourt refinery through trucking. Abuja is being fed from Port Harcourt while other marketers in the East were stopped from loading. The NNPC is under instruction to concentrate on trucks from Abuja while those from East wait endlessly and thereby starving the people of the East,” said Utazi, who is also Commissioner for Transport in Enugu State.
He explained why fuel could not be sold at N97 per litre within the East for now, saying: “The position of IPMAN nationwide is that until the fighting elephants solve the problem of deregulation, the problem of scarcity and high cost will remain. Marketers lift fuel from NNPC at N88 per litre but the marketers are picking from the open market at between N92 and N95. Most of the private depots in Lagos are without products. When you add cost of trucking and other logistics, the product lands at over N100, so there is no way you can expect the person to sell at N97 per litre.”
Utazi revealed that IPMAN had commenced the process of establishing its own refinery as a way of tackling unavailability of petroleum products in the country, stressing that this would not only help to boost activities in the sector, but would alleviate the plight of Nigerians who have continued to suffer on account of intermittent disruption of activities in the energy sector.
IN Abia State, fuel scarcity has persisted. Many petrol stations are closed both in Umuahia and Aba. Those that have, sell at higher than the N97 official price.
In Umuahia, the state capital, apart from the NNPC stations and other major Marketers like Oando, Total, MRS, which sell at N97 when they have the products, other stations sell between N115 and N120 per litre. The same thing is also applicable in Aba, the commercial city of the state, where they even sell as much as between N125 and N130 per litre. The situation is worse in the rural areas, where the product is sold for between N140 and N150 per litre. However, the State Government has created a task force that monitors prices but the marketers still beat them by closing up shops whenever they notice that the task force is at work. They claim not to have products.
In Jos, Plateau State, fuel scarcity is biting harder as supply to the state has dropped drastically. Only a few filling stations dispensed fuel to motorists during the Sallah break with long queues stretching to several kilometers. Last Friday, only about three filling stations had fuel to sell at the official price of N97.00 per litre in the whole of the state capital. However, some filling stations often referred to as “black market” had less queues as they were selling for between N130 and N131 per litre. At one of the Total filling stations where the quantity was rationed at 20 litres per motorist, a staff told Vanguard that supply to the station was irregular and small. “Sometimes, a truck that is supposed to go to one station is shared among three and it comes irregularly”, he said.
However, some Taxi drivers found at one of the “black market” stations along Farin Gada Road, accused the major marketers of diverting their supplies to make extra money.
They wondered why the ‘black market’ stations were always having fuel while the regular ones were without fuel. They appealed to government to do something urgently so that regular supply may be restored.
Hard time for Abuja residents
Vanguard investigation show that, in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory and its environ, transporters continued to face a hard time for several weeks running, due persistent fuel scarcity in the city, even as many filling stations refuse to sell the product at the official pump price of N97 per litre under the nose of the NNPC and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources as well as the Presidency.
Investigations across the city revealed that many filling stations, especially those located in the outskirts continue to sell their products at between N110 and N125 per litre. This situation often led to long queues at stations that still bother to sell at the official rate. Long queues could be seen at major filling stations within the city, including those operated by the NNPC, who continue to sell at the approved pump price. However, commuters who may need the product in a hurry are forced to patronize the numerous black market operators strewn across major roads in the city and around the filling stations, or drive to filling stations around the suburbs which often sell at higher rates.
Abuja after Sallah
Filling stations in Gwarinpa, Wuse 2, Garki, Maitama and Central Business areas are known to attract the longest queues since they sell at the government-approved pump price of N97 per litre. A few kilometers drive from the city centre to areas like Lugbe, Gwagwalada, Nyanya and Mararaba, however, fuel is sold in many filling stations for N110 or more.
Some of the commuters within the city believe that the Eid el Kabir holidays may have led to a reduction in the demand for products, as many people had to travel out of the city for the festivity, leading to worries of a possible return, at the end of the holidays, to the massive queues of the past few weeks.
The NNPC, has attempted to assure that it has abundant stock of petroleum products to last for another several weeks.
Ahead of the Eid el Kabir festivity and the envisaged heavy movement of people for the holidays, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the NNPC had tried to assure the public that it has stepped up fuel supply to the Federal Capital Territory and across the nation to meet up demands.
In Yenagoa, a litre of petrol is sold for N120 per litre at filling stations by independent marketers in the state due partly to what an insider blamed on the parlous state of the East-West Road and the paltry quota allotted to the state by the DPR depot, Port Harcourt.
With the Patani flank of the East-West Road in Delta and the Ahoada-Mbiama axis in Rivers State cut off by flood, Bayelsa State was literally cut off from the rest of the country, prompting the state government to direct construction giant, Julius Berger to intervene in the Ahoada-Mbiama front, a development which helped improve vehicular movement on the route.
But the state, it was learnt, will continue to experience short fall in product due largely to the epileptic supply chain. The state, according to informed sources, is allocated a meager five truck daily which most times do not get to the state.
Marketers in the state are compelled to source for the product in the open market in Port Harcourt with some of them travelling as far as Lagos to source for fuel from private tank farm owners if they must keep their filling stations running.
The result is that product users are made to bear brunt, a station attendant who pleaded anonymity told Vanguard.
Interestingly, only the NNPC mega station in the capital city is selling at N97 per liter, and as a result, always having long queues spanning 2km on very busy days. Though most of the filling stations in the state capital are under lock and key due to non availability of the product the few stations such as Emily, Ebilade, Timikon, AP, Emitari and Macary sell at N120 per litre.
Surprisingly the product which is lacking in most of the stations in town is readily available in the black market where a litre costs between N180 and N200. Vanguard recalls that attempt by the state task force to compel the independent marketers to sell at the approved pump price a couple of weeks ago led to a shut down of business by the latter.
One of the major players in the business, Chief Gospel Kpokpowei , blamed the seeming scarcity on the inability of marketers to source the product at the depot due to the paltry allocation allotted the state.
Kpokpowei who confirmed that only seven trucks are allocated the state in a week said independent marketers in the state are forced to go to the open market to procure fuel.
He noted with regret that there was no way they could sell at the government approved pump price since they bought the product at the open market at a more expensive price than the depot cost.
Also, the station manager of Timikon, who simply gave his Bukola corroborated the position of Chief Kpokpowei saying they bought the product from the open market because of the delay in supply and meagre allocation accorded the state.
In his remark, the chairman of the state petroleum task force, Benjamin Abrakasa, lauded the resilience of the marketers in ensuring availability of the product in the state in spite of the crisis situation caused by flood.