By Bose Adelaja
Before the strike by the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, was called off on Monday, most bus-stops in Lagos played host to crowds of stranded commuters who were on the receiving end of a biting fuel scarcity that kept commercial and private vehicles off the roads for days. And while the scarcity lasted, it was complaints and lamentation galore among Lagos residents who found it difficult coping with the challenges engendered by the development.
At some point, the situation seemingly got out of control as some Lagos workers were compelled by the transport challenges to pass the night in their offices. While there were fewer motor vehicles on the road, many people with jerry cans were frantically moving from one filling station to the other in search of the elusive petrol or diesel to buy.
Some of them who spoke to Vanguard Metro said they wake up as early as 2am to go in search of the products, especially when alerted that a particular filling station had fuel to sell.
Unfortunately as the days went by, the number of filling stations dispensing fuel reduced drastically. The few that had fuel to sell became scenes of confusion as they were usually besieged by motorists and individuals who converged there with their jerry cans to buy the much-sought-after product. Such scenes were witnessed in virtually every part of Lagos.
It also emerged that many of those who bought with jerry cans often did so for commercial purpose as they turn around to resell what they have bought for huge profit. For instance, after buying at the rate of N120 or N150 a litre, they sold 10 litres at N5000, while others sold four litres for N2500.
Just when the situation was about taking a turn for the worst, oil workers, presumably prompted by the decision of Capital Oil boss, Ifeanyi Ubah, to release 13 million litres of petrol into the market, called off their strike. While news was received with joy, the suffering, however, continued. This is because across the country, the situation brought about astronomical increases in fares.
At Ketu area of Lagos, a commercial driver Femi Adegbuyi told VM he went as far as Idi-Iroko in search of the product. And after buying at the rate of N250 per litre, he was compelled to hike fares from N200 to N500 for a trip from Ketu to Oyingbo. The situation was the same among other commercial drivers who also hiked their fares.
For instance, a trip from Ayobo to Iyana- Ipaja which ordinarily costs N150 was increased to between N800 and N1000. Same applied to Sango/Oshodi-bound commercial vehicles which charged as much as N2,500 per trip as against the normal fare of N200. Initially, a trip from Oshodi to Obalende which used to be between N50 and N200 was on Monday morning increased to between N800 and N1000, while a trip from CMS to Victoria Island, which ordinarily costs N150, was increased to N1000.
The situation was the same for Oshodi/Abeokuta-bound vehicles which increased their fare to N2,500 as against N400. Also, the driver of an Ikorodu/Abeokuta-bound car who ordinarily charges N1,000 per trip took advantage of the situation to increase his fare to N4,000. While consumers paid through their noses to source for fuel, it was boom time for black market operators as a litre of fuel sold for between N500 and N700.
A Policeman, DSP Kolawole Olalekan, told VM on phone that he bought 10 litres of fuel at the rate of N3000 to enable him report for duty on Monday. At Yaba axis of Ikorodu Road, 10 litres of petrol sold for N3,500, while 5 litres sold for N1,700. For water transportation, commuters were also made to pay through their noses. For instance, at one of the jetties in Ikorodu, a trip to Victoria Island was pegged at N2,500 as against N700. The same applied to Bayeku to Ajah which attracted a minimum of N500 as against N300.
A commercial boat operator, Mr Riire Emiloju, said he has decided to stop operation until there is solution to the fuel scarcity. Riire said he buys 50 litres PMS at the rate of N20,000. “ I have been operating at a loss and have asked my boys to park the boats until there is solution to the crisis,” he said.