By Udeme Clement
The scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), commonly known as petrol, which hit the country few days ago, is beginning to subside following the approval of N413billion by the Federal Government for immediate payment of outstanding subsidy claims to oil marketers in the country . The payment according to government was to facilitate importation of petroleum products to ease scarcity, which has become a recurring crisis, especially in the last quarter of every year.
When Sunday Vanguard, visited some filling stations within Lagos metropolis, it was observed that long queues found initially at many outlets were disappearing. But the situation at Apapa depots where petrol is often loaded from and distributed to other parts of the country was a different scenario entirely.
While going round some depots, Sunday Vanguard learnt that buying petrol from depots poses a big challenge to many marketers, especially those coming from the eastern parts, Kaduna, Kano, far north and other places outside Lagos. Our team gathered that while some marketers buy from third parties almost at the official pump price of N87, which they ought to dispense at the outlets, others spend days, incurring so much expenses before getting the products from the depots.
Some buyers at the depots, and among them women, who spoke with our team, expressed displeasure with the challenges they face in getting products from the depots, even when there is no scarcity. Madam Lawal (surname withheld), in a chat with Sunday Vanguard said, “Getting the products from the depots is sometimes very difficult, even where there is no scarcity in the country. Sometimes my truck stays for days before being loaded. Often, some of us after spending days at the depots buy from third parties at exorbitant rate, instead of returning without the products.”
In the same vein, a truck driver, who gave his name as Baba Isa, said he has been robbed twice along Oshodi-Apapa road while on queue waiting to get to the depot for loading. “I usually come from Kaduna with my conductor to load the products in Lagos. Sometimes, we spend up to a week, sleeping on the road before getting the products. We have been robbed twice and because of that we do not travel with much money again. We come with only plastic and few plates. The plastic is what we use to have our bath only at night along the road, beside the truck, until we go back”.
Sunday Vanguard also gathered that the outstanding subsidy claims currently stand at a little above the monetary value of N400billion, which necessitated the approval of N413bilion by the government. However, many stakeholders in the oil and gas sector have advised the current administration to find sustainable solution to the recurring scarcity of petroleum products in the country, stressing that paying marketers N413billion as subsidy claims would only assist them to pay their debts in commercial banks, but would not bring a lasting solution to petrol scarcity in the country.
According to the Executive Secretary, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria,MOMAN, Mr. Femi Olawore, government should fully deregulate the downstream sector and stop controlling shares in the refineries. “The plants should be given to the private sector for prudent management. Now, we hear that the refineries are being maintained by local engineers, which is what one has always agitated for, that our engineers have the skills and capability to maintain the refineries, but the issue has always been ownership of the plants. For instance, of all the refineries in the US, none is controlled by government. Over 120 refineries are privately controlled. So, it sounds very funny when people challenge the statement that government has no business in business”, he said.