By Rotimi Omojela
Ekiti petrol palaver is fast assuming worrying pro- portions. One could compare it to the tale of proverbial two elephants at each others throats, making the grass to suffer but, nobody in the state was prepared for this long drawn out battle between the Government and the petrol dealers, the fallout of which is being felt on the streets.
What started like a little situation, which ordinarily, many in the state thought could be resolved amicably and within a reasonable period has taken on crisis proportions, with both parties deeply entrenched in differing positions and without a deliberate effort at breaking the impasse, the effect of this, has been a total lock down of all activities, both private and public.
Demolition, strike action and emergency dealers
The strike action entered third week on Monday, the petrol marketers had downed tools over the threat by Governor Ayodele Fayose to demolish some filling stations built within residential areas; the threat was actually carried out, as some filling stations were actually demolished under the supervision of the Governor, this action provoked the marketers to declare indefinite strike action and in solidarity with the marketers, the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG and Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria(IPMAN) placed embargo on further supply of petroleum products to the state.
Black marketers made up of street urchins, popularly known as area boys and motor park touts capitalised on the situation, as they now engaged in open hawking of the product and this illicit business is common in Ado Ekiti, capital city, Ikere and other major towns across the state, a litre from them now costs N300.
The products were being brought into the state by these people from the neighbouring states of Ondo, Osun, Oyo and Kogi and the products are being openly displayed in 50 litre kegs in Ojumose, old garage, Akure garage, Basiri and Oke Iyinmi areas of the Ado metropolis, while that of Ikere was being done in the roundabout area and Oke Oja garage.
The commercial drivers and motorcyclists gave them huge patronage as they scampered to purchase it even at such exorbitant price.
Speaking to some black marketers, Tunde Ayelabowo told Vanguard that he said he has made a profit of over N300,000 since last week when he commenced the illegal business.
“In fact, to me it seems the strike should continue because I am making my money. I have been getting my fuel from Ondo State and I was getting regular supply to sell between N258 and N300 per litre,” he said.
The same goes for Ajewole Omolusi, who doubled as a motor park attendant and commercial motorcyclist, who said he had to abandon his trade temporarily to make a quick money, he expressed his appreciation to the Governor for not giving in to the petrol dealers, an action he said has opened another vista of hope for the downtrodden in the state.
Attack on Petrol stations by hoodlums
Miffed at the continuous closure of petrol stations by the dealers, the Governor had last week ordered them to open for business, saying he had been restraining some restive youths from carrying out their threats to attack petrol stations. Not less than 24 hours after his warning that some petrol stations in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital were attacked by unknown hoodlums and properties worth several millions of Naira were destroyed, some of the stations attacked belonged to IPMAN’s Secretary in Ekiti, Alhaji Suleiman Akinbami.
However, Akinbami, while speaking with Vanguard on telephone, appealed to Governor Fayose to stop inciting the people against their business interests.
Akinbami disclosed that his members, both indigenes and alien were in Ekiti to perform their legitimate businesses as patriotic Nigerians , saying attacking their fuel stations under the guise of venting anger over strike declared by fuel marketers could be a great disservice to the state’s economy.
“We are not here to cause trouble, because we have not foreclosed the possibility of dialogue. We are ready to return to work but the government must make the environment very friendly. Nobody is ready to lay down his life because of any business and a situation whereby people’s stations are being attacked could cause further crisis rather than abating it”, he said.
Genesis of the Crisis.
Following the fire outbreak in Strive Energy, sited in a business and residential area of Ejigbo, in which several properties worth millions of Naira were lost to the the inferno, Governor Ayodele Fayose had frowned at indiscriminate location of fuel stations in residential and business areas, wondering how such the owners got approvals for such premises.
Some government officials at the state Ministry of lands were fingered as responsible for the sad development. Shop owners and landlords who fell victim to the tragic happening had approached owner of the station for compensation but were disappointed with what he offered them in return. Some of them who had claimed millions of Naira as damages only got N200,000, N400,000 and even as low as N10,000 as damages.
The victims took their case to governor Fayose who promptly intervened and according to the governor, the owner of the said filling station shocked him when he confessed that the insurance he got for the business didn’t cover damages to pay victims in the event of an inferno.
“The man said he only has insurance for his fuel from the point of purchase to delivery in his filling stations. This means the oil marketer has no respect for human life and is not bothered about the welfare of the people who patronise him.”
Explaining why he went to court against the marketers, governor Fayose said the shocking discovery about Strive Energy led to other findings about the questionable ways some of the oil marketers in the state get approval for siting their stations. “ Many of the stations were built in business and residential areas against the regulations for siting these stations. These and many other illegitimate dealings are what the government want to correct and that is why we have taken them to court, “ the governor said.