December 24, 2017

Bleak Xmas: Chaos amid petrol scarcity

Fuel Scarcity

Long queue of jerry cans at a petrol station as fuel scarcity bites harder, yesterday.

…shortage may linger till Q1, 2018

…As power outage persists, Nigerians besiege cashless ATMs
…Intending travelers stranded at motor parks

By Udeme Akpan,  Michael Eboh and Omeiza Ajayi

This year’s Christmas celebrations for many Nigerians may not enjoy the trappings of excitement and joy of old, as a cocktail of socio-economic  challenges continues to afflict them into tomorrow’s Yuletide.

Long queue of jerry cans at a petrol station as fuel scarcity bites harder, yesterday.

Starting with the now familiar but depressing power outage which leaves many homes in darkness, the sudden scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS (popularly called petrol), which many use to power their generating sets has created its own discount for that option.

Worse, Lagosians and  many other city dwellers woke up yesterday to very long queues at ATMs.   While some had thought that the  none-availability of cash from the machines was an individual challenge, others had queued in vain only to later discover that the machines didn’t have cash to dispense.

The shortage of funds has, all the more, made it difficult, if not impossible, for many to be able to afford to patronise the black market dealers for petrol.

With banks to resume banking-hall business on Wednesday, many may have to spend the Christmas without available funds.

Power outage, shortage or total scarcity of petrol and paucity of funds to celebrate the Xmas creates an outcome that would be very bleak for many.

Frustrated intending travellers were yesterday seen at motor parks in some parts of the country lamenting the high cost of transportation.

As a consequence, the struggle to  get petrol at all cost by car  owners continue to create gridlocks across the country.   In Abuja, Kaduna, Benin, Enugu and Lagos, roads where gas stations sell petrol are always in lockdown mode, further worsening the already bad situation.

Why petrol shortage may persists into Q1

Sunday Vanguard investigation over the weekend showed that Nigeria’s four refineries with capacity to refine 445,000 barrels per day have not shown any improvement to enable the nation refine much of its crude oil locally.

Consequently, a bulk of the nation’s fuel is still imported from the global market at higher cost to the nation that struggles to construct its post-recession economy.

In its September, 2017 report obtained by Sunday Vanguard which is the most current, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC stated that: ‘’Utilisation of crude oil for domestic product supply in August 2017, NNPC lifted    9,706,674 barrels of crude oil for domestic utilisation    translating to    an average volume of 313,118.52 barrels of oil per day in terms of performance.

‘’In order to meet domestic product supply requirement for the month of August 2017 about 8,486,673 barrels was processed under the Direct-Sales-Direct Purchase (DSDP) scheme and the balance of 1,220,001 barrels was delivered to the domestic refineries for processing. ‘’

Sunday Vanguard’s investigation showed that the poor state of domestic refineries is worsened by limited importation and poor state of many NNPC depots and pipelines which affect seamless distribution of fuel nationwide.

These, it was gathered, have compelled many operators to come from all parts of the nation to lift with tankers from Lagos.

A visit to Apapa and its environs showed that the very slow lifting of petrol from private facilities where NNPC imports are stored has culminated in traffic problems, thus making tanker drivers to spend several weeks before lifting the product.

The dependence on importation and the inadequate supply  only  signposts the reality that the situation would linger into the first quarter of next year.

Hoarding, smuggling, others

Apparently aware of the sad situation, it was also gathered that some filling stations have started hoarding the product because they are not sure of when their drivers would return with fuel.

In fact, it was reliably learnt that the storage tanks at filling stations would have been emptied before their return following the high demand for fuel in many parts of the nation, especially during this festive period which calls for massive movement of goods and persons from one part of Nigeria to another.

The situation is worsened by sharp practices, including hawking of the product in jerry cans, diversion to illegal outlets and smuggling.

A visit to Idi Iroko, a border town in Ogun State, showed that fuel smuggling has once again become a brisk business in Nigeria.

Sunday Vanguard learnt that dealers who bring the product, including stolen fuel from the Niger Delta, have wholesalers in the area as trading partners who take delivery before selling it to retailers and smugglers that take it across the borders, creeks, using boats and canoes to other West African countries.

DPR monitoring

Already, the DPR has stepped up its monitoring efforts targeted at achieving efficient distribution, leading to the closure of some filling stations.

The Head of Operations, Lagos Zonal Office, DPR, Musa Tambuwa said that: ‘’as you can see some stations are storing more than the minimum dead stock level. Dead stock are level that product cannot dispense anymore.

“We are going to ensure that Nigerians are not been defrauded. It is also important for us to manage the supply to ensure that it gets to our consumers. If we find any station engaging in sharp practice, be sure that the arm of the law would not hold back at such defaulters.”

But observers that DPR would not be able to do much as it lacks the resources to police operations in all parts of the nation.

Remedial activities

Meanwhile, the NNPC, in a statement in Abuja, by its Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, disclosed that the marketers, Total, Forte Oil, Oando Plc, MRS, 11 Plc and Nipco Plc, are now loading products round the clock from their various depots in Lagos for onward trucking to all parts of the country.

The NNPC noted that supplies are mostly from cargoes of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, also known as petrol, imported into the country by NNPC which are daily berthing and immediately being made to discharge their products to stem the supply hiccups.

The NNPC added that the imported products were also being supplemented by supplies from the local refineries.

The NNPC further disclosed that it had intensified efforts to flood the market with the commodity, while he urged Nigerians to remain calm and not to engage in panic buying as the end of the challenge is nigh.

It said, “Marketers are strongly advised against hoarding as security agencies, working with industry regulators, would mete out appropriate sanctions to defaulters.”

The NNPC noted that earlier in the week, its Group Managing Director, Mr. Maikanti Baru, had stated that the Corporation’s one billion litres PMS cargo imports had started to arrive, saying supplies to parts of the country had been doubled to 80million litres per day since the current hiccup in the supply chain was noticed a few days back.

Petrol scarcity pre-dates Buhari’s regime – APC

Yet, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, has hit back at the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, accusing the latter of playing bad politics with the ongoing scarcity of fuel.

In a statement issued Saturday in Abuja, National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, noted that the scarcity actually predates the APC administration, saying the immediate-past PDP administration acted as a benefactor to a notorious oil cabal.

“Our party acknowledge the difficulties Nigerians are currently experiencing as a result of the unfortunate fuel scarcity across the country; especially at this Yuletide period.   We understand that the   Federal Government is doing everything to improve the situation and bring succour to the people as soon as possible.

“We also understand the unhappiness of Nigerians at this situation, which is happening for the first time in the Christmas period since the APC administration came to power.

“We also wish to note that while we accept the choice of the opposition PDP to make political gains out of the difficulties that Nigerians are experiencing as a result of this fuel scarcity, we however condemn their desperation to make the government and our party look bad by maliciously fabricating and circulating fictitious statements in the names of our government and party officials and then attack us on the basis of those same statements that they fabricated in the first place. This is bad politics.

“Once again we empathise with Nigerians at this difficult time and appeal for patience   with the Federal Government as they make efforts to improve the situation and find   lasting solution to this problem that has bedevilled every administration in our country, including the PDP administration under whose government, Nigerians would recall, the oil cabal enjoyed unprecedented prosperity”, the statement added.