By Udeme Akpan, Victor Ahiuma-Young, Anayo Okoli, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Dayo Johnson Michael Eboh, AbdulSalam Muhammad & Ediri Ejoh
LAGOS—Residents of Lagos woke up, yesterday, to witness queues at petrol stations, even as black market dealers, who had in the last two weeks retreated to their shells, following improvement in supply, again took over major roads with their product.
The scarcity started in Abuja last week, with fears by many that it would soon spread to Lagos, though the problem had persisted in some other parts of the country.
But Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, blamed the current development on technical hitches, limited supply, poor distribution and sharp practices.
However, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, yesterday, warned that the nation would continue to experience intermittent fuel scarcity, in as much as government has abandoned local refining for importation of petroleum products.
Explaining the reason for the scarcity, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, told Vanguard on phone, yesterday, that there were little technical hitches over the weekend while discharging the product in Lagos.
Reason for fuel scarcity in Lagos — NNPC
He said: “Port Harcourt refinery is slightly down for now, pending when the problem will be rectified. But the hitches in Lagos have been fixed, thus paving way for normal distribution.
“As I speak, fuel supply has been stepped up nationwide. For instance, NNPC has allocated 250 trucks for Lagos. Hopefully, the situation will improve soon.”
Local refining is the solution — NUPENG
Explaining NUPENG’s position on the issue, President of the union, Igwe Achese, told Vanguard, yesterday, that the resurgence of petrol scarcity across the country was a result of refusal of marketers to import products because it was not conducive for them.
He said: “The scarcity of products will continue. We may witness stability once awhile. But until we de-emphasise importation of products and concentrate on local refining, we will continue to witness scarcity once there is distortion in the supply chain because of international market issue.
“As we speak, the marketers are not importing because it is not conducive for them to do so. The government is not prepared to pay them subsidy from the differential of what the local pump price is, against what the international market price dictates.”
We don’t have the product —DAPPMA
Meanwhile, investigations showed that there were also long fuel queues in many parts of the nation, especially Abuja, Edo State, and Kano, yesterday.
Executive Secretary, Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association, DAPPMA, Mr. Olufemi Adewole, indicated in a chat with Vanguard that members of his association have not been having supplies from the NNPC.
He said: “Our members do not import fuel into the nation; we only depend on NNPC for supply. At the moment, we do not have supply from the corporation. Our members will sell when we have the product.”
Like DAPPMA, many independent oil marketers, under the argies of Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, did not also have the product, thus compelling them to shut their gates against motorists and other users of the product.
The lingering fuel crisis continued unabated in Abuja, with queues still doting petrol stations in the country’s federal capital.
Though a number of fuel stations were selling petrol to motorists, a significant number of stations were, however, still shut down, claiming to have ran out of the commodity.
The fuel scarcity has also worsened in Kano and its environs as a result of limited supply, lack of adequate monitoring and enforcement.
Investigations by Vanguard showed that inter and intra city transportation fares have increased by 60 per cent as a result of the scarcity.
The scarcity was also observed to be severe in Ondo State as a result of some factors, especially alleged hoarding.
But the Ondo State Anti Hoarding of Petrol task force, weekend, arrested no fewer than 10 petrol dealers involved in hoarding, diversion and over pricing of petroleum products.
The committee effected the arrest during a raid of 15 filling stations across the state capital.
The committee, headed by Senior Special Assistant to the governor on Special Duties and Strategy, Dr Doyin Odebowale, said in Akure that sharp practices, ranging from overpricing, hoarding and diversion, would no longer be tolerated.
During the raid, stations were forced to sell at the rate of N145 per litre just as some petrol dealers were apprehended for diverting the product after loading at Shagamu depot.
Odebowale said the raid would continue until the marketers complied with the government’s directives.
The government frowned on “their current profiteering strategy that callously takes advantage of the current situation to exploit and extort the public.
He expressed concerned that “since December last year, owners of petrol stations in Ondo State, particularly, Akure, the state capital have been deeply enmeshed in sharp practices, ranging from overpricing, hoarding and diversion hinging it on non availability of the products.
“This has in no small measure brought untold hardship on the people. As a government, we cannot fold our arms and watch our people suffer.
“We have our facts and figures about products lifted. We have been moving round and we caught some of you pants down selling as high as N250, even N500 in the dead of the night. Those who are caught will be charged to court and prosecuted.
“Nobody, however, highly placed will be allowed to exploit our people and inflict pains on them. The state government will not accept anyone, under any nebulous guise, to sell the product above the officially approved – N145 per litre.”