The current scarcity of petrol became more acute on Wednesday as reports from various parts of the country indicated that the product was selling far above the official pump price at filling stations operated by independent and major marketers.
Black market hawkers also had a field day in most cities by selling the product as high as N250 per litre instead of the official pump prices of N86 for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation retail outlets and N86.50 in other operators’ stations.
In parts of Lagos and Ogun states, the few filling stations that had the product were selling at almost double the regulated price.
At World Oil and Ascon filling stations along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway in Ogun State, the product was sold for N170 and N120, respectively on Wednesday, while many stations in Ota sold it for N140 per litre.
One of our correspondents gathered that most private depots in Apapa, Lagos were selling the Premium Motor Spirit ticket at N125 per litre to dealers as against the approved price of N76.50 per litre.
A top official of one of the independent marketers in Apapa said the supply situation at the depots had not changed.
“We don’t have products; we are just doing epileptic loading. The NNPC promised to bring in at least two vessels between now and Friday and they left a parking space vacant since yesterday (Tuesday). But I was surprised that an NLNG vessel, Gas Providence, berthed there this afternoon, and that one will take a minimum of three days before leaving. That means the supply situation cannot be improved in Apapa until about three days’ time,” the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained.
On the promise by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, that the queues would disappear on or before April 7, the source said, “It is not achievable. You need consistent supply of minimum of two vessels discharging at the jetty in Apapa every day before the scarcity can be arrested.”
The Chairman, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, Lagos Zone, Alhaji Tokunbo Korodo, said, “I don’t know the magic the minister wants to use, but as of today, nothing has changed at the depots. After nine days, we will re-evaluate and see whether he was speaking from both sides of his mouth or he was talking sense.”
The National Operation Controller, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Mike Osatuyi, said the price distortion at filling stations was as a result of the scarcity of the product, adding that Nigerians should exercise patience since the minister had said the scarcity would end by next week.
In Abuja, the scarcity of petrol grew more complicated as hundreds of motorists spent over 10 hours in fuel queues at the few filling stations that dispensed the product.
Ten litres of the product was sold for N4,000 by hawkers, who were bold enough to display the commodity around the headquarters of the NNPC at the Central Business District of the Federal Capital Territory.
The two petrol stations, Total and Conoil, located right opposite the NNPC headquarters, dispensed products, but the massive queues blocked the only access road in the area for several hours.
One of our correspondents observed that the cost of transportation in Abuja and environs had doubled.
Taxi drivers were charging between N500 and N700 for a ride of less than five minutes instead of the previous N300.
In Minna, Niger State, most of the filling stations did not have the product on Wednesday, with the few that had it selling a litre of petrol for N180 and recorded long queues.
The situation led to reduction in the number of vehicles plying roads in the state capital since most motorists could not wake up as early as 4am and in the long queues for five to six hours to get fuel.
However, the NNPC mega stations in Minna and Suleja recorded long queues of motorists, while those who could not wait in the queues patronised the black marketers, who sold the product for between N220 and N240 per litre.
In Akwa Ibom State, the product sold for between N160 and N170 per litre. Though there was no scarcity of the product in the state, queues were noticeable at the NNPC mega station along the Ikot Ekpene Road, Uyo.
The Controller, Operations, Department of Petroleum Resources, Eket Office, Mr. Bassey Nkanga, said the agency was monitoring the sale of fuel in the state.
He added that most filling stations were now selling fuel at night so as to avoid arrest by officials of the department.
A litre of petrol now sells for between N150 and N170 in the few independent marketers’ filling stations that have the product in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.
While many filling stations in the state, especially in Ilorin, did not have the product on Wednesday, a few at Tanke, Pipeline and Ajase-Ipo road sold the product for between N150 and N170, while those at the hinterland were selling at N200 per litre.
It was also gathered that a litre of petrol was being sold on the black market for between N250 and N300.
One of our correspondents reported that petrol was selling for N150 per litre in most filling stations in Imo State, while the black marketeers were selling it for N300.
In the Kaduna metropolis and environs, the product sold for N180 per litre at filling stations on Wednesday.
The Federal Government, however, said it was aware of the difficulties that Nigerians were facing as a result of the lingering fuel scarcity and poor power supply.
Speaking when he visited a media house in Abuja on Wednesday, the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the government was working round the clock to provide solutions to the challenges of fuel scarcity and power shortage, according to a statement issued by his Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Segun Adeyemi.
Mohammed was quoted to have said, “As a government that was propelled into office by the power of the people, we cannot but feel the pains of our compatriots, and we deeply empathise with them.
“Our message to our compatriots is that this administration, under the able leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, is working round the clock to ease the pains of Nigerians and that very soon, the efforts of the government will begin to yield fruits for the benefit of Nigerians.
“While we give no excuses for the challenges currently being faced by Nigerians, because they voted for us specifically to address those challenges, we appeal to them to bear with us as we strive to provide the much-needed relief in the days ahead.”
The minister also said that the government was aware that Nigerians had started questioning the genuineness of its change mantra.
“We understand the scepticism of Nigerians in questioning whether this indeed is the change they voted for. I can tell Nigerians that our change agenda is real, and that, indeed, Nigerians will get the change they voted for,” he said.
The minister said immediate measures were being taken to end the fuel scarcity, while medium and long-term solutions were being worked out to prevent a recurrence.
He said, “Petroleum product supply and distribution have been ramped up across the country by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to ensure product availability in the country, but repeated trips to filling stations and the backlog are making it impossible to immediately feel the impact.
“Monitoring has also been intensified to ensure full compliance with approved prices. Violations of approved prices and hoarding of petroleum products attract severe penalties, including giving out of petroleum products free to the public, sealing off of fuel stations found to be hoarding petroleum products, payment of fine as well as withdrawal of marketer’s licence.
“The ultimate is to ensure self-sufficiency in refined products supply by ramping up our local refining capacity. All local refineries will be made to run at a minimum 70 per cent capacity utilisation in the weeks ahead.
“This is in addition to the initiative of increasing the combined capacity of the domestic refineries through co-locating smaller but cost-efficient modular refineries within the existing refinery premises.”
Mohammed also announced the willingness of the international upstream oil companies to support the major oil marketing companies with the required foreign exchange, thus complementing the efforts of the NNPC, which has been solely importing refined products.
On the power situation, which he blamed largely on lack of gas supply to the generating stations, the minister said the NNPC was seeking alternative sources of gas supply after the attack on the Forcados Export Pipeline had forced the cut off of supplies to the stations.