The current fuel scarcity in the country may not end anytime soon as many filling stations and depots in Lagos did not have Premium Motor Spirit on Tuesday, while queues of desperate motorists grew longer at few stations selling the product.
Our correspondent gathered that vessels conveying petrol, which came into the country between Monday and Tuesday, would not be able to discharge until Thursday due to logistics issues.
According to a source, two new vessels, Mt. Mersk Kalea and Mt, Alizea, carried 21 million metric tonnes of petrol and berthed at the Apapa jetty.
In Lagos, at most filling stations belonging to independent marketers, a litre of the product was sold for between N120 and N250 instead of the N86.50 official pump price, while black market hawkers sold it for as high as N400 per litre.
Many commuters were seen struggling to get commercial vehicles to different destinations, even as many transport operators increased their fares by 100 per cent or more.
On the Otedola Estate and Berger end of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Mobil, Capital Oil and Oando filling stations had long queues of desperate motorists and other customers, which spilled onto the road and caused serious gridlock.
The long queues at the filling stations forced many motorists to resort to the black market, whose operators were having a field day as they sold the product at exorbitant prices.
A source, who is an official of an independent marketer, who confirmed the arrival of the vessels, said, “But discharge had not started because they have to determine those to get the product and they have to do all the formal documentation. There is still documentation for naval clearance; there is documentation for the DPR clearance; the DPR will also go on board since it is an imported vessel.
“They cannot start to discharge now. The earliest time they can do that is probably tomorrow (Wednesday) night or Thursday morning. Because of the subsidy component, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency will want to see whether it is in line with the approval given.
“So, those are the things that will actually delay the discharge of the vessels. It should take a minimum of two days. So, people may not feel any vessel is discharging until the weekend. The logistic issue is now the problem.”
One of the marketers, Capital Oil, said, “This is to inform our valued customers and the general public that the NNPC has brought in enough fuel cargos into the country.
“Consequently, Capital Oil has commenced massive 24-hour loading in a bid to meeting the NNPC’s target of eliminating fuel queues nationwide within the next few days.
“We also wish to discourage Nigerians from panic-buying and hoarding, while calling on everyone to stop patronising the activities of black marketeers.”
The Executive Secretary, Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association, Mr. Olufemi Adewole, said members of the body were in the process of submitting their papers to the Central Bank of Nigeria for foreign exchange to enable them to bring in more cargos.
“Quite a number of our members have not had anything to bring in for a while now. In the first quarter, only 10 of them were given allocation and the rest had nothing to do; they were just paying salaries without having things to do, except probably a few that had diesel. So, now that they have been given the PMS, they have started working on getting the products in,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria on Tuesday debunked allegation that it was responsible for the current fuel scarcity in the country.
The National Operations Controller, IPMAN, Mr. Mike Osatuyi, said a statement to that effect was credited to Mr. Lawson Ngoa, who he described as an agent of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources brought in to mediate in the internal crisis of the association.
He said, “While the intervention of the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, in resolving the internal crisis in IPMAN is appreciated and commendable, the forefathers, past presidents, leaders of IPMAN and the general members of IPMAN nationwide will not allow Mr. Lawson Ngoa, who is not a marketer or an IPMAN member, to use IPMAN’s name as a shield to defend or protect a system failure of the NNPC.
“It is pure defamation of IPMAN name to go on air that IPMAN has accepted the responsibility for the scarcity of petroleum products and that Nigerians should hold IPMAN responsible for the scarcity.”
Also on Tuesday, Kachikwu said queues would disappear from filling stations in Abuja and Lagos by Thursday.
This was despite the fact that Abuja and its environs had queues in front of some filling stations on Tuesday.
The minister also noted that based on the price modulation technology adopted by the PPPRA and the trend in the prices of crude oil globally, a new pump price for petrol might be announced in May.
Kachikwu, who said these when he paid a visit to the headquarters of the PPPRA in Abuja, further stated that the queues would disappear in states like Sokoto, Kano, Rivers, Katsina and Delta by the weekend.
He said, “Today, we have fuel queues and it is a complete nightmare for me. I feel for every Nigerian who is at the filling station. And there isn’t still sufficient reason why Nigerians should suffer this much. We just need to create the right policies. As hard as they are, as difficult as they come, we need to make the right policies to leave a legacy in the petroleum sector.
“Hopefully by tomorrow (Wednesday) or Thursday, the fuel queues in Abuja should be over. Hopefully, the same thing will happen to Lagos, and a day after, by the weekend, we should see Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Port Harcourt and Warri getting enough products.”
Kachikwu stated that the government was working out measures to have strategic reserves for the country in order to forestall any form of petrol scarcity in future.
He said, “But really, in some places, we do not have queues as such; rather, people are paying double the price to get the product. It is not right, but what it says to you is that obviously, there are some things that we need to watch out for if people are not buying our product rightly, we should be able to check and restrain that.
“However, what concerns me more is letting the present queues go out.” On the price modulation mechanism, the minister said in May, the government might come up with new pump prices for petrol going by the trend in crude oil prices globally.
“The price modulation that we’ve put in place will enable us to check prices. The government has not returned petrol subsidy. The real truth is that in the first three months of doing the price modulation, our over-recoveries enabled us to save quite a lot of money and that is going to fund the gap that we see in April; but for May, we will have to adjust the prices to match the current trend,” Kachikwu said.
Earlier in her address, the Acting Executive Secretary, PPPRA, Mrs. Sotonye Iyoyo, told the minister that the non-existence of a sustainable strategic reserves policy for petroleum products as a security against emergency situation in the country was a challenge to the agency.
Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, on Tuesday banned the sale of petroleum products in jerrycans by black market operators across the 23 local government council of the state.
The governor, who announced the ban through his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Samuel Aruwa, said the measure became necessary because of the hardships caused by the current scarcity of petrol.
He said it was a collective decision of the State Security Council to ban the sale of the product in jerrycans across the state.
According to him, the security council based its decision on legal and security considerations, as well as environmental hazards that petroleum products in jerrycans can cause.