FUEL SCARCITY: Queues Worsen In Abuja, Lagos

FUEL SCARCITY: Queues Worsen In Abuja, Lagos
  • NNPC, marketers fight over price control
  • Motorists, commuters fear the worse

Teddy Nwanunobi

More than two weeks after queues resurfaced at the petrol filling stations in major cities, especially the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja and Lagos State, the situation has worsened in the two cities, as motorists and commuters fear the worst in the weeks ahead.

AljazirahNigeria reports that scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, has failed to abate in the country, despite assurances of supply and continuous provision of service, as motorists and businesses count losses.

This is despite the agreement reached between the Petroleum Pipeline Marketing Company, PPMC, and retailers of PMS for direct supply of the product to fuel stations at strategic locations in the country, especially Lagos and Abuja.
   
Following the current situation, most stakeholders and marketers insist that the worst days are ahead for the energy crisis in the country.

But the Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, NMDPRA, and Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigerian, IPMAN, have dispelled such notion.

The NMDPRA and IPMAN said that an agreement had been reached to ensure petrol is sold at the approved N165 per litre price.

A couple of weeks ago, the Executive Director of the Distribution Systems, Storage, and Retail Infrastructure, NMDPRA, Ugbugo Ukoha, urged marketers to comply with the pricing system.

Ukoha said the conflict between Russia and Ukraine had led to an increment in the cost of diesel, which was a critical product used in transporting petroleum products from the depots to the retail outlets.

“So, when we observed that this poses a big challenge in the movement of other products, we made the representation to the minister of state for petroleum and Mr. President graciously approved that the freight rate for trucks be increased.

“There’s a N10 addition, which we will apply to the different routes to enable trucks to move to docks easily with less burden.

“With these kinds of efforts from the government, we can only continue to appeal to operators within this industry to play by the rules.

“PMS is a regulated product and the prices are fixed. The ex-depot price is known. The pump price remains N165 and the authority is ever ready to enforce those rules.

“So, we will continue to urge Nigerians to keep within these operating rules”, Ukoha said.

Ukoha said the focus of the stakeholders in the next few days would be to close the supply gap and resolve the ongoing scarcity of petrol as soon as possible.

Also, the Group Executive Director, Downstream, NNPC, Adetunji Adeyemi, said that the purpose of the visit to the depots was to get first-hand information on the challenges responsible for the current scarcity.

Adeyemi said despite the challenges globally, in terms of the supply chain, NNPC had continued to provide petroleum products, specifically PMS to Nigerians.

“Today we have about 2 billion litres of PMS in-country, which is about 34 days sufficiency. So, there is sufficient petrol in the country.

“We are working with the entire stakeholders and players in the downstream sector to ensure that this product gets to the distribution channels and also the stations.

“We want Nigerians to continue to enjoy the free flow of petroleum products”, Adeyemi said.

Also speaking, the Managing Director of PPMC, Isiyaku Abdullahi, said the company has been supporting transporters and marketers with diesel in form of palliative to ensure the smooth distribution of PMS to ameliorate the suffering of Nigerians.

Abdullahi said three vessels carrying about 60 metric tonnes of PMS were currently discharging at the Apapa jetty, which would be further transported to Lagos and other parts of the country to restore normalcy.

But across the highbrow areas of Abuja, including the headquarters of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, NNPC, black marketers are smiling to the bank, selling a litre of petrol for between N350 to N500.

In Lagos, the queues stretched farther at stations where the product is being sold at N165 per litre, while stations, mostly those belonging to independent marketers, witness lesser queues, as the product is sold at N180 and above.

There are, however, concerns over the growing smuggling of petrol into neighbouring countries, as the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners, NARTO, warned that members engaging in the act would be prosecuted.

The President of the Petroleum Products Retail Outlets Owners Association of Nigeria, Billy Gillis-Harry, said that a meeting with the PPMC has led to the direct supply of PMS to retail outlets in some key locations in the country with strict joint monitoring that would ensure that the product is not diverted.

Consequently, Gillis-Harry said that the only sustainable solution to the growing fuel crisis in the country is for the Federal Government to allow full deregulation of the downstream segment of the petroleum industry.

He said that the queues lingered because marketers had to source products from private depots at prices that are not sustainable, adding that the product should not be selling below N600 per litre if market realities were allowed.

According to him, it now takes over N9 million to take delivery of a 45,000-litre truck, adding that the cost of diesel to transport the product as well as operate the stations is no longer sustainable.

“As a country, we do not have any other option than to deregulate. We can’t sustain the current situation, especially when you look at the difference between the landing cost and the pump price. The bridging rate has just been reviewed upward. That happened without an increase in the price of the products. That additional cost is coming from somewhere”, Gillis-Harry said.

At separate meetings with IPMAN Northern and Southwest branches, the Authority Chief Executive, ACE, Ahmed Farouk, said that both organisations are working towards settling the outstanding bridging costs.

While welcoming the association as critical stakeholders in the energy sector, Farouk assured of the Authority’s support in the distribution of petroleum products to all parts of the country.

The ACE expressed concern about the rise in petroleum product theft and pipeline vandalism, especially line 2B, which services Mosimi, Ibadan and Ilorin depots, leading to revenue loss for the government.

He urged Southwest IPMAN to assist in checkmating the unscrupulous act as they have done in the past. He also revealed that the Authority had received complaints of private petroleum depots selling PMS above the approved price, thereby disrupting the value chain and leading to higher pricing in some areas.

He called on the Association to report any depot selling products to its members, above the approved ex-depot price.

The Authority assured the association of its commitment to ensuring product availability and sustainability of the industry.

In his remarks, the Zonal Chairman, IPMAN South-west, Dele Tajudeen Lamidi, said that the purpose of the visit was to seek collaboration and support the Authority, in line with the Petroleum Industry Act, PIA 2021.

The zonal chairman identified product sharing, rise in penalties, difficulty in getting tax clearance, and high cost of doing business in the country as challenges confronting their members.

He pledged to the Authority and Nigerians that despite all the challenges, it has resolved not to embark on any industrial action as a conflict resolution technique.

“As far as we are concerned in the South-west, we have gone beyond the strike. The strike is not the solution to any problem because if there is a strike, it affects the masses and our businesses.

“We will work together to ensure free flow of petroleum products and also make sure that products are sold at the government-regulated price if we get them at the normal price”, he said.

National President of NARTO, Alhaji Yusuf Lawal Othman, who commended the Federal Government for acceding to increase the freight rate by reviewing upward the national transport fund by N10, said that the association would improve the level of service delivery in the face of the difficult operating conditions occasioned by the high rate of inflation, insecurity and dilapidated road infrastructure in the country.

He asked all members of the association to keep away from smuggling petroleum products across Nigeria’s borders.

“We have given Nigerian Customs our full-pledged commitment that our members are law-abiding and patriotic, therefore, they will not be involved in this unlawful practice. Any member that is involved in this unwholesome practice would be made to face the full wrath of the law”, he said.

Olufemi Alo, an Abuja resident, said that the current fuel scarcity was unnecessary.

He accused managers of filling stations of deliberately not selling fuel, or at least, not selling to their maximum capacity.

“In recent weeks, I’ve had to buy black market for my generator at the rate of N350 because filling stations won’t sell and those that sell will have a very long queue. That means, I spend a lot of money on just my generator on a weekly basis.

“It is similarly difficult to fuel my car; it takes an average of two hours in a queue to get fuel on a very lucky day. It is so stressful and time-consuming. I wonder why everything gets so difficult nowadays. Hopefully, the Federal Government will wake up to their responsibility”, Alo said.

An entrepreneur, Akwu Obaje, said that the development has resulted in a hike in transport and cost of baking items.

“The stress of queuing for so long just to get fuel when you have other things to do is stressful. Delivery companies that usually charge N2,000 to deliver products within Abuja now take more. Some end up cancelling orders, even e-hailing drivers”, she stated.

Energy consultant, Henry Adigun, said that the current situation may not abate given prevailing economic indexes.

Adigun noted that the country is practically spending its earnings on fuel subsidies, adding that the low state of external reserves is worrisome.

A motorist, Oyindamola Yinka, who was in the queue at NIPCO Petrol Station in the Banex area of the FCT, said she spent the major part of her productive day in the fuel queue.

She had earlier spent about an hour in the queue at a different station but was unlucky as the fuel finished before her turn.


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