Okechukwu Nnodim, Olufemi Olaniyi, Wale Oyewale and Chima Azubuike
The queues by motorists for petrol grew worse in Abuja and neighbouring states of Nasarawa and Niger on Monday as only few filling stations dispensed the commodity.
But despite the scarcity and queues, which had lingered for several days, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation insisted on Monday that it had enough product to keep the country wet with petrol for about 40 days.
Reacting to the development, oil marketers described the present scarcity was as a tactics deployed by the Federal Government and its agencies in their bid to hike the price of petrol.
This, they said, was due to the rise in global crude oil prices and the increase in foreign exchange rate in Nigeria.
Many roads with filling stations that dispensed products in various parts of Abuja witnessed severe traffic jam on Monday, as motorists formed long queues on the roads.
The Forte Oil filling station opposite Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, for instance, had long queues that stretched into adjourning roads and caused heavy traffic jam in the area.
Similar scenarios played out along the Kubwa-Zuba Expressway, Airport Road, Zuba-Kaduna Road, Nyanya-Mararaba Road, among others.
Speaking on the development, the National Public Relations Officer, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chief Ukadike Chinedu, said the current scarcity would lead to hike in price.
He said, “They (government) want people to buy it at a high rate before they will announce an increase in price. When filling stations or black marketers start selling it at around N250/litre, they will then announce a pump price that could be between N180 to N200/litre.
“Then people will now say, oh thank God for we now have patrol no matter the increase in price. It is a market tactics. And it is intentionally done to effect a change in price.”
Asked if there had been a reduction in product distribution going by the worsening petrol queues, Chinedu replied, “Yes!
“Right now, if I buy petrol at N160/litre in Lagos and I bring it to Abuja, will I sell it at N160/litre? Of course, I won’t.”
He added, “Rather when I bring it in at N160, the price at the pumps after transporting it, that far will be around N180 to N200/litre.
“By this, the independent marketers who help to buffer the pressure on major marketers are gradually being fizzled out of business.”
The IPMAN official stated that the pressure on filling stations in cities had been increasing because outlets in satellite towns were dispensing petrol at very high prices.
Chinedu said, “If you go around the outskirts of Abuja and areas in neighbouring states, people don’t buy petrol again from the small filling stations that used to sell at the approved price in those locations.
“People only buy like two litres from them because petrol price in these filling stations is around N180/litre and so such persons drive to Abuja city and join the queues to buy at N162 or N165/litre.”
He further stated that the stock in fillings station at the outskirts would soon be exhausted and the whole pressure would now be in the cities.
“Mark my words, the supply in the cities will break down if this is not addressed quickly and there will be total scarcity,” the IPMAN spokesperson stated.
Chinedu noted that the increases in global crude oil prices and the exchange rate were major factors affecting the cost of petrol.
“Can you imagine that the dollar was about N230 to N280 before this government came to power; now it is about N480,” he said.
But the spokesperson of NNPC, Kennie Obateru, said the corporation had not increased the ex-depot price for petrol and had ruled out such hike in March.
He said the NNPC was not contemplating any raise in the price of petrol in March in order not to jeopardise ongoing engagements with organised labour and other stakeholders on an acceptable framework that would not expose Nigerians to hardship.
The NNPC also cautioned marketers not to engage in arbitrary price increase or hoarding of petrol in order not to create artificial scarcity.
Gridlock on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway as fuel scarcity spreads to Ibadan
Many commuters in Ibadan were on Monday stranded as fuel queues resurfaced in the few filling stations selling the Premium Motor Spirit known as petrol.
The long queues caused obstructions at the Ibadan section of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway resulting in gridlock on the ever busy road.
Our correspondent observed that many filling stations did not sell the product and the few ones which opened had long queues.
The fewer number of taxi cabs and commercial motorcycles plying the roads made drivers to increase fares while those who could not afford the hike resorted to trekking.
Transport fare from Wire and Cable to Oja Oba, which was N120 had increased to N250. The situation is also similar in places like Ijokodo, Sango, Bodija, Agodi Gate, Iwo Road, Monatan, Eleyele and Ologuneru.
Some of the major petrol marketers along the Ijokodo, Eleyele-Sango Road, including Total, Conoil and Oando were not dispensing as of the time of filing this report.
A taxi driver, Lateef Yusuf, told our correspondent that many of the filling station had fuel but resorted to hoarding because they were expecting pump price to increase.
Yusuf said, “This artificial scarcity started last night. Many of them have fuel but they do not want to sell it because they are expecting the price to go up.
“That is the cause of this scarcity. The government is supposed to go round and ensure that any filing station with fuel sells it. We are suffering; commuters are suffering. This is not the time to add more to the suffering of the people.”
Meanwhile, the Commissioner for Transport in Oyo State, Prof. Dahud Sangodoyin, has called on the Department for Petroleum Resources to sanction marketers hoarding fuel.
Sangodoyin said, “For some people to be creating artificial fuel scarcity for pecuniary reasons is wrong and inhuman.
“The Department of Petroleum Resources should, as a matter of urgency, swing into action and arrest the situation.”
The situation, however, was different in Gombe State as one of our correspondents reported that the petrol price hovered between N163- N165 per litre across the fuel stations visited within the Gombe metropolis.
Our correspondent observed that the buyers were calm and made their purchases without panic.