Many motorists spent most part of Saturday and Sunday in queues at the few filling stations that had the product to sell in Lagos and Ogun states, as well as the Federal Capital Territory, with fears that the situation might degenerate in the coming days.
The Chairman, South-West chapter, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, Mr. Tokunbo Korodo, who spoke with one of our correspondents on Sunday, said that most of the depots in the country were already empty, adding that the available product could not meet the national demand, hence the queues.
He, however, said the situation would take about three to four weeks to ease considering the fact that marketers only received the import allocation for the first quarter last week.
Korodo, said, “There was a delay in the approval of import allocation to the marketers. The import allocation was given last week and you know everything has a due process. The marketers will have to contact their banks, order for the product, and ship the product to Nigeria. As such, it will take three to four weeks for the product to get to the Nigerian soil.
“Had it been that the government was proactive enough to give approval to them in time, we will not be in this situation; and now, we should be thinking about the approval for the second quarter because this is March already.”
He also spoke on the way forward, saying, “If the NNPC can release whatever they have in their own stock to all the marketers that have facilities to distribute and dispense, the scarcity will be quenched. We all know that the NNPC’s ability to distribute petroleum products is being hampered as a result of vandalism of pipelines.
“Therefore, it is distributing through some private facilities, but it has preference in releasing products to the marketers. But if the NNPC can release the products it has in its stock to all the marketers, this ugly situation will be quickly arrested. But if it continues to give preference to some marketers, the situation will continue to escalate.”
The Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency released the import allocation for the first quarter last week, but expert said it came after the product stocked by most marketers had already dried up.
The Executive Secretary, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Obafemi Olawore, had warned of an impending scarcity if the import allocation was not released in time, stressing it would not augur well for the country if the major marketers’ stocks were allowed to dry up.
“There will be fuel scarcity in the country if the major marketers’ supply is not replenished because we account for 60 per cent of the national product demand across the country,” he had said.
The Chairman, Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association, Mr. Dapo Abiodun, had similarly warned that the left over from the fourth quarter of 2013 and the Pipelines and Product Marketing Company supplies would dry up soon.
“This is why queues building up. There is a shortage of supply in the system,” he said.
Abiodun also estimated that it would take some time for the marketers to bring in new products.
One of our correspondents, who monitored the situation in Lagos in the early hours of Sunday, reported that few filling stations that had the product to dispense recorded huge crowd of desperate motorists in queues, and this caused gridlock in many areas.
For instance, the MRS filling station at Mangoro area; Forte Oil and Conoil filling station at Cement; Mobil filing station located at Abekoko area as well as the Oando, Jimmy Co, Propel and Capital Oil Plc filling stations at Pako area of Lagos shut their gates against customers.
This gave fuel hawkers the opportunity to sell to motorists who could not bear the endless queues at filling stations.
“I ran out of fuel on Saturday and I need to go to work tomorrow (Monday). That is why I am here. I can’t even go to church,” Mr. Jide Odeyemi, who spoke with our correspondent at the Acorn filling station, Ketu, said.
“I wouldn’t want to spend my Sunday afternoon queuing up for fuel when I should be preparing for work on Monday. That was why I didn’t go to church today,” Mr. Uche Okorie, said at a Conoil filling station in the same area.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Department of Petroleum Resources and the PPPRA on Sunday announced their resolve to commence a nationwide monitoring of petrol stations in a bid to check hoarding of the product.
The acting Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, NNPC, Dr. Omar Ibrahim, said in a statement that the monitoring was a new measure adopted to halt what he called artificial fuel scarcity noticeable in some parts of the country, particularly in Lagos and its environs.
He said agencies would “commence detailed monitoring of fuel stations in Lagos and its environs as well as any other state to check the incidence of hoarding and panic buying of fuel.”
“We tried it in Abuja and its environs; and today, effective monitoring has decimated the hitherto long fuel queues in Abuja. We are extending the extensive joint monitoring to Lagos,” Ibrahim said.
The NNPC spokesman stated that as the supplier of last resort, the corporation was doing everything possible to alleviate the avoidable hardship caused by the current scarcity.
He reiterated that the Federal Government had no plan to increase the pump price of petrol as being speculated.
Ibrahim said, “It is pertinent to state for the umpteenth time that there is no plan by the Federal Government to increase the price of petrol. Once again, we appeal to marketers to refrain from hoarding and urge members of the public not to engage in panic buying.
“We are convinced that in the days ahead, the fuel situation will normalise as there is enough petrol to go round.”
– Dayo Oketola and Okechukwu Nnodim