10 May 2015, Lagos — There are strong indications that the on-going fuel scarcity being experienced in the country may linger beyond the May 29, date for handover to the President-elect, Muhamadu Buhari.
According to industry operators, the supply of fuel at the depots cannot meet demand.
They unanimously told Daily Independent that the rate at which the tankers are being loaded at the various deports falls short of what could abate the lingering scarcity in the coming weeks. They recalled that in the past when a strike has been suspended in the industry like the one that has just happened, it takes a minimum of seven-day and night of loading fuel tankers to various retail outlets to saturate the market.
In this case, our sources lamented, what is available is limited following which only one of ten filling depots are dispensing fuel.
This is why there are so many loading tickets that have not been attended to at both Folawiyo and MRS depots in Lagos, due to rationing of the product.
It was further explained that before now, NNPC always maintained a reserve that would last for a particular period, in this case, until May 29; adding that within the period, arrangements were always made for importation of more fuel to avoid crisis.
Dispelling any insinuations of sabotage, a key player, (name withheld) stated that “there has been no fuel import in recent times by both the major and independent marketers to augment that of the NNPC, resulting in the lingering scarcity; and there seems to be no arrangement yet, as we speak.”
Announcing the suspension of the strike embarked upon by the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) and Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD), last week, the executive secretary of Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Femi Olawore, said members of the association would resume fuel importation since the money paid to them as subsidy was being accessed by his members.
He said it would take a minimum of two weeks before the vessels freighting fuel arrived the country, expressing optimism that the scarcity of the product and the queue would vanish in days.
But with the disagreement between the marketers and the government on outstanding subsidy debt, which the marketers claim to be N200billion, there is no guarantee that importation will resume in the nearest week.
Meanwhile, observers say the on-going fuel scarcity, is one too many, considering that Nigerians had to endure a similar situation about two months ago.
During the last fuel scarcity in the first week of March, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had singled out the All Progressives Congress (CPC) for blame, alleging that the party has bribed oil marketers to hoard petroleum product nationwide.
But with the presidential election going in favour of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the feelers in the public space is that the back and forth movement between the oil marketers and the Federal Government regarding subsidy payment is only a booby trap to frustrate the incoming administration getting set to take the saddle of leadership come May 29.
Both oil marketers and the federal government seem to be at loggerheads as regards the exact amount being owed them and the insistence by the marketers to be paid outstanding claims in two weeks.
This situation looks primed to force the already two weeks old fuel scarcity to linger.
The concern of most Nigerians is that the incoming administration might find it tough beginning its tenure with unresolved outstanding subsidy claims.
There seem to be much distrust, disagreement and suspicion already existing between the outgoing and incoming government on several issues, and observers suspect that this might yet be another cross the General Muhammadu Buhari administration will be made to bear.
However, the Federal Government insists that the fuel crisis is not a calculated attempt to unsettle the next government as issues of outstanding claims needed to be verified and sorted out.
Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, said on Tuesday that marketers had already agreed that since the issue of claims was a rolling one and the government had been meeting its payment obligations as much as possible, they would henceforth ensure the supply of fuel to end the hardship Nigerians are facing across the country.
The minister said the marketers had already commenced the process of ending the fuel scarcity by ensuring the supply of the product in Lagos, adding that in a few days, Abuja and other parts of the country would get reprieve.
According to the Minister, the wish of the President Goodluck Jonathan administration is to sort out all grey areas as regards the subsidy payments so as to prevent an unverified burden for the incoming government to pay.
*Philip Oladunjoye and Ekene Okoro – Daily Independent