16 November 2015, Lagos – Business activities may slow down across the country as a nationwide fuel scarcity, which began last week, did not show any sign of respite on Sunday.
The fuel scarcity in Abuja and neighbouring states of Nasarawa and Kaduna intensified on Sunday, a development that led to the flooding of major roads by black marketeers, who sold the product at exorbitant rates to desperate buyers.
Many petrol stations were shut, leaving just a few major outlets to serve the hundreds of motorists who queued for several hours in a bid to get petrol.
Motorists paid between N1,800 and N2,000 for 10 litres of petrol sold by the black marketers on major roads of Abuja, Nasarawa and Kaduna states on Sunday.
Some petrol filling stations in Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, and other states in the South also exploited the current scarcity to sell the product between N100 and N200 per litre.
A majority of filling stations were seen shut on Sunday but those that were opened for business had long queues and were selling at prices of their choice.
Some of the filling stations belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation were closed for business.
This development also affected vehicular movements in the areas, and some commercial bus owners capitalised on the situation to hike fares.
As of Sunday afternoon, our correspondent gathered that activities at the petroleum products’ depots located at Apapa, Lagos were skeletal.
The fuel scarcity in Abuja and its neighbouring states had lingered for over one week despite claims by the NNPC and its subsidiary, Pipelines and Product Marketing Company, that there was enough product to keep the country wet for about 30 days.
The Executive Director, Commercial, PPMC, Mr. Justin Ezeala, had told journalists on Friday that the country had 656.38 milion litres of petrol, which would last for at least 16.41 days.
Both agencies also put the expected fuel import from the PPMC and other importers for the end of November 2015 at 756.99 million litres, adding that when summed with what the country currently had in stock, a total of over 1.4 billion litres of petrol was guaranteed.
A member of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, at Apapa, Lagos, confirmed to one of our correspondents that the demand for petrol had far exceeded the supply from the NNPC.
He also confirmed that rationing of supply was the order of the day as it was only the NNPC that had the product, which they said was grossly insufficient.
An official of the union told our correspondent that the situation was likely to get worse from Monday (today), if the required actions were not taken fast.
Marketers had on Friday said the current petrol supply challenge facing the nation was likely to last till December this year owing to issues bordering on subsidy claims payment, foreign exchange shortage, logistics, among others.
The Chairman, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, Lagos Zone, Alhaji Tokunbo Korodo, had also confirmed to one of our correspondents that the supply situation was unlikely to see much improvement as marketers’ confidence in the government had seriously eroded.
The Minister of Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, had, last week, said President Muhammadu Buhari, was seeking the approval of the National Assembly to pay the N413bn approved last week as subsidy claims to oil marketers across the country.
TUC condemns hoarding
The Trade Union Congress in Rivers State has condemned the hoarding of petroleum products by private depot operators.
The State TUC Chairman, Mr. Chika Onuegbu, who attributed the worsening fuel scarcity in Port Harcourt and its environs to the activities of private depot owners, observed that such hoarding of fuel was adversely affecting the people of the state.
Onuegbu observed that the private depot owners were always selling petroleum products to marketers at night and at exorbitant prices, making it difficult for marketers to retail at government-approved prices.
It will be recalled that most filling stations in Port Harcourt and its environs have remained closed as a result of the high cost of purchasing petroleum products, especially petrol at the depots.
While the few filling stations selling were doing so at night at prices higher than the government-approved prices.
The situation has encouraged black marketeers to spring up on almost every street in the Rivers State capital.
While 10-litre jerry can of petrol was sold for N1,700 at some filling stations at night, the black marketers were selling the same quantity for N2,500 as of Sunday.
But the state TUC chairman, who spoke with The PUNCH on Sunday, described the hoarding of fuel by private depot owners as unacceptable, even as he called on the Department of Petroleum Resources, law enforcement agencies and the state government to force the depots to open.
Fuel scarcity continued in Akure, Ondo State and Osogbo, Osun State, on Sunday as many filling stations were shut.
Our correspondents observed that the NNPC mega station at Ring Road area of Osogbo and few stations sold the products.
There were long queues of vehicles at the NNPC mega station, which sold at the approved price of N87 per litre. Independent marketers sold a litre of fuel between N100 and N110.
Some motorists, who spoke to our correspondent, said the persistent scarcity of the product was worrisome, saying it was having negative effects on the people.
Many petrol stations in Ibesikpo/Asutan, Eket, Itu, Oron local government areas of the Akwa Ibom State sold fuel at N210 per litre, while many others in Uyo sold between N200 and N210 per litre.
One of our correspondents who went round Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, observed that many filling stations did not have the product. Those who had only sold fuel at night at exorbitant prices.