01 February 2016, Lagos – The country may experience another round of petrol scarcity soon if the naira continues to depreciate in value, particularly against the United States dollar, oil marketers have said.
The marketers noted that sourcing for dollars to import the product was becoming increasingly difficult, with most them turning to the parallel market for foreign exchange.
The oil marketers told our correspondent that they buy a dollar for as high as N280 at the parallel market, because it was not easy to get the greenback at the Central Bank of Nigeria’s official exchange rate of N197.
A major oil marketer, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the issue, said, “Everybody is sourcing for forex; when you are lucky, you get it. But when luck is not on your side, you have to wait. Since the petrol import allocations usually lapse after three months, people often have the latitude to source for forex within the period. For example, the last allocations were given in December and so people had the latitude to source for the foreign exchange for about two months.
“The essence of giving the allocations ahead is also for you to plan. For instance, if you want to bring in three cargos, you can’t bring in all at once. Maybe you bring one in the first month, the second in the next month and the third cargo in the last month.
“But that’s under a normal circumstance where you have the forex. But now that you don’t have the forex, your cargo may have to stay for one or two months while you source for forex. This is not good for the business, especially if we must avoid petrol scarcity.”
The official stated that the Deposit Money Banks were no more willing to give out Letters of Credit to oil marketers, except those who could provide guaranteed sources of forex.
“Nobody wants to give you a Letter of Credit if you don’t have guaranteed dollars or pound sterling to meet your demand.”
When contacted, the Corporate Affairs Manager, Nipco Plc, an oil marketing firm, Mr. Taofeeq Lawal, told our correspondent that although the marketers were importing products, the fall in the value of the naira against the dollar was a serious concern.
“The naira has lost so much value against the dollar, particularly at the parallel market. And this, of course, is posing a great concern to importers, not just to oil marketers but to importers generally in the country,” he said.
The PUNCH had on Friday reported that the naira could weaken further on the back of rising dollar demand this week unless a major step was taken to inject liquidity into the system.