29 February 2016, Lagos – The latest round of fuel scarcity being witnessed in many states across the country worsened on Sunday as motorists and other users of petrol had difficulties getting the product at filling stations.
One of our correspondents also gathered that private depots in Apapa, Lagos were selling the product above the ex-depot price of N76.50 per litre.
This was said to have prevented some dealers from buying the product.
Many filling stations were shut in Lagos, Abuja, Kaduna and other major cities across the country on Sunday. The few stations that were dispensing the product recorded long queues of motorists who wanted to buy petrol into their vehicles, motorcycles and jerry cans.
In Lagos, for instance, there were long queues at some filling stations on the Ikorodu Road, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Gbadaga Expressway and Apapa-Oshodi Expressway.
Marketers and industry stakeholders, who spoke with our correspondents, said the supply of petrol by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation had dropped.
Motorists also lamented that they had to spend many hours in queues for fuel even as others complained of having to empty their pockets to buy sufficient petrol to last for many days.
The NNPC had recently increased its direct petrol imports to more than 70 per cent of the country’s needs, leaving the private marketers with the balance.
The Chairman, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, Lagos Zone, Alhaji Tokunbo Korodo, said in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Sunday, “There has been a very sharp drop in the supply chain, and I think it is as a result of lack of enough stock on the part of the NNPC.
“For some days last week, the NNPC has been rationing fuel at the Mosimi and Ejigbo depots. And the only few private depots that are loading petrol at Apapa are not selling at the controlled price, and most of the dealers cannot buy because of the enforcement of selling the product at the controlled price.”
According to Korodo, dealers who have the opportunity to sell above the regulated price outside Lagos are the ones patronising the depots and getting the product out of the city.
“For some weeks now, Port Harcourt has been facing some hardship, so dealers in the city are coming to Lagos to buy because they cannot sell above the pump price,” he said.
He said the least price at which some of the depots were selling the product was N100 per litre, adding, “And there is nobody sanctioning them. If this is not corrected, Lagosians may not be able to buy petrol at the controlled price and will continue to be in long queues.”
Asked why the private depots were selling above the regulated price, Korodo explained, “Because of this dollar problem, some of them are not bringing fuel into the country themselves. They wait for the allocation from the NNPC/PPMC, and the PPMC has low stock.
“If they don’t have low stock, they won’t be rationing at their own depots in Ejigbo and Mosimi. Their loading at Ejigbo has dropped drastically. Within three days, they loaded 60 trucks. On a good day, they can load over 100 trucks. So, somebody should be bold to tell Nigerians what is happening.”
The National Operation Controller, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Mike Osatuyi, also attributed the current scarcity of petrol to supply problems, saying there was a dislocation in the supply chain.
He advised the government to open up the supply to genuine downstream importers and make forex available to them at the official rate.
Osatuyi said, “The problem is supply; there is no supply. If there is supply, there won’t be scarcity. It means there is a dislocation in the supply chain. We marketers are ready to buy and sell, but where is the fuel? The NNPC is struggling. You say you are doing swaps and you are selling invoice to people who are supposed to import to buy from you and store and sell; won’t they make their own profits?
“So, there is already a dislocation in the supply chain. Let them import massively and store in private tank farms because the NNPC does not have enough tank farms to meet the national requirement.”
The Deputy Manager, Public Affairs, Department of Petroleum Resources, Mr. George Ene-Ita, said the agency would ensure that any depot found selling the product above the ex-depot price would be sanctioned.
The Executive Secretary, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Obafemi Olawore, said the inability of the marketers to access adequate foreign exchange from banks was hampering fuel importation.
He said, “Foreign exchange is the issue everybody is facing. We are unable to access enough forex at the same time. We accumulate over a period of time. Now, the commercial banks are giving us in trickles.
“I believe that the government should encourage the private sector to import more because we have more of the facilities and other logistics to bring in petrol and distribute. We control most of the storage and distributing channels, and we are not bringing in enough.”
Meanwhile, the NNPC said on Sunday that it had taken delivery of four more cargos of petrol to keep the country wet.
The corporation, in a statement signed by its Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Mr. Ohi Alegbe, gave the total volume of petrol delivered as 180 million litres, adding that this was part of its new arrangement to have a cargo of petrol delivered daily as from March.
It also stated that the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, had warned depot owners against selling petrol above the approved ex-depot price.