28 March 2016, Sweetcrude, Abuja – Massive queues of commuters waiting to buy fuel from petrol stations greeted residents of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, despite assurances by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation that it would ensure adequate products for the Easter holidays.
Many vehicles could be seen snaking along major routes of the city, as they drivers patiently wait to buy the product. Some of them claimed they had been up as early as 4.00am in order to join the queues.
Some of them who spoke to our correspondent note the “worsening” condition of things, stating that it’s not just fuel that is in short supply, but electricity and food.
According to one transporter our correspondent met on the queue, “Everyday living in Nigeria is getting hard for the average person. You spend many hours looking for petrol only to get home at the end of the day to meet virtual darkness because there is no power.
“Go to the market today and see how the prices of food items have increased tenfold or more. Everything you know is getting more expensive every day. Some people blame it on the dollar (forex) exchange, but what does the dollar have to do with beef that is slaughtered here? Things are getting hard and it is the poor that bear the brunt of it.”
He said that assurances by the government officials do not do any good as long as people cannot afford the basic things in life. “Government should stop all these talking and get down to work to fix all these things that are making life very difficult for millions of people,” he added.
Another commuter stated that he had been out all weekend trying to get the product to no avail, noting that many filling stations across the city do not have products which have resulted in longer lines at the few (usually) NNPC-operated stations.
“This is the worst period of fuel scarcity I and my colleagues have experienced ever. I mean, there have always been fuel shortages all over the country at different times, but this is certainly the worst anyone has witnessed.
“I have been trying to get fuel on Friday to no avail. If you are not a ‘hustler’ or have money to give at the gate, you don’t get to go in on time. Most filling stations are not having fuel for weeks on end, and now, they are telling us it will last many more months,” he said.
One of the commuters blamed past administrations for not making plans for an ever growing future population of humans and vehicles in the country.
He said, “The governments of the past few years did not reckon with the fact that fast growing populations and rapid urbanisation will result in many more Nigerians owning cars. They allowed the few refineries we have to die and didn’t bother to build more. I think that is the reason we are where we are today.”
Some of them advocated some patience with the present administration, noting that the Muhammadu Buhari-led government is determined to change the way things had been done in the past.
The NNPC has urged Nigerians to be patient, as it is working round the clock to ensure that the fuel crisis currently witnessed across the country end within the next two weeks.
The NNPC, in a statement signed by its Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Mr Garba Deen Mohammed, said as at 1600hrs yesterday, one Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) cargo, containing 42 million litres had completely discharged, two more PMS cargos with a combined ‘Remaining on Board’ (ROB) of 44 million litres are currently discharging while another PMS cargo containing 44 million litres is berthed and awaiting discharge.
The Corporation said it has enough products lined up to ensure that the supply gap which created the problem is bridged, while it added that in order to ensure effective distribution, it is working with Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), oil majors and over 1,000 NNPC staff, nationwide to ensure it overcomes the obstacles in the distribution of the products.
It further stressed that its immediate concern was to make petrol available through the interventions and processes put in place so that the queues will disappear within the next one to two weeks, while in the long term, it is working with the Government to put in place machinery to ensure that the refineries are fixed and working optimally, while the pipelines which have been under attack for some time now are repaired.
According to the NNPC, the Direct Sale Direct Purchase (DSDP) arrangement for crude would commence in the first week of April and all these coupled with the fact that the President has given his support to increase the crude supply to NNPC to ensure local sufficiency of products would go a long way to solving the problems in the short and long term.