*Long queues linger
*Marketers say scarcity would eventually lead to increment in official price
Lagos — Oil marketers have indiscriminately increased pump price of Premium Motor Spirit, petrol as against announcement by the NNPC that there would be no price increment this month.
The increment was noticed since the weekend following reappearance of long queue at filling stations across Lagos State and Abuja.
Many petrol dispensing stations were seen to have closed their gates against buyers, while some of the few who continue to sell, without reflecting price on their boards, sell above the official pump price, according to findings.
The product now goes for between N168-N170 at some stations at the outskirt of Lagos, while black marketers sell in the range of N170-N175 per litre.
While SweetcrudeReports was doing some check rounds, noticed that while some of the stations have ran out of products, many are hoarding in hope of selling at a higher price expected to be announced by the NNPC soon.
The state oil company, NNPC had on Sunday issued a statement of warning against product hoarding by oil marketers while at the same time reassuring that there would be no increment in the ex-depot price in March, and that it had sufficient product in its depots to last 40 days.
Despite NNPC’s assurance, oil marketers have warned that petrol will sell for as much as N230 per litre in March, as long queues linger even till Tuesday. Several stations around Ago Okota, and towards Apple junction through Festac Town were under lock and key.
The National Operations Controller, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, Mike Osatuyi, in a statement said there was no way the nation would escape a fresh hike in fuel price.
Osatuyi said, “I have just returned from a meeting in Abuja. What I have observed is that many stations have closed down and there are queues in many places in both Lagos and Abuja. Nigeria has crossed the bridge, there is no hiding place, the N1.2 trillion which was hitherto annual spending on subsidy will be borne by the market.
“As it is, the prices of crude oil have gone up to $67 per barrel and, with this, the price of PMS will be between N220 per litre and N230 per litre. I was told by someone that the Group Managing Director of NNPC told them that the official price is likely to be N206 per litre.
“As it is now, all the stations that have shut down their gates must have heard information before they took that action. I want us all to wait by tomorrow we will all see clearly what will happen. There have been annual spending of N1.2 trillion on fuel subsidy and now that the subsidy has said to be abolished, that money must come from somewhere.
‘’The money must be coming from somewhere. “NNPC is not an NGO (non-governmental organisation), there is no budgetary provision for subsidy again and instead of wasting it on subsidy, it should be deployed to other sectors,’’ he said.
On what can be done to cushion the negative effects of higher fuel price, Osatuyi said: “This plan to cushion the negative effects of higher fuel price should be the next important thing. The government can do the free conversion of vehicle from fuel to gas. This should be done to help Nigerians who will definitely be affected by this fuel price hike.”
On his part, the IPMAN National Public Relations Officer, Alhaji Suleiman Yakubu, condemned the panic buying and return of long queues at some filling stations within Abuja.
While assuring Nigerians that the normal supply of petroleum products would soon be restored with the commencement of loading at various depots, Yakubu said the increase in the global price of crude oil has affected the price of petrol.
He said, “We want to assure the buyers that government and marketers are doing everything possible to ensure that the products are available in every filling station within a few days starting from today (Sunday).’’
NNPC explained that the decision was to allow ongoing engagements with organized labour and other stakeholders on an acceptable framework that will not expose the ordinary Nigerian to any hardship, to be concluded.
The Federal Government had in March 2020, announced the removal of fuel subsidy and full deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry, which will allow market forces to determine the price of the product.
The hint by oil marketers to expect price hike this month came following an earlier report by SweetcrudeReports in February, warning of a looming hike in price of N200 and above starting from this month.
The National Public Relations Officer, IPMAN, Chief Ukadike Chinedu described the current scarcity as a tactics by the Federal Government and its agencies in their bid to hike the price of petrol.
“They (government) want people to buy it at a high rate before they will announce an increase in price. When filling stations or black marketers start selling it at around N250/litre, they will then announce a pump price that could be between N180 to N200/litre.
“Then people will now say, oh thank God for we now have patrol no matter the increase in price. It is a market tactics. And it is intentionally done to effect a change in price.”
Asked if there had been a reduction in product distribution going by the worsening petrol queues, Chinedu replied, “Yes!
“Right now, if I buy petrol at N160/litre in Lagos and I bring it to Abuja, will I sell it at N160/litre? Of course, I won’t.”
He added, “Rather when I bring it in at N160, the price at the pumps after transporting it, that far will be around N180 to N200/litre.
“By this, the independent marketers who help to buffer the pressure on major marketers are gradually being fizzled out of business.”
The IPMAN official stated that the pressure on filling stations in cities had been increasing because outlets in satellite towns were dispensing petrol at very high prices.
Chinedu said, “If you go around the outskirts of Abuja and areas in neighbouring states, people don’t buy petrol again from the small filling stations that used to sell at the approved price in those locations.
“People only buy like two litres from them because petrol price in these filling stations is around N180/litre and so such persons drive to Abuja city and join the queues to buy at N162 or N165/litre,” adding that the stock in fillings station at the outskirts would soon be exhausted and the whole pressure would now be in the cities.
“Mark my words, the supply in the cities will break down if this is not addressed quickly and there will be total scarcity,” the IPMAN spokesperson stated.
Chinedu noted that the increases in global crude oil prices and the exchange rate were major factors affecting the cost of petrol.
“Can you imagine that the dollar was about N230 to N280 before this government came to power; now it is about N480,” he said.
The scarcity was reported to have also spread to Ibadan as of Monday.
The international oil price, Brent crude, rose by more than 14 per cent in February as it closed at $64.42 per barrel, up from $56.42 per barrel at the start of the month.