01 October 2012, Sweetcrude, Enugu – Nigerians woke up today, the first day of October, 2012 marking the Country’s 52nd Independent Anniversary, to find that they still have to continue to grapple with the reality of the pains associated with both the grossly insufficient supply and extraordinarily high cost of Petroleum products in the Country.
These pains appear to have been deepened by the price increase in the downstream sector of the industry by Government, early this year, leading to the astronomical adjustment of the official pump price of the popular Premium Motor Spirit (PMS); that is fuel, from #65 to #97 per litre, by major marketers, then, between #100 and #140 per litre, by Independent marketers, with intermittent scarcity of the products-mostly artificial, perpetrated by numerous characters in the distribution chain engaged in racketeering and profiteering.
Following the recent wake of another round of acute shortage of petrol in some major parts of the country-notably Abuja, the Federal capital territory and Lagos, the commercial nerve centre of the country, Sweetcrude, today, decided to undertake a survey of the situation in some major cities, South-East Nigeria, to feel the pulse of residents of this area and know what is going on.
Surprisingly, in most filling stations visited in the South-East, fuel was available, but unfortunately at cut-throat prices, as most people find it difficult to afford the cost. In both Owerri, capital of Imo State and Abakaliki of Ebonyi State, a litre of fuel costs between #110 and #130, while it costs between #110 and #120 in Enugu, Enugu State and between #115 and #120 in Awka, Anambra State, with the least pump price per litre of #110 in Umuahia, capital of Abia State.
Investigation revealed that the varying degrees of exorbitant cost of fuel in the South-East, is a band-wagon effect of the actual scarcity in other parts of the country, as the marketers chose not to hoard the product, but made sure that consumers paid exorbitant prices.
Residents of these cities, who bared their minds, through random face to face and extensive telephone interviews, included people from numerous walks of life: Lawyers, Teachers, Health workers, Traders, Clergymen, Transport Owners and Managers.
They lamented bitterly, how the arbitrary increase in the price of Petroleum products, particularly PMS, has severely affected their economic resources, making it extremely difficult for them to meet other needs; indeed crippling some of their economic activities.
Most of the respondents, quickly identified the activities of economic saboteurs, who are bent on frustrating the good intention of government in order to satisfy their selfish ends, as partly responsible for the situation, while they blamed government for not being pro-active enough in the implementation of the de-regulation policy, in order to quickly ameliorate the pains of Nigerians suffering extreme lack of petroleum products in ‘the midst of plenty’.
Among the residents of the South–East, who volunteered comments today, on the existing fuel situation, included an Enugu-based Legal Practitioner and the Executive Secretary of the State Council on Privatization and Commercialization, Barrister Bertran Nnia Ngwu; Ambassador (Mrs) Justina Eze, former member of the Nigerian House of Reps and former envoy of Nigeria to Guinea Bissau; Depot Managers of Peace Mass Transit Limited in Abakaliki, Owerri and Umuahia, among others.