ABUJA — The fuel crisis across the country worsened, weekend, as most of the petrol stations were shut down leaving motorists stranded.
This was in spite of claims by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, on Friday, that it is injecting about 688 million of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, into the market. Motorists had to resort to the black market, where roadside petrol sellers now sell the commodity for as high as N250 per litre.
However, the NNPC, yesterday, promised that it was working to ensure that the situation is addressed quickly and assured Nigerians that the fuel supply situation will improve in the coming days.
Responding to enquiries from Vanguard, spokesperson for the NNPC, Mr. Ohi Alegbe, said: “On Friday, we had stated that in 48 hours we will wet the market with 688 million litres of petrol. Distribution of products is by trucking. You will agree that it is some distance from the depots and tank farms in the south to the depots and retail outlets in the hinterland. Expectedly, the queues should disappear before long.”
Furthermore, Alegbe blamed the scarcity on panic buying by motorists and sharp practices by some retail outlets who are hoarding the commodity, thereby frustrating efforts to stem the scarcity. He said the NNPC had informed the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, of these sharp practices by some petrol stations’ owners for adequate sanctions against them.
He said: “Panic buying has persisted in spite of our appeal to motorists. Secondly, some retail outlets are hoarding the product by dispensing from only one pump head. We have reported some of them to the DPR and we believe appropriate sanctions will be meted out to them appropriately. Also, a source in the DPR disclosed that the scarcity currently being experienced in Abuja is as a result of panic buying and not because of non-availability of petrol.
According to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, DPR officers in depots across the country and even in the FCT have been sending in reports of availability of the commodity at the various depots and liftings by trucks to various petrol stations. The source said: “The DPR had also had discussions with a number of petrol stations’ owners who told us that panic buying is responsible for the long queues.
“A particular owner of one of the petrol stations told us that he received a tanker load of fuel on Friday morning and is expecting to receive another consignment of the product before the end of the day. So, it is evident that the product is not scarce, just people buying the commodity out of fear of the unknown.”
In addition, the source urged motorists to avoid panic buying as there are large quantity of the products in depots across the country. In the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, almost all the petrol stations in Wuse, Maitama, Nyanya, Abuja-Keffi expressway, Asokoro, Jabi, Gwarinpa, Kubwa Expressway, Airport Road among others were closed while the few that were selling had long queues of motorists to contend with.
Some residents told Vanguard that they had to abandon their vehicles at home throughout the weekend, hoping to conserve the little fuel they had for their journey to their various offices during the week. Some of the respondents called on the Federal Government to intervene urgently and bring the situation under control, before it escalates.
Fuel scarcity has also worsened in Lagos with long queues observed in filling stations in some parts of the city. Vanguard learnt that the situation was made worse by the agitation of independent marketers that the Federal Government needs to pay them the difference occasioned by the sudden reduction from N97 to N87 per litre. The marketers had claimed to have imported fuel earlier based on the N97 price and had expected to be reimbursed.
To make good their threat, they have resorted to hoarding the product, thereby creating artificial scarcity. Most filling stations now open at night and sell at N100 per litre. Techno, Oando and MRS filling stations on Ojodu-Abiodun Road, by Ojodu Berger area of Lagos were seen closed when Vanguard visited. Vehicles were parked along the road hoping to get the product, while the attendants refused to comment on the situation.
Residents of Enugu and its environs have also lamented the scarcity of petroleum product. A motorist, Mr. Amaechi Ukwuani, regretted that”the scarcity has led to a hike in pump price of fuel in the state. Some of the filing stations where the product is available sell between N110 and N115 against government price of N87.
“The operators have cashed in on the scarcity to alter the meter reading. The quantity of product they dispense per litre is less than what it ought to be. Apart from the alteration, the quality of the product is questionable too. The situation has led to hike in fares for inter-city and intra-city transport services.”