The fuel supply situation in the country took a turn for the worse on Tuesday as queues of desperate motorists grew longer at many petrol stations selling Premium Motor Spirit, also known as petrol, in Lagos, Ogun, Kwara and other states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory.
The corporation had assured that it has enough stock of petroleum products to ensure seamless supply and distribution across the country especially during the yuletide.
The fuel crisis was apparently part of the fallout of the controversy between the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) and the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria (DAPPMA) over ex-depot price of fuel.
It was not clear why the crisis between the Western zone of IPMAN and depot owners in Apapa area of Lagos spread to other parts of the country.
The Western zone of IPMAN had threatened to down tool on December 11 if the depot owners in Apapa did not reverse the ex-depot price of the product.
There were insinuations that the marketers may have deliberately hoarded the product in order to dispense at a prohibitive cost.
In Lagos, the scarcity took a new dimension as most fuel stations on Ikorodu Road, Kudirat Abiola Road, Falomo, Lagos Island, Victoria Island ran out of stock, leaving customers to search for the product elsewhere.
it was reported that fuel stations like Total and Mobil along Kudirat Abiola Road and MRS had supply of the product but were overwhelmed with long queues which also caused heavy traffic gridlock on the road.
At Total stations on Kudirat Abiola Road, attendants had a hectic time controlling motorists struggling to gain access into the station as a result of their impatience to stay on the queue.
One of the customers, Fatai Adigun, told newsmen that he had been in the queue for over an hour before he could access the fuel station.
He said the development was not welcome, especially as yuletide was approaching.
But there was no queue at the Oando fuel station at Ojodu Berger area of Lagos as motorists had a relatively easy time buying the product there.
One of the attendants told newsmen that his station had enough stock of the fuel to last until the end of the month.
He said stations were deliberately hoarding the product to sell at a marginal price in anticipation of the possible announcement of an increase in the pump price by the Federal Government.
Commuters began early to bear the burden of the queues in Lagos following increase in transport fare by commercial bus drivers.
The drivers lamented that they bought fuel at exorbitant cost at the black market.
For instance, fare from Ojota to Alausa in Lagos which used to be N100 was jerked up to N150.
In Abuja, also on Tuesday, fairly long queues resurfaced in fuel stations.
The queues resurfaced early in the morning at a few stations, especially in the central area.
A drive around the metropolis showed that some of the fuel stations, which hitherto had idle pump attendants, now had queues to attend to.
A civil servant, Hannah Mshelia, said: “I was on my way to work this morning and I saw a little queue at the Conoil, opposite NNPC Towers.
“I decided to top-up my fuel because you don’t know what may happen later in the day.”
Msheila confirmed that though she had heard of abundant supplies at depots from the news, she still had to buy “just in case”.
Fuel queues have also resurfaced in Sokoto metropolis and environs, creating hardship for motorists and commuters.
Some of the fuel stations belonging to IPMAN have increased the price of a litre of petrol from N145 to N150 per litre.
At NNPC mega stations and other filling stations run by major marketers, the queues were longer as they maintained the official price of N145 per litre, but were reluctant to sell to motorists.
Some motorists in queues expressed displeasure over the situation and urged the government to act fast before it degenerated into a major problem.
“We were happy that fuel scarcity during the yuletide had become history, only for the problem to resurface now.
“Efforts must be made to curb the problem, especially with the current socio-economic realities in the country,” a motorist, Sifawa Ahmad, said.
Another motorist, Mary Onya, said the situation was a source of concern and that government must take immediate action.
Sokoto Operations Controller of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Mohammed Makera, said the problem would soon ease off.
“Expectedly, the problem will soon ease off as we will find out what the problem is and everything will be under control soon.
“Officials of the DPR have embarked on sustained monitoring and surveillance and any marketer found wanting will face necessary sanctions,” Makera said.
He appealed for more patience and implored people to avoid panic buying in view of its associated dangers.
No Cause For Alarm
Ndu Ughamadu, NNPC Spokesperson, in a statement, urged Nigerians to stop panic buying, reiterating that there was enough fuel in the nation’s depots.
“In a bid to salvage the fuel supply and distribution challenges witnessed in some parts of the country due to panic buying from motorists, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Maikanti Baru, cut short his trip to London.
“Dr. Baru, who was billed to receive the Forbes Oil & Gas Man of the Year Award 2017 in the British Capital, on Tuesday, flew back home to attend to what he described as a ‘matter of urgent national importance’.
“Speaking on the development shortly before his return to the country, he called on Nigerians to stop panic buying as the corporation was doing everything within its reach to address the situation,” Ughamadu reported the NNPC boss as saying.
Ughamadu said before leaving for London, Baru had directed that more truckloads of petroleum products be dispatched to various parts of the country to cushion the effects of excessive demand caused by panic buying.
The NNPC said the ex-depot petrol price of N133.38 per litre and the pump price of N143/N145 per litre had not changed, noting that the corporation had enough stock of fuel to ensure seamless supply and distribution of products across the country.
It assured Nigerians that the corporation had the full commitment of all downstream stakeholders, including petroleum marketers and industry unions, to cooperate in achieving zero fuel scarcity this season and beyond.
“We enjoin motorists and other users of petroleum products to disregard trending rumours of an impending fuel price hike as reported in some news platforms,” Ughamadu said.
Ughamadu had last week said 25 vessels laden with petroleum products were being expected to berth in Nigeria between now and January 2018 to further boost supplies.
He also said there were enough petroleum products in the country to last until the end of the year, which would aid a hitch-free movement of motorists during and beyond the festive season.
The corporation’s disclosure was sequel to reports of threats by the Lagos chapter of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) to withdraw its services in Lagos and environs due to alleged discrepancies in ex-depot prices, among others.
He clarified that the Ejigbo Satellite Depot was fully stocked and carrying out regular loading services, adding that the depot had consistently dispensed premium motor spirit (petrol) at the approved price of N133.28 per litre contrary to allegations that it was sold at a higher price.
The state Chairman of IPMAN, Alanamu Balogun, the Vice Chairman, Gbenga Ilupeju, and the secretary, Kunle Oyenuga, had given the strike threat because members had allegedly been running their fuel stations at a loss since the past eight months.
It blamed the development on NNPC’s default in the bulk purchase agreement it signed with IPMAN to sell fuel to its members at a cost of N133.28k per litre.
It added that currently a litre of fuel was being sold to its members by DAPMAN at N141, apart from running costs, bank charges and other expenses which made it impossible for its members to sell a litre of fuel at the controlled price of N145, but N146 per litre.
The IPMAN explained that while the NNPC had refused to sell fuel to its members regularly, it (NNPC) is diverting the supplies to DAPMAN at a price of N117 per litre and DAPMAN in turn, selling to IPMAN members at N141 per litre.
IPMAN believed that NNPC was doing this to deliberately cause fuel crisis because it could not control DAPMAN not to inflate prices beyond government’s fixed prices.
A renowned petroleum engineer and former presidential aspirant, Martin Onovo, blamed the current situation on the Federal Government’s mismanagement of the economy.