Five days after long queues of motorists surfaced again in petrol stations across the country, normalcy seems to have returned to Lagos as majority of the filling stations visited by Daily Sun yesterday, were seen dispensing fuel showing the supply situation has improved.
The latest development may not be unconnected with the threat issued by DPR to retail outlets warning them against hoarding or be ready to pay a penalty of N150, 000 per dispensing machine found to have products, but not selling to customers.
Newsmen while on a routine visit to some filling stations within the Oko- Oba, Agege, Ikeja and Apapa Oshodi Expressway, noticed that virtually all the fuel pumps were dispensing, a situation that led to free entry and exits of vehicles.
Prior to the DPR warning, retail outlets with five or more pumps, restricted sale of petrol to about two, thereby causing congestion and pressure on the few number of pumps available.
On the ever busy Airport, some youths that were seen on Wednesday, hawking fuel in a move to make brisk business of the shortage in petroleum product supply could not been seen as at 2pm yesterday, an indication that the business was no longer profitable anymore for them.
Meanwhile, the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, yesterday assured that queues arising from insufficient petrol supply in Abuja and neighbouring states will thin down by the weekend, while Lagos will be cleared by Friday (today).
At a press briefing in Abuja, Kachikwu said the Ministry had since directed its regulatory agencies, including the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) and Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to ensure stricter monitoring of supply and distribution.
Kachikwu added that the Ministry and its agencies have activated mechanisms to ensure 24-hour loading and distribution till the situation normalises.
“The queues in Lagos have substantially disappeared. There are fewer queues here and there but nothing substantial. The ones in Abuja, we are tackling. I’ve looked at the map provided by the NNPC on this and the large areas of focus are Lagos, Abuja, and some parts of Benue, which I think has been dealt with now. Port Harcourt shows a bit of cyclical possibility of queues, but I think that is moderated and other than that, I think the rest of the country are largely liquid.
Additional trucking to major cities by NNPC using their strategic reserves from Suleja, Minna, Gusau and Gombe, Abuja, Kano, Sokoto axis feeding the North West and North-East regions is ongoing.
“There are also plans to flood the market with more products to cushion effect of over-subscription and sharp practices through; Kaduna refinery is producing now, likewise Port Harcourt refinery that has been re-streamed and to start producing 2.1m litres of PMS per day.
On the long-term petrol sustainability programme, Kachikwu said a comprehensive refinery revamp project was ongoing, adding that modular refineries will complement that.
“There is also the implementation of petroleum policy as approved by FEC. This is a major enabler for downstream sector investments. We are carrying out massive infrastructure revamp programme that includes depots, pipelines and other key areas”, he added.
The Minister insisted that persistent petrol queues in various fuel stations across the country sprang from hoarding “as a result of unfounded rumour of impending product price increase”.
This he said, created a ripple effect across major cities and resulted in panic buying.
“What caused some of these, first of all, there were some level of gaps in terms of volume. That gap was because the NNPC is the only one importing most of the products at the moment. Most of the people we expected in the private sector to import product were not able to bring in products, some of them have pushed back the days they were supposed to bring in products to January and so you have NNPC rapidly trying to fill up products requirements in terms of 100 per cent capacity basis.
Luckily, there was enough storage which they are releasing right now. They are also making emergency steps to try and fill whatever gaps in December. Post-January, there isn’t much of an issue because most of the deliveries expected should be coming in.
In December, we are looking at about four cargoes coming in within the next few days, but cumulatively, 20 to 30 cargoes. It is a timing issue because some of the products expected from the private sector didn’t come in, but they are making efforts to quicken the ones they are expecting, and in the interim, they are resorting to what is in the storage,’’ he explained.