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Fuel scarcity: Petrol hawkers take over Lagos, Abuja roads

Nigeria’s fuel supply glitch which entered its third day, Wednesday, continued unabated, as most of the filling stations visited by newsmen in both Lagos and Abuja were either out of supply or had little quantity of petroleum products to dispense.

The situation in Ikeja, Ogba, Ikoyi, Maryland, Apapa- Oshodi Expressway and Airport Road, remained tough as long queues of vehicles dotted the entrance of the filling stations, thus compounding the traffic situation on the affected roads.

And to make brisk business out of the of fuel supply shortages, several youths were seen on Airport road in Lagos with jerry cans of fuel, engaging in black market transactions and selling 10 litres of fuel for about N2, 500 as against the pump price of N1,450.

Findings at Apapa axis revealed that most depot owners were rationing supplies in order not to run out of stock in the days ahead.

An official with one of the major depots told newsmen that, no depot owner would want to truck out products in a rush, since they were not sure when the next supply would come.

‘‘ As I speak to you, the vessel we are expecting at Atlas Cove has not arrived. We had projected that the vessel would arrive today, but from the look of things that may not happen until Friday. So before then, depot owners would have to ration supplies, which would further compound the situation.

You know that there are a lot of processes involved in the discharge of petroleum products. The ship we are expecting at Atlas Cove cannot berth at the regular depots because of the shallow depth of the waterways. We will have to do Ship- to-Ship (STS) transfer, and this equally takes time. I expect that by next week,things should normalise,’’ he assured.

Meanwhile, the Federal Executive Council (FEC), presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, yesterday mandated the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Ibe Kachikwu, and the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Maikanti Baru, to clear the fuel queues in Abuja and Lagos by the weekend.

This was as motorists around Abuja blamed owners of filling stations for selling petroleum products below capacity, thereby causing artificial scarcity of petroleum products.

A cross section of them made the complaints while reacting to the current vehicular queues that reappeared at the stations since Tuesday in the FCT. The motorists, expressed displeasure that they had to queue up for products that the government insisted are available.

A random survey revealed that the NNPC, Conoil, NIPCO and Texaco on Airport Road, were dispensing the products below capacity with few pumps.

At the Texaco filling station, a motorist, Saleh Ibrahim, said “we heard there would be an increase in price to N205 and that is why there are queues.

“What is paining me is that this station that sells fuel from all its pumps is now dispensing on both sides of one pump and see the queue’’.

At the Conoil station, which was also dispensing from two pumps, the station manager, who preferred anonymity, said he was expecting products delivery.

However, an angry motorist who overheard the conversation shouted “there is fuel. Why are these trucks here if you don’t have fuel? They are only hoarding the products,” he charged.

An angry motorist, Ishola Owolabi, said: “I heard there is enough petrol at the depots so who is to blame for this?

“Until people start taking responsibility for lapses on their line of duty, we will not get anywhere in this country? If government is saying there is fuel, then why are there queues?

“I know how the industry works, these products are tracked. People should start getting sanctions for not doing their jobs, only then will we start making headway.’’

At the Darnana filling station on airport road, a motorist Collins Osewingie, said he was there early but could not get the product.

“I came to buy petrol at about 11:00 a.m.; There are just two vehicles left in front of me only for the attendants to start locking the gates by 3:40 p.m. that petrol has been exhausted.

“Yet look outside, see vendors selling black market directly in front of the station. This is unfair and callous. I expect that at this stage Nigeria should have overcome all these shenanigans,’’ he said.

Meanwhile, A.Y.M. Shafa station, which hitherto sold at N143 and had a large clientele, had gone back to the N145 ceiling even with longer queue than usual.

A petrol attendant told newsmen anonymously, that “we also heard of the price increase but you can see we are selling from almost all our pumps although the queues are not abating’’.

At the Conoil opposite the NNPC towers in the metropolis where the filling station was also under-dispensing, a motorist, Shade Alonge, said it was sad that even in the heart of town, the station could be brazen enough to sell with few pumps.

“There is nothing like panic buying here. If I had fuel, I won’t be here. I don’t remember when I filled my tank last so if I go low on petrol shouldn’t I top up?

“I’m supposed to be at work now. Just imagine the number of wasted manpower on the queues right now.

“People that should be doing something productive are on queues looking for products that the government insists are available,’’ Alonge said.

But spokesperson for the Department of Petroleum Resources in Abuja, Mr Saidu Bulama, said the department was not resting on its oars in monitoring developments to ensure the queues totally disappear.

“As I’m speaking to you, I have been on the field since morning with the Zonal Controller monitoring the situation.

“I can tell you that the queues are easing up now. If you claim that your pumps have faults we seal that pump and you have to pay a fee before you can re-use it.

“We are ensuring that the products coming out of the depots are being channeled rightly. We have 22,000 litres at the NNPC station on airport road and we have 13,000 litres at Major Oil in Zuba.

“We have stationed people there and the stations are complying. We only urge motorists to be patient. The queues will disappear very soon,’’ Bulama said.

A source at the Petroleum Products Pricing Agency said: “I don’t know how that rumour gained grounds. It is a mere rumour. There is no plan to increase any petroleum product.’’

The NNPC spokesman, Mr Ndu Ughamadu, had on Nov. 30 and Dec. 7, released statements assuring Nigerians that petroleum product were not scarce.

“There is no plan whatsoever to increase the prices of petroleum products both at the ex-depot level and pump price ahead of the forthcoming yuletide,’’ Ughamadu said.

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