Acute kerosene scarcity has hit consumers nationwide. The development may force residents to use charcoal and firewood which experts say are harmful, besides having serious consequence on the environment Indeed, for years running, Nigerians had to contend with scarcity of kerosene, queuing long hours and in some cases, sleeping at few retail stations that have the commodity, even at exorbitant prices and far above the recommended retail price of N50 per litre. Findings show that the scarcity has worsened as no retail station in Lagos and Ogun states have the stock. The situation at the Apapa depot is very worrisome as many marketers including NIPCO, Aiteo, Conoil, Forte Oil, Mobil, among others, cannot boast of a litre of kerosene in their storage tanks. The situation may have been further compounded by the inability of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to issue import licences, on one hand and the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) to release import permit, on the other hand. Claims by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC) on its website that it injected 1,289,801,298 litres of kerosene into the market between January and November 2015,may have been punctured with prevailing realities, as marketers have since faulted the claim, insisting that for the better part of last year, kerosene was not available at the depots. At the moment, only the NNPC imports kerosene, and it supplies NNPC retail stations and a few major and independent marketers to retail. Unfortunately, the four refineries that ought to have come to the rescue are performing far below capacity utilization, a situation which has led the NNPC to begin tinkering with the option of bringing in private operators to run them. But, stakeholders have consistently faulted the supply monopoly given the NNPC as far as kerosene imports are concerned, submitting that the corporation lacks the capacity to supply the entire country’s kerosene needs, since it remained a household and industrial commodity with multiple uses. Worsening the situation, the Federal Government through a memo signed by L.N.S Madubuike, on behalf of the Managing Director, Pipeline Product Marketing Company(PPMC),Mrs. Esther Nnamdi Ogbue, directed petroleum depots to sell DPK at N73.37k per litre from the initial price of N40.90k per litre. Reacting to the twin challenge of scarcity and price change,an industry source who pleaded not to be named, said the shortage would not abate until the NNPC relaxes its monopoly approach on kerosene importation. It lamented that a situation where government is trying to deregulate the sector through the backdoor portends grave danger for the economy and downstream sector at large. The source also expressed concern that even when the product was sold at N50 a litre, marketers don’t have access to it not to talk of when it has directed that the product be sold at a higher price. Meanwhile, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), is consulting with stakeholders to seek support for the planned expansion of its retail outlets across the country. The move is to ensure efficient distribution of products. Under the plan, NNPC will expand the market share of its retail business to an appreciable level from the current 12 per cent by building a mega station in all the 109 senatorial districts in the country. Flagging off the consultations last week with a visit to the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, the Group Executive Director (GED), Commercial and Investment, Babatunde Adeniran, who led the delegation, said the visit was to solicit for the support of government to provide lands for building new NNPC petrol stations in the state. “Our mission is to build three mega stations, one each in the three senatorial districts of the state. We need about five thousand square meters for each of the station. Each station will have six pumps including that of Liquefied Petroleum Gas which is cooking gas,” the GED said. Meanwhile, the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) will from tomorrow shut down operations of the Lagos State Government and its other agencies in protest against alleged N224 million debt. Already, the union said over 1,000 tankers have been mobilized to block the entrances of the state government secretariat at Alausa, Ikeja, as well as other offices belonging to the state. The South-west Chairman of the union, Tokunbo Korodo, said the union had already informed the police about the protest expected to force the state government to pay.