There was obvious tension in Port Harcourt Rivers State at the weekend as residents and motorists were greeted with the scarcity of petroleum products causing them to make panic buying of the commodity.
Major roads experienced long queues at the petrol stations resulting in traffic jam and loss of man-hour.
Checks revealed that tension generated may have fueled speculations that the yuletide would not be without hitches usually caused by scarcity of petrol, especially during the festive period.
Further checks showed that some filling stations and black marketers have already cashed in on the situation to make brisk business as this had forced the cost of liter at filling stations to between N170 to N180 against the Federal Government fixed pump price of N145 per liter.
A surveillance by newsmen round the Port Harcourt metropolis showed that most of the filling stations have already adjusted their meters to read N170 to N180 per liter while others like the major marketers are still selling at the normal price.
As at the last check, filling stations on Eneka Igwuruta Road dispensed the product to motorists at a range of N165 to N170 per liter, while the NNPC mega station along the same road sold at the rate official rate N143 per liter.
Speaking to our correspondent, a taxi driver who identified himself as Enny Bright decried the situation and wondered why some greedy filling station owners have decided to punish the masses the more.
Apparently displeased at the perennial shortage of products around this period of the year he said angrily, “Oga, I don’t know why they have chosen to punish us the more. The situation is bad already and they want to make it worst.
“I went to buy fuel they said N170 other one said N165 per liter. I wonder how this Christmas will be. See all these filling stations along Eneka Igwuruta Road are all selling above pump price. The one that is normal is NNPC that sells at the cost of N143 per liter but the line is much”.
Another driver Emeka Mbah that plies East-West Road also corroborated Bright’s position saying that “now they choose to sell early morning and late in the night. All of them have fuel but want to make quick money to the detriment of the suffering mass. We are thinking of how to get food for our families they are busy hoarding fuel”.
On the effect of the fuel scarcity in terms of transport fare both Bright and Mbah maintained that the commercial drivers have not increased fare but did still watching the situation believe that it would be under control soon.
“Let’s believe that the situation would be under control within one week or thereabout let the Federal and State Government including other relevant authorities do something now before it is too late”.
Meanwhile, it was gathered that the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu has adduced the major cause of fuel scarcity currently being witnessed in the cities to the current shortfall in the supply of petroleum products.
It was disclosed this at a news briefing recently in Abuja where he maintained that the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was making efforts to ensure that queues disappear at filling stations in a couple of days.
“Presently queues in Lagos have reduced, we know that Lagos, Abuja, Benue, Port Harcourt were among the worst-hit areas” he stated.
Continuing, he reiterated “that Benue has been dealt with, Port Harcourt is quite moderated. Apart from these areas, other places in the country are probably liquid”.
However, the scarcity and tension generated even compelled the management of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Port Harcourt depot have resorted to night loading of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) to cushion the effect according to information.
It would be recalled that PENGASSAN has also issued a 7-day ultimatum for the Federal Government to address anti-labour practices and lawlessness in the oil industry or face a nationwide strike on the 18th December 2017.
Industry watchers said could escalate the already tense situation experienced in the last few days, saying that it could worsen if nothing is done by the Federal Government to avert this impending strike.