Nigerians from different walks of life are now suffering from effects of fuel scarcity that has been the lot of the country in the past two weeks and with no visible relief in sight
| By Anayo Ezugwu | May 11, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
ALEX Wilcott, a chartered accountant and public commentator, will not forget in a hurry the argument he had with his son on Tuesday, May 5, when he was about to go on appointment. Having discovered that the fuel in the car would not get him to the place of appointment on Lagos mainland, he sought to know where he could easily buy fuel so that he could meet up with the appointment. Wilcott said he discovered that there was a filling station selling at official price of N87 litre and there was another filling station selling at N200 per litre. The son advised him to go where it was sold for N200 so that he would not be wasting his time. But he refused, saying he would take his turn to buy at the official pump price.
But after queueing at the filling station for almost one hour, it turned out to be a waste of time as the fuel attendant declared that there was no more fuel to sell. He had to go to the filling station where he had to pay N200 per litre and in no time he was served.
Wilcott is not alone in this experience. Many Nigerians who can afford it now fuel their car at that price. This has made the life of many Nigerians hard as the situation is getting tougher as fuel scarcity across the country persists. A lot of motorists spend hours at the filling stations to buy fuel above the pump price of N87 per litre.
Realnews learnt that many persons, especially commercial vehicle operators, have had to sleep at some of the filling stations in Lagos, to buy fuel. At Oando filling station, Ile-Epo, Agege, Lagos, some commuters spent hours on Thursday, May 7, without getting fuel to buy. A commercial bus driver, who gave his name as Jacob, told Realnews that he spent seven hours at the filling station without buying fuel.
“I left my house at around 11a.m in the terrible heat in search of fuel, and after driving up to a mile and visited eight filling stations, I landed at Oando filling station. It was hell. Yes, I called it hell because it was a very big battle ground as every buyer fought to get served. Hundreds of buyers were beaten for misbehaving by the mobile policemen and soldiers in charge. Even the policemen later fought with soldiers. To see how bad we Nigerians are, the branch manager was beaten by a soldier for filling four 50 litres kegs of petrol and kept in his office to sell to those interested in black market,” James said.
Even commuters are not spared of the hardship as people spend more time on the road to get to their destinations. The transport fare has increased by 50 percent in some routes, and 80 to 100 percent in others. From Ikeja to Ogba, which used to cost N100, the fare is now N150. From Ikeja to toll-gate, near Ota in Ogun State, which used to cost between N150 and N200 at the rush hour, the fare now goes for N300 to N400. These increases are applicable to all the routes in and around Lagos State.
A survey by Realnews indicated that while most of the filling stations in the country were closed due to non-availability of the product, the few that had it sold it for N150 to N200 per litre. In Lagos State, some of the major filling stations that had the product were selling it at the approved price of N87, while others sold at N150 per litre.
The scarcity has created business for roadside sellers who dispensed the product from big jerry cans at N400 per litre in many cases. Street urchins who had established black market outlets in many parts of their areas of operation are making brisk business as vehicle owners and residents who could not wait in the long queues for long hours preferred to buy from them at skyrocketed prices.
Realnews investigations in Lagos showed that five litres of fuel sold at N2,000 in the black market while 30 litres went for N9,000. This translated into N200 per litre. Oando and MRS filing stations along Ogunlisi Road, Ojodu were besieged by hundreds of private and commercial vehicle owners as well as those who wanted to buy in jerry cans for their generators. The situation usually got worse towards evening when attendants could not control the nuisance caused by commercial vehicle operators who formed parallel lines causing a heavy build-up of traffic along the road.
At Awolowo Way, Ikeja, Lagos, black market traders were everywhere with fuel in jerry cans which they sold far above the pump price while most filling stations claimed they had run out of stock. The situation further affirmed the position held by some independent petroleum marketers that the situation might remain chaotic in the next two weeks until the federal government cleared the issue of subsidy.
To make matters worse, the independent petroleum marketers were said to have stopped loading the product because the federal government overlooked them in the recent payment of subsidy arrears. Tokunbo Korodo, chairman, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, Lagos Zone, told a national newspaper that the independent marketers were seriously aggrieved because the federal government overlooked them.
“The independent marketers are seriously aggrieved; they accused the government of being partial by only paying the major marketers. They too have locked up their tank farms against tanker drivers. So, they are not loading. The scarcity might persist for now because the major marketers are loading what they have at hand. They are also making threats to the government that the balance of their money should be paid at the agreed date, which is two weeks after the first payment,” he said.
Korodo said the federal government should urgently settle the independents marketers to ensure adequate supply of fuel, adding that what was being sold currently was only coming from the major marketers. “We expect the government to call the independent marketers too and to come to a conclusion on the amount involved and the modality of payment.”
Meanwhile, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and its downstream subsidiary, the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company, PPMC, have assured Nigerians that they would resolve the issue of fuel scarcity in few days time. The corporation said it had more than 1.2 billion litres of petrol in stock.
Ohi Alegbe, group general manager, group public affairs department, NNPC, in a statement on Thursday, May 7, said the figure translated to 31 days sufficiency, going by the 40 million litres daily consumption of the product in the country. According to him, “21 additional vessels laden with petroleum products are in offshore Lagos waiting to berth. NNPC has made adequate arrangements to ensure energy sufficiency in the country and reassured motorists that the noticeable queues at the filling stations would thin out in the days’ ahead.” The NNPC image maker said the corporation also had 21 days sufficiency of Automotive Gas Oil, AGO, otherwise known as diesel and 18 days sufficiency of Dual Purpose Kerosene, DPK, otherwise known as kerosene. He said as part of efforts to ensure petroleum products’ sufficiency and distribution, the NNPC embarked on aggressive reception depots rehabilitation in 2011. “As at today, 18 depots out of the 23 depots have been fully recovered with the exception of Makurdi, Yola and Maiduguri due to the activities of pipeline vandals,” he said.
At press time, Nigerians were still wallowing in the unsavoury effect of the fuel scarcity. But for how long would this malady be allowed to persist?