As Nigerians continue to groan under the biting fuel scarcity, there seems to be no clear cut assurance as to how long the situation will persist. Both the Department of Petroleum Resources and the major oil marketers dish out conflicting statements on the issue
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Mar. 17, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
AS the on-going fuel scarcity in the country continues to bite harder, there are conflicting statements on how long the situation would last. The Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, on Tuesday, March 4, said the current scarcity might likely continue beyond this month due to the non-renewal of contract papers for some independent marketers to import the product. Aliyu Halidu, zonal operations controller, Abuja, who represented the DPR director, dropped the bomb shell at the budget defence of the department before the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Upstream).
He alleged that the non-payment of subsidy claims to the marketers by the government had also hindered the importation of the product, resulting in shortage in supply. Halidu added that the marketers were not comfortable with the current pump price of N97 per litre and wanted it to be increased. According to him, the marketers had been complaining that the operational cost and other logistics had seriously eaten deep into their profit, making it difficult for them to break even at the current price. Halidu also noted that the shortage in the supply of petrol was equally being affected by increased illegal bunkering in the country.
But the position of the DPR on the lingering fuel scarcity ran contrary to the assurances by marketers that the long queues of motorists at filling stations would ease slightly by Thursday, March 6. This, according to them, followed the release of about 100 million litres of the product to retail outlets by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and other importers on Monday, March 3. The marketers said the distribution of imported petrol to filling stations had since commenced nationwide. The marketers disclosed that vessels laden with imported petroleum products had berthed at the high sea. One of the major marketers who pleaded not to be identified, said that the delay by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA in approving the first quarter fuel allocation to marketers was responsible for the scarcity. He added that ships laden with petrol had started to berth in the high sea since the early hours of Tuesday.
In Lagos State, some of the major filling stations that had the product were selling it at the approved price of N97, while others sold at N100 per litre. The scarcity has created business for roadside sellers who dispensed the product from big jerry cans at N200 per litre. Street urchins who had established black market outlets in areas worst hit by the scarcity made brisk business as vehicle owners and residents who were unable to wait in the long queues preferred to buy from them at skyrocketed prices.
Realnews investigation of the situation in Lagos showed that five litres of fuel sold at N1,000 in the black market while 30 litres went for N6,000. This translated into N200 per litre. On Monday, March 3, 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 worsened 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 road, Ikeja, 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 major petroleum marketers that the situation might remain chaotic in the next three weeks until new consignments arrived in the country.
Meanwhile the NNPC has described the current petrol scarcity as artificially induced. It said that fresh measures were being put in place to halt the fuel scarcity in some parts of the country particularly, in Lagos and its environs. Omar Farouk Ibrahim, acting group general manager, group public affairs division, NNPC, said in a statement that some marketers were hoarding the product, despite measures put in place to ensure availability of fuel at filling stations.
The NNPC spokesman stated that as the supplier of last resort, the corporation was doing everything within its mandate to alleviate the avoidable hardship caused by the scarcity. It reassured the Nigerians that the federal government had no plan to increase the price of petrol as being speculated. “It is pertinent to state for the umpteenth time that there is no plan by the federal government to increase the price of petrol. Once again, we appeal to marketers to refrain from hoarding and to members of the public not to engage in panic buying. We are convinced that in the days ahead, the fuel situation will normalise as there are enough petrol to go round.”
The PPPRA has also said it had not approved any increase in the pump price for petrol, warning that it would not hesitate to shut down any filling station found hoarding products or selling above the official price. It assured Nigerians that the official pump price for the product is still N97 per litre. Farouk Ahmed, executive secretary of the agency, said the clarification became necessary because of the reports that some petroleum marketers were hoarding fuel in anticipation of price increase.
The agency directed petroleum marketers to release for sale products in their tanks and depots at the officially approved pump price. It warned that in order to ensure compliance, the PPPRA and the DPR would work closely to monitor the situation at all retail outlets in the country.
“PPPRA wishes to further assure the Nigerian public that there are sufficient PMS in the country to guarantee uninterrupted fuel supply and motorists are therefore advised to shun panic-buying, as loading of the products has been uninterrupted in all NNPC deports across the country. PPPRA hereby directs all petroleum marketers to release for sale products in their tanks and deports and at the officially approved pump price. To ensure compliance, the PPPRA and the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, shall be working closely to monitor the situation at all retail outlets and shall not hesitate to shut down any filling station found hoarding products or selling above the official price,” he said.