Petrol scarcity worsened across the country yesterday, crippling cities and hitting businesses hard.
Coupled with an epileptic power supply, life has become tougher for artisans, who rely on petrol-powered generators to earn a living.
The cost of transportation also increased across the country as the scarcity entered its fourth week.
Nigerians have been spending hours on queues since the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited announced the discovery of “emulsion particles” in the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) cargoes shipped to Nigeria from Artway, Belgium, by its agents.
The Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA), on February 1, said methanol above Nigeria’s specification was discovered in a limited quantity of petrol in the supply chain.
The government blamed the scarcity on efforts to quarantine un-evacuated volumes of the toxic petrol.
Despite NNPC’s promise that about 2.5 billion litres of PMS were being expected by the end of last month, the situation has worsened.
There were lamentations in many states yesterday.
In Osun, residents decried hike in fares, which increased by over 100 per cent.
Motorists and motorcyclists kept vigil at petrol stations, with queues stretching over several kilometres.
Some petrol stations sold for between N200 to N250 per litre in Ilesha, Ife, Otan, Ila, Ede, Iwo, Okini and Ikirun.
A motorist, Mr Segun Adeyemi, said: “I bought petrol this morning at the rate of N200 per litre. I paid N3,000 for fuel but the attendant deducted N100 while dispensing.”
Anambra residents lamented the scarcity, with pump prices varying in different stations.
In Awka, the state capital, some filling stations sold petrol at N175 per litre; others sold at N200.
In the commercial city of Onitsha, the pump price rose to as high as N300. Some service stations sold at N250 per litre.
Most of the petrol stations in Nnewi sold for between N185 and N210.
Many stations in Anambra have remained shut since last week.
In Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, the price remained at N250 per litre.
It was worse two weeks ago when some stations sold at between N500 and N600 per litre.
It was learnt that the adjustment in price was due to an agreement reached between the independent petroleum marketers and the government.
There has also been an increase in transportation fares and prices of products.
In Imo State, a litre of petrol was sold at between N180 and N200, resulting in increased cost of goods and services.
Residents of Warri, Effurun and environs also felt the effects of the scarcity.
In Warri/Sapele, Effurun/Sapele and PTI Roads in Warri South and Uvwie council areas, most filling stations were closed.
The few stations that opened at intervals sold above pump price.
At one of the stations, the product was sold at N200 per litre.
It was gathered that others that opened briefly sold between N185 and N210.
Some motorists alleged marketers were hoarding the product.
In Asaba, the Delta capital, and environs, a litre of petrol was sold for N220 per litre.
It was the same in Ibuzor, Oshimili North, Ogwashi-Uku, Aniocha South and Isselu-Uku and Aniocha North local government areas.
Many petrol stations have been under lock due to the non-availability of the products.
The scarcity also led to a hike in transportation fares within the Asaba.
Commercial tricycles charge N100 for a distance within Asaba that normally cost N50, while transport fares for commercial buses shuttling between Asaba and Onitsha have increased from N150 per trip to N500.
In Ogun State, most service stations did not have the product.
From Ajebo to Sapon, there are 13 filling stations, but none of them sold fuel in the day.
It was the same at Abiola Way stretching through Olorunsogo and beyond.
It was learnt that few of the marketers that had the product resorted to selling between N185 and N210 per litre. They mostly sold from around 6.30p.m.
The scarcity bit hard in parts of Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
In some filling stations, hoodlums coordinated vehicles, collecting at least N500 from each motorist before allowing them in.
Petrol attendants also asked motorists to part with at least N1,000 depending on the volume of fuel purchased.
The scarcity of the product worsened in Abuja and Lagos.
There were endless vehicular queues around all the petrol stations that sold the product.
IPMAN urges NNPC to increase supply
The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) National President, Alhaji Debo Ahmed, urged the NNPC to increase the supply of petrol to 21 inland depots across the country.
He noted that there was a need to decentralise the depots from which the marketers lift the product.
He told one of our correspondents that marketers were lifting the product from private depots in Lagos, which he said makes the supply process cumbersome for the marketers.
The IPMAN boss explained that the break in the supply chain during the issue of the toxic fuel created a supply gap that has not been bridged.
“If there is a break in demand chain it is always difficult to meet up. Moreover, it is only NNPC who imports. So, NNPC has to increase its importation level to meet up the demand.
“They should import to those 21 government depots so that they can increase availability.
“If they have the product they should increase availability by pumping to these 21 inland depots.
“Everybody is buying from private depots. The time gap between Lagos, Maiduguri, Abuja and other places is still part of the problem. It depends on when you get your product.
Ordinarily, it takes seven days to transport the product from Lagos to Maiduguri. The whole thing is compounding because everybody has to go to Lagos.”
On the ex-depot price, he said: “The private depots are selling between N180 to N182 per litre.”
NUPENG talks tough
IPMAN and the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) are at loggerheads over the pump price of petrol.
As fuel scarcity worsened in many parts of the country in the last fortnight, many fuel stations increased the pump price of petrol higher than the official N165 per litre.
NUPENG issued a 24-hour ultimatum to IPMAN members on Sunday to revert to the official pump price of N165 per litre of petrol, but IPMAN says such directive is not within the former’s purview.
Chairman, IPMAN Benin Depot, Mr Douglas Iyike, said NUPENG’s ultimatum was misplaced.
He emphasised that NUPENG as a union had no powers to take over the duties of regulatory agencies in the petroleum sector.
According to him, the increment was due to the hike in the ex-depot price of petrol which should be the area where NUPENG should direct its threat rather than directing same at marketers.
“We have read in newspapers the supposed 24-hour notice issued to marketers regarding the increment in the pump price of petrol.
“We want to place it on record that the increment is not due to any fault of oil marketers because we can only sell based on the price at which we buy petrol from the depots.
There has been an increment in the ex-depot price which has left marketers with no option but to increase the pump price of petrol above the official N165 per litre in recent weeks.
“We believe that addressing the issue of the ex-depot price should be the focus of NUPENG and not attempting to picket petrol stations which might lead to a breakdown of law and order,” he said.
Iyike urged NUPENG to channel its energy to the activities of some of its members who engage in reckless driving, illegal charges and diversion of petroleum products.
TUC reviews sit-at-home directive
The Trade Union Congress (TUC) has said it would review reports on the challenge of fuel scarcity across the country before taking a decision today.
Its President, Quadri Olaleye, said reports from the field would determine if the Congress would direct its members to stop going to work or not.
There is a standing instruction from the TUC directing workers in statutory corporations and government-owned companies to stop going to work if the challenge of fuel scarcity across the country persists for the next few days.
He said: “There is a standing instruction to declare sit-at-home for our members. We will only reinforce that standing instruction.
“I will have a meeting with cabinet members tomorrow (today to refresh the consultations with our National Administrative Council.
“We need to get reports from those we assigned to review if fuel queues have resurfaced in the country and take appropriate action.”
NLC angry over scarcity
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) decried the scarcity, saying it has brought untold hardship to millions of commuters and drivers.
Its President, Ayuba Wabba, in a statement, called on all petrol marketers to show sensitivity to the difficulties faced by Nigerians and ensure prompt discharge of petrol to consumers.
The statement reads: “The Nigeria Labour Congress condemns the current petrol scarcity all over the country which has exposed millions of Nigerian drivers and commuters to great hardship.
“We understand that the current situation is as a result of petroleum products hoarding.
“We call on all petrol marketers to show sensitivity to the difficulties faced by the generality of Nigerians and ensure prompt discharge of petrol to consumers.
“We also call on relevant regulatory agencies of government to rein in the activities of unscrupulous petroleum products marketers who go devilish miles to make dishonest gains and at the detriment of their fellow citizens.
“We also state that this situation reinforces our argument for domestic refining of petroleum.”