Despite assurances by various government agencies and officials that the current fuel crisis will abate, the situation across the country portends a bleak Christmas, as the scarcity bites harder and thousands are forced to sleep in filling stations to purchase the product.
When the scarcity began, both the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, and the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Maikanti Baru, said it was going to be restored in a matter of days.
When the crisis worsened, following the threat by the Independent Petroleum Products Marketers of Nigeria, IPMAN, to embark on a nationwide strike, Mr. Kachikwu, following the marching orders by the Executive Council of the Federation, FEC, said the problem was going to end in a few days.
Subsequent assurances from the NNPC was that enough had been done, by increasing the number of trucks of petroleum products to major cities to take care of the scarcity.
But, days after those assurances, the situation in Lagos, Abuja and most other major cities across the country remain far from normal, as fuel remains in short supply, with attendant high prices.
The resultant impact has been rising transportation fares by almost 100 per cent, as Nigerians prepare for Christmas.
In Abule-egba, Lagos, many stations were closed, while the few that were opened sold petrol at between N200 and N250 per litre.
Along the Lagos-Abeokuta expressway, most filling stations in places like Sango-Ijoko remain shut.
In other parts of Ogun State, majority of the petrol stations were shut and not dispensing products.
The few stations that sold petrol, including the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, depot were flooded by motorists with queues extending up to three kilometres.
Only a few cars were seen on the roads in Abeokuta, the state capital, while passengers were seen trekking to offices and back home.
The queues in Lagos filling stations have continued to grow, with most motorists abandoning their vehicles at home and commuting with public transport for lack of fuel.
Lagos residents lamented the impact of the fuel crisis on their lives, especially the rising cost of transportation.
“On a normal day, Obalende to Ajah is just N250. But, the fare has now doubled N500. When you question the drivers, the response is that a litre of fuel is sold for N200.”
A corps member, who simply identified herself as Mariam said the scarcity was taking its toll on her.
“Marketers are making a kill from the crisis. Commuters are charged N1,000 from Ojota to Mile 2. I hope the federal government does something urgent about this, especially in this festive period,” Mariam said.
In Ekiti, Ondo and Osun, petrol was sold between N190 and N250 per litre in the filling stations that had the product.
It was gathered that some independent marketers sold as high as N250 in some parts of Ekiti between Thursday and Friday as the situation got worse.
“Some major marketers are selling at the normal rate of N145, but you cannot stand the queue,”
The situation is worse in Ondo State where “black market” became rampant in Oda and other outskirts of Akure.
Some black marketers sold for as high as N300 per litre in plastic containers.
At the few fuel stations where the product was sold, the queue and crowd became so unbearable that the fuel attendants resorted to issuing numbers to customers.
In Osogbo, the Osun State capital, fuel stations selling at N200 per litre had shorter queues than those selling above the amount.
In the South-east, fuel prices have risen steadily throughout the week, leading to the increase in both intra and intercity transportation fares.
For instance, the fares from Enugu to Nsukka, which usually cost N500, now cost between N700 to N800.
Fuel price in Enugu initially increased to N190, before going up to an average of between N200 and N230. On Friday, a litre of the product was sold for between N250 to N260 per litre in most filling stations in the state.
The situation is similar in Anambra State, where a resident, Geofrey Ndubuisi, told our correspondent, fuel was being sold at around N210 and N250 in Onitsha, the commercial capital of the state.
Mr. Ndubuisi also said that in Awka, fuel was sold at over N250 per litre, where it was available.
“There is scarcity of the product and there are long queues in the few filling stations in the state with product,” he added.
However, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) compelled some marketers to sell the product at the government regulated price of N145 per litre.
The team, which came from Enugu Office, also sealed 12 filling stations, including an NNPC mega station for hoarding the product.
Some marketers, however, resisted the DPR team.
The situation is not different in Owerri, Imo State capital as well as Aba, the commercial centre of Abia State, where residents said fuel pump price increased to N250 and above per litre.The impact is the same on transport fares by commercial transport operators.
In Ebonyi State, the retail pump price has risen to an average of N200 and N250 in many filling stations, while the price is as high as N270 and N300 per litre in the black markets.
Many filling stations did not open for business, while long queues built outside most other stations visited by our correspondent on Friday.
Prior to the latest scarcity and hike in fuel prices, tricycle operators were charging N30 per passenger for short distances. But, the fare has now been raised to N50, with long distance trips now attracting between N80 and N120 fare per passenger.
On Friday, many filling stations in Asaba, the Delta State capital still sold petrol at N145 per litre.
In Edo, the state government waded in to ensure marketers sell the product at N145 per litre.
A government team working with the DPR to monitor petrol stations in the state vowed to prosecute marketers found to be involved in diversion of products.
The Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie, said the monitoring exercise is to ensure that products allocated to the state were dispensed to buyers at the official pump prices, to save the people the hardship being experienced by consumers in other states.
“Marketers are hereby warned to ensure judicious dispensing of allocated products, as government will not hesitate to apprehend and prosecute any erring marketer,” a government statement said.
However, in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, the fuel supply crisis worsened as almost all filling stations around the state capital and environs sold petrol at about N200 per litre.
Most filling stations belonging to major petroleum marketers were not selling fuel in the city .
NORTHERN STATES TOO
In Kaduna, most petrol stations visited were not selling the product. That allowed a free reign to black marketers who sold for between N280 and N350 per litre.
Israel Bulus, a taxi driver who spoke to our reporter, said this is the worst scarcity he has experienced in Kaduna in the last five years.
“You cannot get fuel even at the black market prices. I can tell you with authority that not more than 10 filling stations are selling fuel in the state capital,” he said.
“In Bauchi there is no fuel at all. The few vehicles you see on the streets are those that got fuel from the few black market sellers at exorbitant prices.
He said a litre is sold for between N300 and N400 at the black market.
In Gusau, Zamfara State, authorities struggled to contain the activities of black market operators who sold petrol to residents at over N200 per litre. The few filling stations that sold the product had very long queues.
Ango Haruna, the Controller in charge of Gusau DPR field office, led the DPR surveillance team of the department to inspect some filling stations in the state.
He said some residents, including commercial motorcycles riders, connived with the black marketers to buy the commodity from filling stations and resell to desperate buyers.
“We observe that some members of the public involve in panic buying of the commodity. We noticed that filling stations owners were also conniving with such people, which is against the rule and regulations of the DPR.
“That is why many filling stations in Gusau metropolis today were filled up with the jerry cans which led to long queue in most of the filling stations in the state capital,” he said
Mr. Haruna said even though most of the filling stations in the state had now complied with the order by selling the product at government approved price of N145 Naira per litre ‘but the major problem we are facing is hawking and panic buying’.
“Since government had supplied enough commodity to the marketers we will not relent in our efforts to enforce compliance,” he explained.
APC, PDP REACT
Nigeria’s ruling APC on Friday reacted to the petrol scarcity, saying there was no basis for it.
“There’s no ‘actual scarcity’”, the APC said in a statement on Twitter Friday afternoon.
The party blamed marketers and panic buying amidst Yuletide holidays for the lingering scarcity.
In its reaction, the opposition PDP blamed President Muhammadu Buhari who is also the Minister of Petroleum for the scarcity.
“The unbearable fuel situation in the country is completely unacceptable. Mr. President must become up and doing. He should not allow anybody to push him to claim that the issue of fuel scarcity is not under the purview of the Minister of Petroleum Resources.
“When he took office as President of Nigeria and also as the Minister of Petroleum Resources, he was aware that the buck stops at his table,” the party said in a statement by its spokesperson, Kola Ologbodiyan.