AS many filling stations remained shut, the scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise known as petrol, bit harder yesterday.
The situation has led to increase in the pump price of the product which was sold for between N110 and N150 per litre at filling stations and between N200 and N300 by black marketers in some parts of the country.
But the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has assured that the queues will soon fizzle out. The corporation announced its collaboration with the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) and other downstream industry players to end the resurgence of fuel queues in some major cities, especially Lagos, and its environs.
In a statement yesterday, the NNPC stated that it had secured the commitment of the leadership of MOMAN to jointly ensure that the queues disappear in the days ahead by ramping up supplies across the country.
To achieve this, truck-out to filling stations in the Lagos area has been increased from the regular 245 to 295 trucks per day (9.7 million litres) while truck-out to fuel stations in Abuja from Suleja depot has been stepped up to 210 trucks per day (6.9 million litres) from the regular supply of 160 trucks per day. A similar increase in supply volume has been activated in the Port Harcourt, Calabar, Kano and Kaduna areas to ensure the availability of petrol in every part of the country.
While appealing for understanding and support from members of the public, the NNPC said it was doing everything possible to end the hardship experienced by motorists, commuters and the general public in accessing petrol. “Within the last 48 hours, we have received six cargoes of petrol (270 million litres) and beginning from 1st March, 2016, we shall receive one cargo of petrol every day (45 million litres),” the corporation stated.
The NNPC also announced that the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, has directed full activation of an intra-ministerial joint monitoring task force made up of officials of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) and the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC) to enforce compliance with rules and regulations governing supply and distribution of petroleum products in the country.
Major and independent petroleum marketers have attributed the scarcity to the inability of the NNPC to be the sole importer of petrol into the country.
Most filling stations visited yesterday were locked while the few that sold PMS witnessed long queues of motorists who struggled to buy the product.
The country may have to wait for more days before the situation will return to normal as the NNPC said yesterday that four more cargoes of the product, which it took delivery of at the weekend to keep the country wet, would only be available to consumers later this month.
The corporation said Kachikwu had warned depot owners against selling petrol above the approved ex-depot price of N77 per litre. It noted that the warning was informed by repeated complaints by marketers of sharp practices at the depots. The statement quoted the minister as warning that depot owners found to be involved in selling products above the approved ex-depot prices would be severely sanctioned.
As consumers continued to groan over the scarcity, some stakeholders have given reasons for the current situation.
The Petroleum Tankers Drivers (PTD), an arm of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), accused the NNPC of being responsible. National Chairman of the PTD, Salimon Akanni Oladiti, while interacting with reporters in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, said:
“Government is responsible for this problem, because if they bring enough oil into the country, we as distributors are ready to sell it out. It’s so sad that we are one of the largest producers of oil, but we are still suffering from scarcity.”
Oladiti explained that “NNPC imports about 75 per cent of the oil we are consuming in the country. The remaining 25 percentage is for major marketers. What the government is trying to tackle still exists; corruption is still in the oil industry. There is corruption and bribery at the oil depots and you have to face this hurdle before you can load your truck.”
Also, the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) said the 75 per cent import allocation granted the NNPC had led to a disruption in the petroleum products distribution chain, leading to scarcity.
The National Operations Controller of IPMAN, Mike Osatuyi, noted that the fuel situation had been fragile since the NNPC assumed the role of the sole importer of petrol.
“There is supply gap over a period of time now, the NNPC imports 75 per cent of the petrol needs of the country. I can only say you should tell them to improve on imports. They have access to forex because they do the SWAP deal and therefore, are not constrained by the challenge. But for marketers, it is difficult to source the dollar and therefore not profitable to import under the present condition,” he said in a statement.
The Lagos Zonal Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Tokunbo Korodo, attributed the return of fuel scarcity to ‘drastic drop’ in the loading activities at the loading depot.
The Managing Director of PPMC, Esther Nnamdi-Ogbue, urged Nigerians to be calm, promising that petroleum products would be available at the fuel stations soon.