Monday, February 6

Commuters stranded, motorists groan as petrol scarcity bites harder

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By John Ofikhenua, Abuja and Muyiwa Lucas

Commuters were stranded in many parts of the country yesterday as petrol scarcity bites harder.

Queues remained in many city centres while fares skyrocketed.

Many motorists in Abuja said they wake up as early as 4 a.m. to queue at petrol stations.

Some said they could not even afford to buy from the black market.

It was learnt that some petrol stations now prefer to sell only at night.

There were queues at retail outlets in Maitama, Wuse, Gwarimpa, Wuye and Kubwa expressways.

A resident, Alhaji Mamudu Aliyu, said the hardship was biting harder.

“The scarcity is getting to a month and nothing has been done. At times it looks like it is getting better and the next day it gets worse,” he said.

A taxi driver, Malam Umar Ibrahim, said he had been at the petrol station for over four hours.

In Enugu metropolis, fares increased by over 100 per cent, leaving commuters groaning.

A NAN correspondent, who monitored the development, reports that fares for short distances of about four or five stops away on commercial buses and tricycles rose from N50 to N100, while N100 fares have doubled.

The situation left many commuters, including civil servants, pupils and students trekking long distances.

A bus driver plying the Garki-Polo Park route, Mr Andy Onyia, blamed the increase in fares on the fuel pump price hike.

He said they now buy petrol for between N200 and N210 per litre, adding: “You don’t expect commercial bus drivers to still charge the old prices.”

Some cargoes of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise known as petrol, which some members of the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria (DAPPMAN) paid for last December are yet to arrive.

A member of the association said the private depots were not selling to members of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) because their stock was not sufficient to supply to outsiders.

The source, who pleaded not to be named, urged the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited to raise its petrol importation volume.

The source said: “We are selling what NNPC is giving to us. We are loading. The issue is that some of this fuel that we load today was paid for in December. It was paid for with a bank loan.

“There was a projection in the bank loan. The projection was that you are to receive the product by the middle of January and pay back in January.

“So, who pays for the interest between when we were supposed to have paid back and today?”

Another source in the association said there was no need to sell above the official rate since their filling stations were selling the product.

Explaining why the depots were not selling to IPMAN, the source said: “It makes sense if I have 100 stations to concentrate on my stations rather than selling to any other person.

“If I don’t sell to them (IPMAN) and they want to blackmail me, they can say anything. I will not load and be selling to IPMAN and leave my stations dry.”

The source said any member of the association selling above the pump price of N165/litre should be reported.

“If you see any private station selling above N165 let me know. I will tell you it is not a DAPPMAN station.

“There is no DAPPMAN station that is selling above N165/litre. So, anybody who is claiming we are selling above ex-depot, we are simply concentrating on our own stations.

“But the point is that if you can drive into any petrol station between 15 minutes and buy your fuel, will you go and patronise jerry cans outside?

“The bottom line is NNPC should bring the product in and all these queues and allegations will disappear.”

It was learnt that a member of the association, who paid for two cargoes of petrol, only received one.

NNPC Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Malam Garba Deen Muhammad, did not pick up his call.

He also did not respond to a text message asking him to confirm whether DAPPMAN members were yet to receive the petrol they paid for since December.

The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) said its members would not lift products for depot owners selling petrol above the official depot price of N148.77.

NUPENG’s Secretary General, Mr Afolabi Olawale, told NAN: “One of the lines of action we are going to take is any depot that is not selling at the official rate, our members will not carry their products.”

The union on February 26, issued a 24-hour ultimatum to marketers to revert to the official rate of N148.77.

It had accused the marketers of exploiting Nigerians by selling PMS from the depots at prices far above the official rate.

Olawale said: “Depot owners are not the ones directly importing the products and are taking products from NNPC.

“Nobody has given official statements that PMS is no longer under subsidy regime and in that wise, the general public cannot be buying products at N250, N220, N180, from the depot.

“We are asking all these depot owners to stop exploiting the general public and sell at official rate.”

Executive Secretary, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Clement Isong, urged Nigerians to stop buying more petrol than they need.

He said: “NNPC says they are giving us more supplies than they used to; we (MOMAN) are supplying to our stations more than we used to and my members tell me they are selling at the pumps more than they used to sell.

“So the answer to the continued scarcity is that customers are buying more than they usually buy. There is a panic buying of petrol,” Isong said.

Nigerians have been spending hours on queues since Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) announced on February 8 that methanol above Nigeria’s specification was discovered in a limited quantity of petrol in the supply chain.

Many Nigerians had expected the negligent or incompetent officials to have been suspended or sanctioned by now for allowing toxic petrol into the supply chain, but there have been no consequences.

Some believe if something similar had happened in other climes, culpable officials or agents would have been identified, made to resign or at least been queried.

So far, there is no indication that anyone has been held to account for a situation that subjected millions of Nigeria.

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