Fuel scarcity: Buhari’s first baptism of fire

For the first time in close to three years, Nigerians are experiencing acute shortage of Premium Motor Spirit(PMS), otherwise known as petrol, and the fuel queues are still long despite assurances from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC) and Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed as JERRY UWAH, BASHIR MOHAMMED, MUSA BUBA, SALIHU OYIBO, DANIEL AGBO and USMAN IBN LAPAI report.

The lingering fuel crisis in the country has defied solution and explanation as long queues are still visible in most parts of the country, owing to the scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit(PMS), in spite assurances from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC).

On December 7, after the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had assured Nigerians that the scarcity will end by the weekend. To actualize the deadline, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, was given marching orders to resolve the scarcity. In addition, the minister allayed the fears that government is planning to increase the pump price of PMS. He also warned against panic buying as NNPC has enough stock of petrol to last till the end of January 2018.

However, in spite of the minister’s assurances, the situation has not changed across the country, except in Lagos state. In Abuja, the severity of the fuel scarcity has reduced but queues were still noticeable when our correspondents went round the capital city and Federal Cpital Territory(FCT).

Last Monday, the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Dr Maikanti Kachallah Baru, was seen at the Aso Presidential Villa but it was not clear whether or not he was summoned over the lingering fuel shortages. As at last Wednesday, the situation remains the same in virtually all the states of the federation.

Significantly, this is the first time that Nigerians are experiencing fuel scarcity under the Buhari administration.

Kogi: Fuel stations remain shut
In Kogi state capital, virtually all the filling stations in the town remained closed as at last Wednesday, including the NNPC Mega stations. According to our correspondent, there were long queues at the few that were dispensing fuel as motorists struggled to buy petrol. Blueprint Weekend observed that the ones that were open, sold above the official N145 per litre. Malam Nuhu Ademu complained that he bought PMS at N175 per litre at Hasco filling station in Felele. According to him, some filling stations sold as much as N200 per litre while black marketer operators moved their price to N250 per litre.

Moses Peters, a commuter lamented the effects of the fuel scarcity. “Before this recent scarcity of fuel I used to pay N100 from Jembe town to Lokoja where I work as civil servant , but today I paid as much as N200 meaning that I spent N400 per day and I can not coupe in this period of non payment of salaries,’’ he told our correspondent.

The manager of Masse Energy filling station, Mr Jacob Aturuku, absolved the marketers from the scarcity and resultant price hike of petroleum products. Mr Aturuku argued that he bought the product far above the official price and that explains why he also sold at N180 per litre as against N145 per litre.

Miss Grace Adebayo, a student of Federal University Lokoja , appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari and Dr Kachikwu to find a lasting solution to the scarcity to avoid unnecessary hardship during the Christmas period.

Kano: Case of artificial scarcity
Blueprint Weekend had learnt on good authority that few days before the re-appearance of long fuel queues in Kano and its environs, all the major filling stations in the state were heavily stocked with the much needed commodity. However, in order to create artificial scarcity, the marketers refused to dispense the product, so as to make a killing during the yuletide period.
On its part, the North-west chapter of the Independent Marketers Association blamed the scarcity on the flawed procurement process. According to the chairman of IPMAN, Alhaji Bashir Danmalam, his members buy PMS from the private depots owners in Lagos, Warri, Porthacourt and Calabar, above the official price.

Officially, private deport owners were to sell to IPMAN members at N135 per litre, but they are selling at N 143 instead, making it difficult for them to continue buying. In addition, he said that the federal government is yet to settle the bridging cost of some of their members.
Significantly, the lingering fuel scarcity has inflicted a lot of hardship on motorists, commuters and commercial transport owners. A commuter who spoke to the Blueprint said that oil marketers had no ground to hoard the commodity as there are only concerned of making huge profits to the detriment of the people, especially during the festive Christams period. A passenger, Alhaji Lawan Kanda, who spoke to our correspondent, lamented the ripple effects of the fuel scarcity on prices of goods and services. According to him, the only way out is to sanction the marketers.

Benue: War against hoarding
Like Kano state, Benue state is also experiencing hoarding of petrol but the state government has taken steps to curb the incident. Particularly, the state Commandant of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corp(NSCDC), Malam Shuayb Mohmoud Jubril has deployed his men to all the petrol stations to ensure availability of PMS. He warned that anyone caught selling fuel to black marketers would be arrested and prosecuted.

As at last Tuesday, most petrol stations in Makurdi, the Benue State capital remain locked down with claims that they have no products. At Conoil Filling stations, motorist and motorbike cyclists were seen struggling to gain entrance into the petrol filling station to refuel their vehicles.

A motorist, one Mrs Torkula said she had been at the station since 4 am. Specifically, she accused officials of the filling station of deliberately hoarding the product and refusing to sell to motorists until officials of Department of Petroleum Resources arrived. On the other hand, Mr Terkaa Adanyi, a commercial motorist accused the fuel station officials of collecting N500 from motorcyclists and black marketers before dispensing fuel to them.

According to him, “I have been here since 6 am and they refused to sell fuel to us while they are selling to those with Jerry cans and collect 500 Naira from them”. Chris Yuana, Manager at Jenny Investment explained that the reason why most filling stations chose not to sell was to maximise profit. He said that the rumoured increase of pump price is responsible for the hoarding.

Borno: Economic activities paralysed
In Borno state, fuel scarcity has paralyzed socio-economc activities and compounded the hardships of the people who are battling with the Boko Haram insurgency. In some of the fuel stations that were dispensing petrol, the product was selling between N155 and N180 per liter as at Tuesday.

At the black market which is the dominant supplier of PMS, petrol sells between N900 and N1,200 depending on the locations.

The fuel scarcity has increased transport fare as commercial vehicles now charge between N200 and N1000 on long distances. However, the fares remain unchanged for short routes like Post Offuce area-West End-Gwange-Madaganari-Wulari-Bulumkutu-Gomari axis, according to one Babagana Mala, a Keke NAPEP tricycle rider shuttling Post Office-Monday Market-London Ciki axis.
But Masa Mai, a golf commercial driver shuttling Baga road-West End-Customs Area-Bama road-Unuversity axis said they have to increase their charges a little ‘’in order to meet up with the challenges or we end up at the end of the day not making a gain or profit which is a waste of time and resources”.
Tashan Kano Central Motor Park along Biu-Damboa road was almost empty due to the hike in the fuel pump price and scarcity that hit Maiduguri since Maulud public holiday to date.

A commercial taxi driver shuttling Maiduguri-Kano-Abuja road, Malam Adamu Tanko said, “we have been suffering for long in search of passengers here. Due to the fuel scarcity and suddenly hike in fuel pump price at filling stations and even roadside”. Since the scarcity began, he said that ‘’we hardly get passengers frequently compared to the past, who are willing to travel out at the new transport fares ranging between N8,000 and N10,000. In the past, we used to charge between N6,000 and N8,000,’’ he added.

Yobe: Trans fare remains the same
In Damaturu, the Yobe state capital , there was no single major marketer that was selling the product when Blueprint Weekend went round the city last Tuesday. On the other hand, four independent marketers were selling the product at N167 to N180 per litre. Adam Hassan, a petrol attendant at one of the stations said, “we do not know the reason why the price has now been increased. It was a directive from our Manager, and we cannot question him but rather comply” . Efforts to speak with the state chairman of IPMAN proved abortive as he was said to have traveled out of the state. Similarly, roadside black marketers sold a litre gallon at N1,000. However, the NNPC Mega station along Maiduguri road, was selling the product at N143 per litre as at time of filling in this report.

In a chat with Blueprint Weekend, Babagana Ali said the taskforce on petroleum should intervene in the matter. ‘’I know most of the petrol stations have fuel in their custody but refused to sell, look at my car I was hit at the back by someone in the name of fuel scarcity. This artificial scarcity is a corruption, I am sorry to say that but it is in the blood of majority of Nigerians”, he lamented.

Bulama A. Usman, the chairman of the Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) Damaturu branch, told Blueprint Weekend that the scarcity has not affect transport fare. “Yes, we are aware of the fuel scarcity across the country but this has not affected the cost of the fare. Some of our drivers get the PMS at the NNPC mega station at subsidized rate, so there is no reason for the increase in fare”, he argued.

Kaduna: Shortening queues
Since last Monday, the long queues in Kaduna filling stations have reduced owing to the availability of the product. Unlike last Saturday when motorist spent virtually the whole day in filling stations, our correspondent reports that it now takes just about 10 minutes for motorists to fuel the vehicles.

In spite of the partial availability, some respondents still pray that the situation should return to normal. According to some of them, fuel scarcity shouldn’t even have occurred in the Buhari administration which ‘’promised us heaven on earth but has not delivered much. ‘’ He respondent who does not want to be named recalled that ‘’this government raised fuel price from N97 to N145, Nigerians didn’t complain,so it should not reward us with additionally hardship of scarcity?’’

According to him, ‘’if this government cannot make all refineries work optimally before 2017, then, Buhari has failed us. He promised us new refineries, at least, if we can get one, he should repair the existing ones in such a way that, we will not have to import fuel that we produce here.’’

Lagos: Normal supply has resumed
Last week, there were build up of queues in filling stations in Lagos, especially along Mobolaji Johnson , Alausa to 7up area. In particular, the two petrol stations along the road,Total filling station and Oando, which are directly adjacent did not have fuel at all. Similarly, Mobil filling station along Agidingbi was not selling to motorists as a result of no stock. Significantly, this was situation in many filling stations in Lagos last week as motorists had to queue for a long time before filling their tanks.

However, the situation is different this week, as vehicles now just drive in and fill their tanks in most of the fuel stations According to Mr Ndu Ughamadu, the spokesman of NNPC, the prevailing situation in Lagos is as a result Baru’s intervention. He said that the GMD of NNPC, who was out of the country last week, had to rush back upon hearing about the development and ordered that more cargoes be supplied to both Lagos and Abuja . He said that the situation will improve in throughout the country as from next week.

Similairly, Dr. Kachikwu promised that the product will be readilt available throughout the country today.
Before then, Nigerians must have tasted the usual bitter pill of fuel scarcity, which many had thought will be a thing of the past with the coming of the present administration.

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