BODE OLAGOKE, who went round the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), writes on the plights of the communters over the ongoing fuel scarcity, and how it has ‘boost’ fuel hawking
Just as it is being popularly said that a son of meat seller eats bones, daughter of a clothes seller wears rags and the children of a farmer get hungry, Nigeria is a country blessed with petroleum, but its citizens sometimes find it difficult to have It.
For a fortnight now, many filling stations in the country have not been having it, hence it is like going to a war front for the citizens to buy it from the few filling stations that have it.
The government has severally told the citizens that the scarcity would be put to an end, but it has been ravaging on.
In the FCT, many a motorist has resorted to patronizing fuel hawkers as the long queues at the few filling stations where fuel is available appears to be unbearable.
Consequently, fuel hawking is relatively thriving.
Our correspondent, who went round the city, observed that many filling stations were not selling the product on the pretense that it is scarce, while the few ones selling were crowded with long queues that stretch to two kilometres from the stations.
It was also observed that fuel hawkers were making brisk business on the streets, because motorists who could not wait on the long queues patronize them, buying ten litres for as much as N2,500 to N3,000 instead of N1,000 that it would sale on a normal day.
The fuel hawkers were seen on every corner of the major roads where filling stations are located, and they reportedly get fuel quicker than motorists “because they are in collaboration with the fuel attendants at the filling stations.”
In an interaction with a hawker who identified himself as Mohammed, he revealed that fuel hawking is a seasonal business; whenever there is fuel scarcity in the country, they get the opportunity do “business” – as if he does nothing if there is no scarcity.
But their ‘success’ appears to emerge from their synergies; our correspondent gathered that while the motorists are in their comfort zones sleeping, the fuel hawkers stay awake in the midnight bribing petrol stations’ staff to get the scarce product which they in turn sell at exorbitant prices the following day.
Many of the motorists accused the filling stations operators and their attendants of collaborating with the hawkers, who normally conduct their business on the roadside, by ensuring that they are attended to before the motorists.
An angry civil servant, who refused to give his, at the Oando Petrol Station in Wuse said he was in a queue for hours without getting fuel, but watched some of the hawkers being attended to many times.
He said that was a pointer that “a conspiracy exists between them”
Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) has continued to insist that the scarcity was “artificial and unnecessary.”
PPPRA Spokesman, Mr. Lanre Oladele told newsmen in Abuja that the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), which cautioned the federal government about the scarcity on account of non-approval of petrol importation documents for the first quarter of the year, was simply playing politics.
He said: “We have enough fuel stock to keep the country going for several days and since the allocation of license was released to marketers for the first quarter of 2014, there was no reason for the fuel scarcity.
“We can assure Nigerians that we have enough to wet the nation. What we have is artificial scarcity to create false impression, whereas the entire nation is wet with the products.
He also advised Nigerians not to panic over the scarcity, insisting that: “What we have is artificial scarcity. We have enough stock to keep the nation wet for days.”
However, Mr. Nasir Imodagbe, a senior official at the Pipeline and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), corroborated the PPPRA executive by saying that: “We have robust supply of fuel, same with NNPC to serve the country for days. I don’t know where the issue of scarcity is coming from. We are appealing to Nigerians not to engage in panic in buying the product because there are enough products to keep the country moving.”
Sharing their experiences with Blueprint, a market woman, Mrs. Ojuolape Arijo, said the scarcity has forced the prices of food stuffs up.
She said: “What do you expect us to do? Prices of food stuffs have to increase because from Mararaba where I live to Garki market now is N150 or N200. And you can’t blame them because they are buying ‘black market’ at higher prices inside their motors.”
A source also told our correspondent that the scarcity has also been “forcing” the civil servants to get to work late, and some have not been going to their offices because they have no fuel in their cars.
A taxi driver, Jimoh Adigun, narrated his experience to Blueprint that he had to sleep at a filling station in the Central Area for him to get fuel at the weekend, yet he had to bribe an attendant.
Another driver, Mr. Chinadu Williams, said apart from been in a queue for several hours, filling station attendants still demanded for N200 from him before it was sold to him.
Reacting to the development, the major political opposition party in the country, All Progressives Congress (APC), has asked the federal government to level up with Nigerians on the reasons for the ongoing fuel scarcity that has further compounded the pains inflicted on the citizens by an incompetent government.
The party said the queues that have been witnessed in Abuja, Lagos and other major cities in recent days are the longest and the most chaotic in Nigeria in recent years, and have shown that the situation was not just due to panic in buying but a consequence of a more serious problem.
In a statement issued in Abuja by its Interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the fact that the scarcity has persisted has put a lie to the government’s well-worn line that the long queues at filling stations were caused by panic buying.
‘’The truth is that ordinary Nigerians are suffering the consequences of the runway corruption in our country’s oil sector, much as the government would want the citizens to believe otherwise. With huge funds unaccounted for by the NNPC, the so-called subsidy shrouded in secrecy and those who robbed the nation blind under the guise of fuel subsidy walking free, it was just a matter of time for the country to witness the kind of scarcity that has now grounded socio-economic activities across the land.
‘’We know that this Federal Government lacks credibility and has consistently lied to Nigerians on various issues affecting them, and we urge it to come clean for once on the reasons for this fuel scarcity and also step up efforts to end it.
‘’Coming at a time that power supply is at the worst and Nigerians rely on their electricity generators to stave off darkness and heat, it is downright cruel and totally inexplicable that the government would compound the monumental suffering of the people by its inability to provide fuel which they need to power their generators. Furthermore, hapless commuters are paying exorbitant fares to move from one point to another,’’ APC said.