Fuel scarcity hit the nation’s capital in September and has continued to take its tools on residents two months after. Not a few residents have questioned why filling stations hardly stock fuel but the street hawkers continue to make brisk sells even at odd hours. In this report, TOPE SUNDAY examines why the black market thrives.
The floods that ravaged Lokoja and its environs in September was said to be responsible for the fuel scarcity that hit Abuja. This was reportedly because of inability of the petroleum tankers to cross to the city centre.
However, weeks after the floods receded, Abuja was still experiencing fuel scarcity, while the street hawkers were cashing out very big.
This is as many fuel stations have remained shut, while others dispensing fuel have queues stretching over two kilometres at every point.
Similarly, Blueprint Weekend gathered that in the outskirts few filling stations sell for as much as N250 per litre which is better compared to N350 per litre the street hawkers offer with litre containers going for N3,500.
The situation has also led to an increase in the cost of transportation with and many car owners, especially commercial drivers lamenting about the development.
Thriving black marketer
This medium can reliably report that black marketers have engaged in brisk business by taking the advantage of the long lasting fuel scarcity in Abuja.
Our correspondent, who visited some fuel stations around Jabi/Utako area of the city, as well as the Central Business District, gathered that a litre of PMS was being sold for N185 and N179, above the N175 official pomp price, even in some NNPC stations.
Also, the presence of black marketers was noticed around the fuel stations offering alternative source for motorist unwilling to join the unreasonably long fuel queues.
Blueprint Weekend checks further revealed that in some fuel stations in Kuje, Gwagbalada, and Abaji, all suburbs of Abuja, a litre of fuel was being sold for between N235 and N250 while the street hawkers were selling at one litre for N350.
One of the hawker, who identified himself as Aliyu, told our correspondent that he bought 25 litres of fuel at N7,500 from one of the filling stations in Utako he couldn’t sell below his cost price.
He said: “I just bought this 25 litres from a filling station in Utako for N7,500, the attendants have added money . So, I will sell 10 litres for N3,500. That is how I will make my own gains.”
Also speaking with this medium, a car owner, Eze Jude, alleged that long queues only surface in fuel stations that sell fuel N175 per litre, while those that sell above N200 witness fewer number of cars.
He added that he preferred to buy fuel from standby black marketers around fuel stations to save time.
“To answer your question, I may say that fuel scarcity we are experiencing in Abuja is unnecessarily prolonged. Unfortunately, some people are making a lot of money from the situation.
“Go to filling stations today, they are selling for between N179 and N185 in the city centre, but in the outskirts we buy a litre for between N235 and N250 at filling stations.
“Also, you will see black marketers selling their products in front of stations at about N50 to N100 difference from what is sold in the filling station. For the want of time, I prefer black market to the filling station in this kind of situation. Why must I waste my time? No, I can’t waste my time at the filling station,” he said.
Another resident of the FCT, Olagoke Alabi, on his part said because of the nature of his job, he could not queue at the filling station but always patronise the black marketers for fuel despite the huge price they are selling it.
“On a normal day, I don’t like queuing at the filling station, and now that black marketers are very close to the filing stations, I do patronize them, though I buy the PMS at a very high price compared to the pump price at the station. Now, some filling stations are selling between N 185 and N250 in the outskirts. So, I don’t need to queue in the filing stations when I can get PMS from black marketers at N300 or N350 per litre”, Alabi said.
Why black market strives
Speaking to Blueprint Weekend an Abuja resident, Haruna Ahmad, alleged that some fuel stations were aiding the street hawkers businesses by supplying them with the product.
He further claimed that the hawkers usually shared the gain from the transaction with the fuel attendants and wondered why they were being allowed to operate freely in the nation’s capital.
Ahmad said: “The situation in Abuja is so frustrating. In the nation’s capital, black marketers are operating freely and selling fuel without fear. They are doing brisk business very close to the filling stations.
“Where are they getting their products from? Is it not from the same filling stations where people have to queue for several hours? Some of the pump attendants at the filling stations are conniving with them. They get the product with ease whereas car owners would suffer to buy the same product from the filling stations. This is worrisome, and very discouraging.”
In the same vein, another resident Moses Emmanuel alleged that some marketers’ attitude of hoarding fuel was encouraging black marketers to extort the populace.
He called on the security agencies to arrest and prosecute the owners of fuel stations found to be hoarding the product in order to serve as deterrent to others.
“Some marketers are responsible for the black market thriving in Abuja because they are hoarding the product. Are fuel tankers not entering their fuel stations again? Some of the fuel station managers are deliberately frustrating motorists who throng their stations. This development makes some of them to be at the mercy of the black marketers,’’ he declared.
On his part, a civil servant resident in Abuja, Emeka Samuel, decried the fact that some car owners preferred buying fuel from the black market rather than waiting endlessly at filling stations during fuel scarcity season.
According to him, the fuel attendants at some filling stations fill cars with ‘ordinary air’ instead of fuel.
This is against the situation where the customers can see the product they are buying in the black market.
“During fuel scarcity season, some of us who are car owners don’t trust some filling stations because some of them fill our cars with ordinary air; some others readjust their pumps. However, at the black market, we have value for our money, though a bit higher, we can see what we are buying,” he said