Lingering fuel scarcity: Bleak yuletide imminent as transporters hike fares

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Ahead of this year’s Christmas celebration, there is the possibility that transport fares would be hiked owing to the soaring price of petrol; TOPE SUNDAY writes.

In September this year, floods ravaged Lokoja, the capital of Kogi state, and the development was attributed to the fuel scarcity that was experienced then. But almost two months after the incident, there are vehicular queues at filling stations across the country.

Blueprint Weekend can report that fuel scarcity has been rampant this year. Early in February, Nigerians started to experience fuel scarcity owing to some adulterated litres of PMS, which were inadvertently imported from Belgium and released into the market. According to reports, the adulterated PMS contained high methanol, which ended up damaging many car engines.

But upon discovering the problem, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) embarked upon an exercise to clean up the contaminated product from the market. It was this cleanup exercise that inevitably caused the scarcity.
During the period under review, many Nigerians struggled to go to work or engage in other daily routines. This development led to an increase in the cost of transportation, and many people were left stranded at various bus stops, while others could not foot their bills as a result of the fuel scarcity. During the period, many car owners and commercial drivers were worst hit, and many workers were also greatly affected by the development.

The experience

Across the major cities, towns and villages, the current fuel scarcity is causing an untold hardship on Nigerians, as many filling stations are shut. Some stations that are selling PMS, this medium learnt, sell above N200 in other states but marketers in Abuja reportedly sell at N195.

To this end, many stations are besieged by motorcyclists, tricycle owners, as well as private and commercial drivers, thereby causing heavy traffic on the roads, and the development, it was gathered, has allowed black marketing to thrive in the country.

However, this reporter, who monitored the development in Abuja Thursday morning, reports that many filling stations did not open for business, while those who opened sold for N195 amidst huge and long queues.

Also, Blueprint Weekend gathered that filling stations in Nasarawa, Minna and Kogi states, the three neighbouring states of the Federal Capital Territory sold the PMS between N215 and N250.

A visit by our Reporter to Nyanya Motor Park, an Abuja suburb, on Thursday revealed that the transport fare to Lagos from Abuja by bus has increased from N7, 500 to N10, 000, and that of the Sienna car has soared up to between N15, 000 and N17, 000.

The transport fare for a bus to Kano has increased from N2, 500 to N4, 000; going to Kaduna with the Sienna car would now cost N3, 000 instead of the previous fare of N2, 500. Also, a bus to Zamfara is now N5, 000 instead of the previous N3, 500 fare.

Also, a bus to Sokoto costs N6, 000 instead of the previous fare of N4, 000.

A driver in one of the parks in Jibowu in Yaba area of Lagos, Mr. Austin Maxwell, said to our correspondent that fuel scarcity and unstable price of the PMS have soared up the fare of the Sienna car from Lagos to Abuja to between N15, 000 and N17, 000.

Maxwell, however, said the price changed and skyrocketed to N20, 000 on Wednesday because of the prospective corps members who travelled to their various camps across Nigeria.

The yuletide, the anxiety

Barely three weeks to this year’s Christmas, the price of the PMS at the black market is still flaunting, and this reporter learnt that if the situation is not controlled, it may have a negative impact on the annual celebration.

A driver at Nyanya Motor Park, who gave his name as Chris, expressed concerns over the soaring price of the PMS, which he said, is very frustrating, adding that some of his colleagues are not finding it easy.

Chris, who said he plies the Lagos route, added: “My problem in all of this is that some fuel stations sell a litre of petrol for N250, N260, and N240, respectively. This is the major reason we, drivers, have increased the transport fares; but this is very frustrating. Now with this development, we are experiencing a passenger drought in our parks.”

Asked if the current fare would be further hiked during the yuletide, Chris said: “Yes, it will be further increased because during yuletide, many people will travel and at that time, many cars will not be available at the parks. However, we pray that the current fuel scarcity would have been addressed before then, but if not, I fear, the transport fare will be further increased’’.

Also speaking, a Lagos-Abuja bond driver, Mr. Ojo Olatunji, told our Blueprint Weekend that on his way to Abuja on Wednesday, he bought a litre of PMS at Obajana Junction, a few kilometres away from Lokoja, the Kogi state capital, for N260, and wondered why the transport fare would be further increased during the yuletide.

“Our prayer is that this ugly development will be resolved before Christmas because if not, we may not have any option than to further increase the current transport fare. On Wednesday, at Obajana junction, I bought a litre of petrol for N260 at a filling station. How do you want us to go about this?”

However, investigations by this reporter showed that this year’s Christmas celebrations may be low key if the fuel scarcity persists. Although some Nigerians are determined to make the best out of the visibly gloomy situation, the percentage of those that the hike in the transport fare would affect is higher.

An Abuja resident, Mr. Bode Israel, whose family lives in Ilesha, Osun state, told this reporter that it would be difficult for him to travel this year for the yuletide if the transport fare keeps increasing, asking that how much is his income that he would spend it all on transport.

He said, “Every year, I celebrate it with my family at Ilesha, but with the way things are going, I don’t think I would go home this year. But if the fare is moderate and affordable, I will surely go. If one considers the income with the transport fare, how much will remain. For me, it is not advisable to spend a lot of money on transportation in the name of Christmas celebration.”

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