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Fuel scarcity worsens nationwide



Despite last Wednesday’s directive by the Federal Executive Council, FEC mandating the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, to bring an end to the fuel crisis across the country before last weekend, reports indicate that the situation is far from abating.

The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, who briefed State House correspondents at the end of the meeting in Abuja said Mr. Kachikwu was given marching orders to ensure that the fuel scarcity did not last beyond last weekend. The minister said efforts were being made to resolve the supply hiccup latest by the weekend.

Also, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, through its spokesperson, Ndu Ughamadu, expressed confidence that the long queues that resurfaced in most filling station in Abuja, like most other cities nationwide, would “fizzle out in a matter of hours” last Thursday

Mr. Ughamadu, who blamed the crisis on panic buying by consumers in the wake of the strike threat issued by the Independent Petroleum Marketers of Nigeria, IPMAN, said the corporation had sufficient stock of the commodity at its depots across the country

Besides, he said, further directives were given by the Group Managing Director of the Corporation, Maikanti Baru, for the number of tankers to be supplied to Abuja, Port Harcourt and Lagos to be increased, to help resolve the crisis as soon as possible.

But, monitoring reports from Premium Times across the country revealed varying situations that showed no respite. In Abuja and environs, long queues of motorists were still visible outside most filling stations visited on Monday, including the Conoil station directly opposite the NNPC headquarters.

Black market fuel hawkers in jerry cans, who reappeared in the streets of the Federal Capital City, after long spell out of business, had a field day serving anxious motorists outside filling stations at about N200 and above per litre.

 The queue around the NNPC mega station in the Central Area District resulted in a serious traffic gridlock in the area. All the filling stations visited in Karu site and along Nyanya-Jikwoyi-Karshi Express way were not selling petrol.

The NNPC station in Karu site, two Forte Oil stations, Total and Mobil filling stations along the Nyanya-Jikwoyi-Karshi Expressway were out of stock of the commodity. Two other stations belonging to independent marketers at the CBN Junction and another at Phase 2 Junction on the Expressway were not selling. Anxious motorists were compelled to patronise the black market, where 10 litres of fuel now sell for N2,500.

In Bauchi, most filling stations were closed for official business, as black market operation now thrives at night, with most independent marketers and road side vendors selling petrol at about N200 per litre. Major marketers, like Mobil Oil and other big independent marketers only open their stations for few hours daily, mostly in the evenings, with a gallon of petrol selling for N1,000 per five litres.

One of the black market vendors said: “We buy at N175 per litre from the filling stations at night and sell later to motorists between N200 and N220 per litre. We are having good business.” In Damaturu, Yobe State, the situation has deteriorated, with independent marketers selling petrol at N195 per litre.

The situation in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, worsened at the weekend, with retail fuel price, which rose to about N150 per litre at the onset of the crisis, further rising to N170. Some of the major marketers, including Mobil and Oando along Oron Road, Uyo, were not opened for business, Monday afternoon.

In Lagos, the fuel queues had reduced compared to last week. While some petrol stations were not selling fuel, others which did in Surulere and along Apapa-Oshodi expressway had few cars on the queue. Normal sales were ongoing at the NNPC and Total filling stations at Oregun, Ikeja.

In Osun and Ondo states, reports indicate that the scarcity of petroleum products is biting harder. In Akure, the Ondo State capital, few stations were observed to have opened for business in the early hours of Monday. On Sunday, officials of the Ondo State Government went round some of the stations to force them to attend to customers at the approved price of N145, following reports that some stations had already hiked the price.

Despite government’s threat to sanction stations hoarding products, most of them still locked up their gates on Monday apparently in protest, thereby worsening the current crisis in the state. In Osogbo, the Osun State capital, getting fuel has remained difficult, with long queues seen outside Mobil and NNPC mega stations along Ibadan expressway and by Ring Road in the town.

No fewer than eight filling stations located along Okini-Abunbelewo road were closed to customers. Those opened earlier in the day in different places had stopped by Monday evening. The fuel crisis appeared to have subsided in Ekiti as PREMIUM TIMES noted that some of the filling stations opened for normal business.

In Ogun State, the fuel situation remained relatively normal on Monday as motorists did not have any difficulties buying fuel at filling stations in the area. Normalcy appears to have returned in Kaduna, as most filling stations were having normal business operations as at Monday afternoon. At Total filling station along Command Junction, Kaduna, motorists were seen being attended to without queues, although pockets of black market hawkers were still hanging around some filling stations without products.

In reaction to the fuel scarcity, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Tony Anenih, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to take immediate steps to bring the situation to an end. In a statement on Monday, Mr. Anenih expressed concern that motorists and other groups of Nigerians would be hit the hardest in the run up to Christmas.

The former chairman of the PDP board of trustees said Mr. Buhari had the capacity to halt the recurrent fuel crisis, to avoid the ugly experiences in the past during Christmas and other major festivities. “Nigerians desire hitch-free Christmas and New Year celebrations. The current fuel scarcity would make that impossible if nothing is done to resolve it quickly,” Mr. Anenih said.



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