Oredola Adeola , Solomon Ezeme
The persistent petrol scarcity in Nigeria is on the verge of crippling business activities in Lagos, Ogun and other states, as long queues of motorists in most filling stations continue to constitute gridlock on major highways across the states.
Expectedly, these long queues building -up along major cities and business districts in Lagos and Ogun have hampered vehicular movements including those connecting inter-states along the major high ways.
A development which sharply contradict promises made by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company(NNPC) Limited to end fuel scarcity with the injection of 2.3 billion litres.
The confidence underlying assurances offered by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Ltd, has turned out differently, as consummers become increasingly exposed to the activities of fuel racketeers.
EnergyDay survey revealed that most fuel stations in Lagos and Abuja are still clogged with vehicles and long queues. We observed that independent marketers are mostly at ease in the hike of petrol prices across the country.
Investigations showed that they deliberately hoard the product with timely intent of creating artificial scarcity and consequently, rip off consumers through exorbitant prices. In another sharp practice which we uncovered, some stations choose when to dispense to motorists and also determine the numbers of the pumps in their stations that dispenses fuel.
This is meant to create a demand pressure to push up prices. In a different twist elsewhere , some filling stations specifically, on the Lagos Mainland and some parts of Ogun state adopted the style of selling to people with jerry cans late in the night between the hours of 10pm and 1am, while others preferred to sell very early in the morning between the hours of 5am and 7am.
Subsequently, they shut their doors to motorists, claiming they have ran out of supply. The common trend amongst the marketers is the regular pattern of shutting their gates against motorists in order to create long queues on adjoining streets and on the major city centres and highways.
Consumers who spoke with EnergyDay expressed worries that the scarcity could linger for several months if not urgently addressed by the government and stakeholders. They also complained against unruly behaviour by petrol station managers who now parade themselves as kings as they decide when to sell and the ration that should be shared between Jerry can owners and motorists.
They also decide the kind of personalities who should be sold to especially after completely shutting down the pumps and the stations. Our correspondent who monitored the situation in Lagos revealed that majority of the filling stations in Lagos Mainland and Island witnessed long queues of motorists causing traffic jams across major road axis.
The Filling stations on Lekki/Ajah axis including Elf, Mobil, Ardova Petroleum, Enyo, Northwest, Totalenergies and Pinnacle, recorded huge queues spreading into the major highway thereby causing serious traffic logjam. Although these stations sell at the official price of N165 per litre, the attendants give considerations to those with jerrycans and cash inducement of N1000 but depending on the volume to be purchased.
This unfortunately, encouraged activities of black marketers who also took advantage of the situation to make ridiculous gains selling petrol for N400 per litre to motorists.
Our correspondent who checked the situation on Lagos Island reported that the long queues of motorists for petrol has worsened traffic situation on the Marina/CMS Road, due to queues at all the filling stations including ConOil and Oando filling stations. Although the stations are selling at the official price of between N163 and N165 per litre, the long queues of motorists in some of these stations clogged the free flow of traffic .
It provided the oppottunity for black marketers to make brisk but huge gains as they sell to impatient motorists at N500 per litre. This situation was also the same on Awolowo Road Ikoyi, as all the stations including Forte , TotalEnergies, Oando and others within Ikoyi/Obalende axis recorded huge traffic lockdown.
Lagos Mainland was not left out, as most of the filling stations on Ojuelegba, Stadium and Ikorodu roads witnessed long queues as some of the stations deliberately shut their doors against motorists creating long queues of vehicles on all the connecting highways.
Some of the stations monitored by our correspondent in Alausa Ikeja, Mainland and Ojota axis also recorded huge traffic. Interestingly, despite the notice on the board indicating price of N165 per litre for PMS, majority of the stations are selling between N200 and N250 per litre.
One Mr. Festus, a motorist in Lagos, blamed the NNPC for not explaining to Nigerians the reasons behind the fuel scarcity even after promising to inject 2.3 billion litres of petrol into the system by the end of February.
He said, “Currently, at Ajegunle, Ojo, Amukoko, Orile, Badagry road and other environs, Petrol is sold at N250 per litre, while at the black market between N300 and N400 per litre, which is absurd, he opined .
Today is March 3, the queue is unprecedented and it is not abating’ a consumer at the filling said,”Since the coming of this administration, we have not witnessed such queues; so what is responsible’? The NNPC should explain .
Mr. Biola Akande, a taxi driver, in Lagos said he got to the fuel station as early as 5 a.m., but met a long queue, adding that such development would not augur well for the country and the economy.
Earlier on Feb.16, Mr Mele Kyari, Group Managing Director of the NNPC, promised that the scarcity would end by the end of the month. He made that promise before the House of Representatives Committee on NNPC (Downstream), investigating circumstances surrounding the importation of adulterated fuel into the country.
The current fuel scarcity had been blamed on the importation of adulterated petrol and the withdrawal of same after it had damaged many vehicles. Amid the disruption in the distribution system, consumers are worried about the lack of monitoring and silence on the part of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) in checking the excesses of some of the marketers withholding products as a ploy to selling above the pump price.
A plausible explanation to price changes, could be traced to a certain memo from NNPC Limited with Ref. NNPC/ML/STS01, dated February 18, 2022, and addressed to all marketers with the heading, “Payment Of Ship to Ship Transfers (STS) Coordination Charge” signed by O.I O Ajilo on behalf of GGM Shipping, it reads, “Please be informed that the NNPC management has directed that effective 10th February 2022, the sum of Five Hundred Thousand Naira, (N500,000.00) only will be charged for STS Coordination fee for each transhipment operation involving NNPC Marine Logistics.”
This is believed by industry analyst, as an additional overhead cost responsible in part, for the increase in pump price by some of the operators. It remains uncertain what the future holds for the country’s downstream sector as the government remain in control through the apparatus of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited, but the Petroleum Industry Act, when it comes fully in motion should streamline the issue of pricing more efficiently.
The upcoming Dangote Refinery is seen as a panacea in public discourse but business prudence may not allow the refinery succumb to the fancy of our inefficient culture, as prices of Petroleum products from the refinery will be determined by commercial dictates.