The fuel supply situation in the country took a turn for the worse on Tuesday as queues of desperate motorists grew longer at many petrol stations selling Premium Motor Spirit, also known as petrol, in Lagos, Ogun, Kwara and other states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory.
Fuel queues, which started emerging in some parts of the country on Monday after more than a year of relief from scarcity of petroleum products in the country, were seen spilling onto some roads in Lagos and Ogun states on Tuesday and caused gridlock.
The PUNCH gathered that many depots in Apapa did not have petroleum products on Tuesday, while the few with products recorded low activities.
The ex-depot prices charged by the depots for PMS ranged from N139 to N143 per litre, compared to the official ex-depot price of N133.28.
Motorists and other consumers of petrol complained about the latest round of fuel scarcity, alleging that it might be a ploy to increase the pump price of the product.
They also wondered why the latest crisis was happening at a time Nigerians were preparing for the Christmas and New Year festivities.
Motorists spilled onto major roads like Ikorodu Road, Agege Motor Road, Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway and Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
Some were seen fighting to get to the pumps, while fuel attendants and ‘area boys’ made brisk business from desperate motorists who wanted to jump the queues so as to be serve quickly. At a filling station in Ogba, the attendants who manned the gates collected N1,000 from each motorist before allowing them inside.
The association alleged that the NNPC was also frustrating its members by reneging on the bulk purchase agreement it signed with them to supply the product at N133.28 per litre.
The Executive Secretary, Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association, Mr. Olufemi Adewole, said the increase in price of crude oil had led a corresponding rise in the prices of refined products.
He said, “It is only the NNPC that is bringing products in; we also noticed a supply gap in what they brought in. It wasn’t enough at a particular time and the result is what we are seeing today.
“But they have also equally assured us that they have enough stock and that they are expecting vessels to come in; our members have paid for PFI (pro-forma invoices) for PMS. So, once the NNPC cargoes come in, we will receive the product and sell to Nigerians.”
Asked why marketers were not importing, Adewole said, “Landing cost of PMS today has increased. By the time we land the product based on the international crude oil prices, petrol should be selling for about N165-N170 per litre. But the government is saying we should sell at N145. So, if there is no subsidy, we have to depend on the NNPC to give us the product.”
A top official at one of the depots in Lagos, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the supply dislocations would take days to disappear.
He said, “We are still doing skeletal loading; no depot wants to be out of stock completely because it is not good for business. As of today (Tuesday), there is no vessel dispending PMS from the Apapa jetty, except the one in Oando SPM.
“Marketers are still being owed 2016 subsidy claims. No sane marketer can put his money down now to import petrol. Nobody is talking about when the subsidy arrears would be paid; so everybody has to rely on the NNPC. Also, the landing cost of petrol has increased.”
The Group Managing Director of NNPC, Maikanti Baru, stated that the situation was due to panic buying, adding that the corporation was doing everything within its reach to address the matter.
He was quoted in a statement issued on Tuesday by the corporation’s spokesperson, Ndu Ughamadu, as saying, “For the umpteenth time, I wish to call on all Nigerians to stop panic buying. We have said times without number that the NNPC has sufficient products to cater for the needs of all consumers.”
Worried by the development, the Senate on Tuesday summoned the NNPC GMD to appear before its Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream) on Thursday over the rising scarcity of PMS across the country.
Baru failed to appear before the committee on Tuesday, leading to the rescheduling of the meeting during which he would be expected to explain the reasons for the scarcity.
The Chairman of committee, Senator Kabiru Marafa, while briefing journalists in Abuja, said plans had also been concluded to commence nationwide inspection of filling stations over the looming fuel crisis.