Fuel scarcity may linger till March end, NUPENG warns


fillling-stationThe Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) on Friday said that the ongoing fuel scarcity in the country might linger till the end of March.

The South-West Chairman of the union, Alhaji Tokunbo Korodo, made the disclosure in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.

Korodo said that from all indications, loading of petrol at both NNPC depots and private depots were very slow.

He said that if there was no improvement in loading the product by next week, the situation might be worse.

“The pace of loading of fuel at NNPC depots in Mosinmi and Ejigbo is very slow as most tankers drivers that wanted to load, left the depots with nothing.

“Even at private depots where they sell above the ex-depot price, the pace of loading is very slow.

“Presently, we need massive loading of petrol nationwide to get over the present scarcity.

“I am imploring the government to improve on supply of fuel to all depots nationwide so that our tanker drivers can get the product and transport it to filling stations,’’ he said.

Scarcity of petrol continued as queues of motorists persisted in few filling stations that were selling the product. As the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) through its Products and Pipeline Marketing Company (PPMC) subsidiary, battles to stop ongoing fuel scarcity in the major cities of the country, it has decided to concentrate  on the major oil marketers in supplying the market, The Nation  learnt last night.

The  corporation, sources said, opted  to supply fuel to only the major marketers comprising Mobil Oil, Total Oil, Conoil, Oando and MRS having, allegedly, losing confidence in independent marketing companies.

Sources said  allocations to some of the independent marketers were diverted and hoarded, worsening the supply situation. In view of this attitude, NNPC decided to allocate fuel to only major marketers for three consecutive days -Friday through Sunday- for a start.

There is also massive truck out and supply to Suleja to address Abuja fuel scarcity, sources said, adding that the queues might remain through next week but there is assurance that there will be fuel.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) yesterday urged the Federal Government to criminalise strike in the oil sector as its associated results had crippling effects on the economy and Nigerians at large.

This is contained in a statement by Prof. Ishaq Akintola, Director, MURIC, issued against the backdrop of the recent strike by the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN).

The oil workers had alleged unfair labour practice and non-passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill ahead of the unbundling of the NNPC by the Federal Government.

According to officials of the two unions, the government have refused to implement agreements reached with the unions on the proposed unbundling of the NNPC.

Akintola said that oil workers were indispensable in the country and that their collective bargaining should also be respected, however, they should not abuse their rights.

“While we are not totally unmindful of the rights of oil workers to collective bargaining, we are of the opinion that this right must not be abused.

“We are deeply worried by the instability in the oil sector particularly strikes by oil workers which cause undue hardship among the citizenry and bring the nation’s economy to a grinding halt.

“The strike was called off within 24 hours after a meeting of the leaders of NUPENG and PENGASSAN with the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, who is also the Group Managing Director of NNPC.

“It had however thrown the whole country into topsy-turvy and worsened its perennial fuel crisis.”

It, however, emerged that speculators appear to be gaining the upper hand in the on-going battle for the control of the marketing and distribution of fuel across the country  as  they force motorists to pay astronomical prices for petrol.

In most filling stations monitored by our correspondents yesterday, the price of a litre of fuel ranged between N130 and  N200.

Only a few filling stations sold the product at the official prices of N86 and N86.50. They were besieged by motorists and commercial motorcycle riders, many of them bearing jerry cans.

Queues stretched endlessly from the filling stations, causing traffic logjams in Lagos from Ikeja/Iyana Ipaja Road to Old Toll Gate/Oworonsoki road.

Black marketers brazenly displayed petrol in jerry cans on Abuja roads, inviting patronage.

Many of them operated very close to  retail outlets where motorists sweated in long  queues to get the product.

Security personnel looked on helplessly as the profiteers ran up and down after buyers.

Queues at the  NNPC super mega station at Katampe, Abuja   stretched over three kilometers, causing traffic jam.

The hawkers sold a litre for N200.

Transport fares have consequently gone up in the Federal Capital Territory.

Commuters in Kano are also groaning as a result of the rise in fuel  prices. Some retail outlets were shut while long queues were seen at the few that had petrol.

Prices ranged between N170 and N200 per litre in many parts of the metropolis.

Many motorists had to drive to the outskirts of the city to buy from hawkers at  exorbitant prices.

Some motorists who could not afford the astronomical prices simply  abandoned their vehicles at hope and took tricycles to their destinations.

Many  of the retail outlets in Awka and Onitsha in Anambra State sold fuel yesterday, although at N140 per litre.

Only the NNPC mega stations sold at the official price and there were no long queues at the filling stations.

The  common price in Asaba, the Delta State capital  yesterday was N150 per litre.

Most of the retail outlets on  Nnebisi, Summit, Ibusa , Okpanam and Anwai roads were empty as their gates were firmly locked with “No Fuel” sign conspicuously displayed at the corners.

The fuel scarcity has encouraged many civil servants to skip work.

A civil servant, who preferred anonymity, rued his inability, with the present petrol scarcity, to take his children to school.

He said: “During this hike, I have found it difficult to take my children to school as there is no money to purchase fuel. Most times I take public transport  to go to work which I find very uncomfortable.”

Although there was fuel at the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) mega station on the Benin-Asaba expressway where the pump price goes for the officially approve rate of N87 per litre, motorists had to endure a long queue to purchase fuel.

Almost all the major retail outlets in Asaba and its environs had no  fuel while some of the independent marketers  sold for between N160 and N170 per litre.

An independent marketer, Rainoil, on Okpanam Road, sold a litre of the scarce commodity for N100, resulting in a long line of anxious motorists who waited patiently.

The few filling stations that sold fuel yesterday in Jos did so in total disregard of the official prices, and even at that, much of the fuel found its way to hawkers who in turn sold four litres for  N1, 200.

A motorist, Samuel Izam, said: “The marketers are just doing business with the scarcity. When they have  fuel, they will rather sell to hawkers and  leave us at the mercy of such hawkers.”

Traffic was generally light on Jos roads yesterday as many motorists parked their vehicles at home.

The situation was not different in Maiduguri and Damaturu where five litres of fuel go for N2500.

In Damaturu, security agents allegedly connived  with the petrol station owners to exploit consumers.

The retail outlets now sell the product at night, according to residents.

Some petrol hawkers told The Nation that they were getting their supplies from the marketers.

“Oga, let me tell you: a soldier sold this fuel (pointing at a N20 Ltrs jerrycane) to me for  N12, 000,” a black marketer along Gujba road said.

In Maiduguri metropolis,  black marketers openly offered  petrol for sale to motorists.

The black marketers, who comprise of jobless  youths, however, resort to the massive buying of fuel in jerry cans, taxis, and private vehicles at night; and empty same product into four-litre cans and sale each at N5, 000.

Commuters and motorists in Maiduguri have also resorted to the use of tricycles, as most of the taxi cabs  in the town are either on the queue at the NNPC mega station or forced  off the road.

Alhaji Bukar Gana, Chairman of Presidential Task Force of Petroleum in Borno and Yobe, said that the ongoing fuel crises that hit the business and transportation sectors in the states may not ease immediately.

He said: “The fuel crises in Maiduguri metropolis, and Damaturu, the Yobe state capital may not ease, because our supplies to the two states have dropped.

“We have been working round the clock to ensure that the few number of fillings stations that have stocks of fuel are opened for sale, so that the long queues at filling stations are reduced before the end of this week. As I speak to you, we are going from station to station to ensure that fuel, is released for sale to motorists.

A mother of three, Mrs Ronke Oryiogho, lamented the loss of energy and hours she spent at a fuel station near her house  in Lagos.

According to her, she spent about one hour on the queue at a fuel station before she found out that the product was being sold for N130 per litre.

She said: “I went to a fuel station on Charity road at Egdeda. After queuing for about one hour, with about five people before it got to my turn, I decided to ask how much they were selling. I was surprised when they told me that it was N130 per litre. I was so angry that I simply reversed my car and went home.”

It was a similar experience for Mr Ojo Adio, a resident of Akoka area of Lagos. Adio lamented that his family had been left helpless as a result of the scarcity.

“It is a serious situation for me and my family. You can imagine what we are going through, no light and no fuel to power generator. As a result of this, we don’t have water because we cannot power the pumping machine.” I must confess that it is getting real frustrating.”

For residents of Lawanson in the Surulere area of Lagos; the recent scarcity of fuel has caused untold hardship. It is not only affecting businesses but causing unease for transport workers and passengers.

At some of the filling stations, there were separate queues for jerry cans and vehicles. However, it was learnt that the jerry can line had an upper hand since they were able to grease the palm of the fuel attendants which ensured that they got more attention.

“I bought fuel at N120 yesterday at the Oando filling station in Lawanson.  It was like a battle as the area boys were intimidating the fuel attendants while ordinary citizens like us were at the receiving end. I had to go queue as early as 6:00 a.m. If not for the sake of my wife and young son, I would have turned back, but I had to fuel my generator so that my wife and baby would be able to sleep at night,” said Mr Olumide Olufowobi. (The Nation)

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