The scarcity of kerosene, used by millions of largely poor Nigerians for cooking, has hit major cities causing huge increase in price.
The situation has also caused some residents to turn to alternatives such as firewood and cooking gas.
Three of the most affected cities are Kaduna and Zaria in Kaduna State and Calabar in Cross River State.
In Kaduna, none of the filling stations visited by reporters in the state capital on Saturday had kerosene (DPK) for sale.
In one of the stations, the attendants said the scarcity began on January 2 as they got no supply from Lagos and Kaduna Refinery.
“We have no supply of DPK since the 2nd of this month. The one you see our vendors selling they bought since Christmas,” the attendant said.
In Calabar, the scarcity has led to an increase in price to between N350 and N400 per litre from less than N300 per litre.
A News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, survey on Sunday showed that the product was not available in any filling station in the Cross River capital and its suburbs.
However, the product was available only in surface tanks in parts of the city, where dealers sold it at N350 per litre.
The survey revealed also that the itinerant retailers sold the commodity between N380 and N400 per litre, depending on the area.
Grace Nja, who resides in Ikot Efanga area of the city, said that she bought the product at N280 at a filling station early last week.
Ms. Nja alleged that petrol product marketers in the state sold their consignments wholly to some middlemen from neighbouring states, instead of the consumers within the state.
“I went to buy kerosene and I saw some women from outside the state carrying big cans and buying the product in large quantity.
“So, they are the ones that buy up the entire supply in the state,” she said.
Another resident, Elizabeth Sunday, decried the situation and described it as greed on the part of the product marketers.
“This is bad for us the poor people of this country. I am a widow and I don’t have money to buy gas cooker.
“Now the price of kerosene is out of my reach and it is hard to feed nowadays.
“My appeal is that government should do something to change the situation in the interest of the masses,” she said
Ekpenyong Lazarus, a resident of Akamkpa in Akamkpa Local Government Area, said that the product sold for N400 per litre in the area.
“That is only when you are able to find it at all,” he added.
In Kaduna, the kerosene scarcity has led to a 30 per cent increase in price of cooking gas.
At the popular gas vendor station on Ali Akilu Road Kaduna, a seller attributed the price hike to the scarcity of kerosene.
“From yesterday, we started noticing more people coming to buy gas. And because of the sudden demand, some of us started to increase the prices and yet people are buying.
“Before this morning to be precise, we used to refill the 12kg cylinder for N3,500, but now some people refill it for N4,200. So it goes for all the other cylinders,” the trader told newsmen.
Ummi Dalhat, a mother and resident of Unguwan Dosa in Kaduna, said she was unlucky to get caught up in the Saturday cooking gas price rise.
“It is unfortunate that my cooking gas finished yesterday and I sent for refill this morning. When I was told about the rise, I had no option than to buy. Who knows what it will cost tomorrow?”
Maryam Malam, a bean cake (akara) seller at Unguwan Yero, Kaduna, said that the kerosene scarcity has led to a reduction in the volume of firewood sold per price.
“I bought N100 firewood this afternoon and the quantity has reduced because everybody around is buying,” the akara seller who uses firewood for her cooking said.
Chibuzor Clement, a cooking gas stove seller at the Gumi Market told newsmen that he had sold six stove at the time our reporter visited his shop on Saturday.
“Normally, I sell one or two, and some days none. You know the economy is hard on people now. But because of this sudden lack of kerosene, people who can afford the small cooking gas stove are buying it as an alternative. And some are buying electric stove. But you cannot guarantee (electricity) light.
“The cooking gas stove goes for between N4000 and N6000, depending on the size and refilling it (with gas) will cost you about N1700, before the hike I am hearing about,” Mr. Clement said.
OIL UNIONS, OFFICIALS SPEAK
In its reaction to the scarcity, the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) on Saturday said there was no drop of kerosene in the private and NNPC depots in Lagos.
Rotimi Benjamin, National Chairman of Surface Tank Kerosene Peddlers (SUTAKEP) branch of NUPENG told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos that the product was last brought to the depot on December 27, 2016.
He urged the government to come to the aid of the masses who could not afford cooking gas, by supplying kerosene to the depots so that it would be available in filling stations.
A member of NUPENG in Kaduna, Abdullahi Kaka, revealed that the product was not available even at the refinery depot in Kaduna.
“Dealers used to come to the depot in KRPC to buy the product which basically is transported from Lagos, and some dealers used to buy it direct. But for weeks now, we do not have new supplies. I hope the authorities involved will quickly come to the rescue of Nigerians,” Mr. Kaka said.
In Calabar, Esue Obi, Chairman, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Calabar Depot, attributed the scarcity to lack of supply.
“As I speak, there is no kerosene in Calabar depot and all the tank farms in the state, Akwa Ibom and Rivers. Those having the product now travelled to Lagos to buy it.
“So, when they add the cost of transportation and other sundry expenses, the price must be high; that is the situation now.
“Importers are complaining of lack of foreign exchange. So, we don’t know when the product will be available,” Mr. Esue said.
When contacted, Ndu Ughamadu, Group General Manager, Public Affairs, NNPC said most marketers have refused to import kerosene due to the scarcity of dollars and the fluctuating crude oil prices.
He said NNPC had no control over marketers as that is responsibility of PPPRA and DPR.
He said NNPC Mega stations sell at controlled price, but refused to give the exact official price
Kerosene was, however, not available at NNPC Mega station, Mando, Kaduna as at the time of this report.