Despite repeated assurances from state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) that is has more than enough petrol to meet consumers’ demand; the long queues are back at the filling stations.
Many of the stations ran out of stock over the weekend, leaving the few that have the product to dispense at prices above the approved N145 per litre.
The scarcity worsened in Lagos on Sunday, a day the NNPC claimed it rolled in 250 trucks of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) to Lagos in a move to ensure product’s availability.
The fuel scarcity, which returned at the turn of last year, has been blamed on number of reasons including, panic buying; hoarding; sabotage and diversion of products to neighbouring countries by unpatriotic marketers.
Though critical holders in the fuel distribution chain resolved at the end of their series of meeting in Abuja during the Yuletide to keep the pump price at N145 per litre, only few filling stations belonging to the Major Oil Marketers’ Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) dispense at the regulated price.
Other stations have not only been hoarding the product to make the scarcity bite harder, they sell at odd hours to escape the hammers of officials of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), who have been moving around to ensure that consumers are not cheated by the distributors.
Hundreds of filling stations have been sanctioned by the DPR for offences ranging from under-dispensing of product, hoarding and to selling above the approved pump price.
The fuel supply problem was aggravated by the withdrawal of members of MOMAN and Depot and Petroleum Product Marketers’ Association of Nigeria (DAPPMAN) from product importation.
DAPPMAN’s chairman Prince Dapo Abiodun said the NNPC became the sole importer of product since October last year, when such venture became unprofitable for independent marketers.
Besides, the DAPPMAN chief shed more light on the possibility of smuggling the product out to neigbouring countries where a litre sells for the equivalent of $1 as against N145 in Nigeria. The local exchange rate in is N365/$1.
But the agencies of government are unrelenting in their efforts to ensure steady supply of the all-important product.
For instance, the Seme Command of the Nigeria Customs Service seized 22,000 plastic containers of smuggled petrol. The Duty Paid Value (DPV) of the products seized in Pashi Yekeme community, Owode, Badagry, was put at N10 million.
Command’s spokesperson Selchang Taupyen said in a statement credited to the Area Controller, Mr. Mohammed Aliyu, that no arrests were made because the suspects fled on sighting law enforcers.
According to him, the products were seized by officers of the anti-bunkering unit while they were being smuggled through the creeks.
The statement reads: “Our operational norm doesn’t allow trucks and tankers of petroleum products to cross the Nigeria’s territory, either through the Seme main border or its Owode Apa outstation.
“The Owode Apa station is synonymous to every approved border post and it’s manned by all government security agencies.
“Trucks are strictly monitored and documents are properly cross-checked to ensure that they are discharged to the approved filling station.
“Officers of the anti-bunkering unit are on ground to ensure that smuggled products through illegal routes are apprehended and seized.”
He advised the public to desist from smuggling and embrace legitimate trade.
“We are well equipped to tackle smuggling and we advise the public to desist from such illegal act or be ready to face the law” he said.
Ondo governor enforces N145 per litre
In Ondo State, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu paid surprise visits to some petrol stations in Akure, the state capital to ensure strict compliance with the government directive that fuel dealers should sell product at N145 per litre.
Accompanied by members of the Task Force on Petroleum, headed by his Senior Special Assistance (SSA) on Special Duties, Dr Doyin Odebowale, the governor expressed displeasure that many filling stations were dispensing fuel at between N190 and N200 per litre.
He ordered the erring filling stations to immediately revert to the official price, threatening to impose sanctions against any fuel dealers who indulge in over-pricing, hoarding and diversion.
Bayelsa residents carpet DPR
Residents of Bayelsa State at the weekend lashed out the DPR officials in their domain for failing to protect them from alleged sharp practices of independent petroleum marketers.
The aggrieved residents called on the Federal Government to review the composition of the DPR in the state and to probe its relationship with owners of private filling stations in the state.
They wondered why Bayelsa was still buying a litre of fuel at outrageous amount per litre when the price of the product had stabilised in other states.
Investigations revealed that all private filling stations in the state still sold fuel above the regulated price of N145 per litre.
Most of them sold the product between N210 to N250 per litre against the N145 display on their meters.
Desperate motorists besiege the NNPC Mega Station owned by in Yenagoa, where the product was sold at regulated price. They endured the long queue. Others, who could not cope with the agonising queue, patronise private stations with complaints and bickering.
One of the residents, who identified himself as Moses, said the Bayelsa DPR was incompetent. He accused its officials of conniving with marketers to rip off the people.
He said: “What is the essence off the DPR in the state. I don’t think it exists. Or if it does, it means its officials are in an unholy alliance with these marketers. We hear reports of filling stations sealed in other states for selling above the pump price, but here in Bayelsa, we hardly hear of DPR activities.
“When you go to private stations, you will see the meter set at N145 per litre, but it is just deceit because they sell above N200 and use calculator to determine the price.”
But the DPR said it has never abandoned its responsibility and warned that it will sanction any marketer selling above the approved pump price or under-dispense product.
It said that that the depot price of Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) remained N133 per litre.
The Controller in the State, Mrs. Ejiro Ufondu, said enforcement officials are on the field to ensure that customers and users are not shortchanged by greedy marketers.
Mrs. Ufondu said the DPR had been going out on a daily basis to ensure that marketers did not cut corners but sell the product at the government’s stipulated price of N145 per litre.