The scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit continued in many parts of the country on Monday, putting a damper on the Christmas celebrations as many Nigerians struggled to get the product at the few stations that were selling it.
In some parts of Lagos and Ogun states like Ikorodu, Ikotun and Sango-Ota, some stations sold petrol for between N180 and N35 0 per litre.
Most of the stations that had the product in Ikorodu sold it at N200 per litre with long queues of desperate motorists and other petrol seekers attempting to buy the product in jerry cans.
The few stations selling at the official pump price of N145, including an NNPC station along the Mile 12-Ikorodu Expressway, had longer queues of motorists that spilled onto the road and disrupted the flow of traffic.
Commercial transport operators increased fares by as much as 100 per cent, saying it was because they bought petrol above N145 per litre. From Ikorodu garage to Gberigbe, the fare was increased to N400 from around N200-N250 before the scarcity.
From the Old Tollgate to Mowe-Ibafo, passengers were charged N300 on Monday as against N150-N200 in the past, while the fare from Agege to Mowe hovered around N400 from N300.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on Sunday broken his silence on the lingering fuel scarcity in the country, saying he had directed the regulators to end hoarding of the product and price inflation.
He said he had also been assured by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation that the situation would improve significantly in the next few days with the distribution of new shipments and supplies across the country.
“I have also directed the regulators to step up their surveillance and bring an end to hoarding and price inflation by marketers,” he added.
Last week, the Department of Petroleum Resources said it had come to its notice that some depot owners were selling PMS to unlicensed bulk buyers and some retailers at prices above the approved ex-depot prices, adding that some retail outlets were hoarding PMS or selling it at above the industry-set cap price.
The Zonal Operations Controller, Lagos, DPR, Mr. Wole Akinyosoye, stated, “These actions are clear violations of the Petroleum Act, 1969 and extant regulations, and they exacerbate the current supply challenges by bringing unnecessary hardships on the consumers.”
He said the agency had been punishing errant operators and warned that penalties would be imposed on any operator engaged in illicit acts.
Akinyosoye added that stations selling above N145 would be closed for six months and the product being sold above the cap price would be auctioned off to the public.
“Depots selling above the approved ex-depot price would be fined N25m, closed for at least three months and be excluded from coastal supply allocation by the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company for at least a period of one year,” he stated.
The United Labour Congress on Monday declared that the current petrol scarcity being experienced across the country was a clear manifestation of another failure of leadership in Nigeria.
According to the ULC, its investigations show that the petrol scarcity is not as a result of panic buying or hoarding, as often alleged by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, but the product is in short supply.
It also stated that it would resist any attempt by the government to increase the pump price of petrol, notwithstanding assurances by the NNPC that there was no such intention.
This is coming as queues petrol persisted in Abuja and neighbouring states of Niger, Kaduna and Nasarawa on Monday.
In a statement signed by the President, ULC, Joe Ajaero, the union said, “Our investigations and reports reaching us from our affiliates in the industry show that the present debacle is clearly a manifestation of another failure of leadership in Nigeria. It cannot be blamed on any panic buying nor hoarding as the product is seriously in short supply.
“Importers are not bringing in enough products, while the NNPC is not in any position to meet the demands of the market. It is, therefore, neither the fault of the workers in the sector as the Petroleum Tanker Drivers are assiduously working and lifting available products to the filling stations, nor workers at the various filling stations and depots across, who are on standby to discharge their obligations as required.
“Importers cannot bring in products because of bottlenecks created by the government at the point of procuring foreign exchange, while the NNPC lacks the capacity to bring in more products that are needed this period.”
The union stated that it was worried by the unbroken chain of ineffective governance by those who walk the corridors of power in Nigeria, and declared that it would resist any attempt to hike the pump price PMS.
It said, “The ULC is afraid that the government may be playing its old trick prior to raising the price of petroleum products in the country and we want to warn that Nigerian workers under our aegis will work assiduously to resist such insensitive intentions.
“This has become a game politicians play against the people but we vow to work to ensure that the outcome of this time will be in the favour of Nigerian workers, Nigeria and Nigerians.”
It added, “It is indeed surprising that a government that raised the pump prices of petroleum products, especially PMS to N145/litre, with the promise never to allow the return of fuel queues, is sitting on its rump and giving excuses why the same queues have returned with a vengeance.
“We believe that there is no excuse strong enough for this government to give over this worrying situation. Government should fulfil at least its side of the bargain. That is the only way to go. It is even worse trying to deflect the blame and push it on the unions in the sector, which is not true as this truly shows continuous disrespect for the citizenry that elected these same leaders into office.”
The union urged all concerned government agencies to move very fast and bridge the supply gap either by importing more PMS directly, or by making forex available to importers to bring in products, or by ensuring that Nigeria’s refineries ramp up production to increase supply internally.