Many Nigerians on Sunday shelved their planned trips to different parts of the country for Christmas, as the current scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit pushed up transportation costs, with black market operators selling the product to desperate motorists for as much as N400 per litre.
After more than a year of relief from fuel scarcity in the country, fuel queues returned to filling stations across the country in the first week of December and has worsened since then.
In Lagos, many filling stations were shut while the few that sold the product had long queues of desperate motorists and other petrol seekers, with the attendants having a field day as they charged between N200 and N500 extra before selling to buyers in jerry cans.
In Kano, many motorists spent at least five hours in queues at filling stations, a development a motorist, Mallam Wada Inuwa, described as “energy-sapping and agonising.”
Inuwa, who wondered why fuel scarcity had become a tradition, particularly during the Christmas and New Year celebrations, appealed to the appropriate authorities to take proactive measures to address the ugly trend.
Lots of Nigerians, especially traders from the South-East, who had planned to travel to their respective home states from Kano for the Yuletide, had to shelve the trips.
Transporters increased the fare for the Kano-to-Lagos route from N7,500 to between N10,500 and N11,000, with only a few buses willing to undertake the trip.
“I wanted to get 30 litres at the black market and I was told to pay N12,000. At some filling stations in Maryland, Lagos, petrol attendants were collecting N500 extra to sell in kegs,” Mr. David Okoko told one of our correspondents.
Mr. Femi Likolo said he refused to buy five litres for N2,000 at the black market somewhere in Mile 12 and had to queue at a station for over three hours.
A motorist, Mr. Julius Opawale, said the scarcity had had a cascading effect on transportation and food prices, among others.
Meanwhile, the Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Economic Summit Group, Mr. ‘Laoye Jaiyeola, said, “As long as you are importing fuel, you will be subject to the vagaries of foreign exchange control. As long as you are doing regulated pricing, uniform pricing, it can’t work. We need to allow appropriate pricing.
“So long as we are importing, we are going to pay the price. But when we do it locally and we have our pipes laid and can transport the products to every part of the country, we will solve the problem. So, let’s hope that all the refineries locally that are being worked on will come to fruition soon.”
President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday broke 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.
Buhari stated this in a statement he personally signed and posted on his verified Twitter handle, @MBuhari.
Describing the fuel crisis as regrettable, the President sympathised with Nigerians who he noted had been enduring needless fuel scarcity.
The President stated, “The fuel scarcity being experienced nationwide is regrettable. I sympathise with all Nigerians on having to endure needless fuel queues.
“I am being regularly briefed, especially on the NNPC’s interventions to ensure that there is enough petrol available during this period and beyond. I have the NNPC’s assurance that the situation will improve significantly over the next few days, as new shipments and supplies are distributed 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. Let me also assure that the relevant agencies will continue to provide updates on the situation. I thank you all for your patience and understanding.”
The Group Managing Director, NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru, on Sunday revealed some of the things he discussed with President Buhari as regards the prolonged scarcity of PMS.
According to Baru, after telling the President that the major reasons for PMS scarcity were hoarding and diversion of products to neighbouring countries, Buhari immediately responded by ordering security agencies to secure Nigeria’s borders as well as increase surveillance.
The NNPC boss, who stated at a press conference in Abuja that the Federal Government had been resisting intense pressure to increase the pump price of petrol, noted that the landing cost of the commodity as of Friday was N171.4 per litre.
By adding the N14.3/litre for other cost elements like the retailers’ margin, bridging fund, dealers’ cost, transporters’ pay, etc., as captured in the last published template of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, to the landing cost of N171.4, the pump price rises to N185.4/litre.
Baru stated that the NNPC had been subsidising the cost of petrol, as the commodity’s most recent landing cost was N171.4/litre, while its official pump price was N145/litre.
When asked what he discussed with Buhari on Saturday, Baru replied, “Mr. President has already responded as part of the discussion we had yesterday (Saturday). He indicated that part of the resolutions of our discussion is to get the security and regulatory agencies to beef up their enforcement and surveillance of the distribution of products.
“This is because part of my briefing to him was that there is still significant hoarding and diversion, where trucks that are loaded to supply products to specific stations get diverted elsewhere, as well as being smuggled out of the country.
“And the immediate response of the President was for him to direct the border agencies as well as the internal security organisations to ensure that all trucks that are loaded deliver to the stations they are meant to deliver to.
“And, of course, part of my briefing, in the same light, was the fact that a lot of stations outside the cities have products and are selling at a much higher price than N145/litre, which should not be.”
Explaining why the government had been under pressure to increase the pump price of petrol, Baru stated that this was because the landing cost of the commodity was higher than the regulated price at filling stations.
“The landing cost moves with the CIF (Cost, Insurance and Freight) price of PMS. As of Friday, the CIF price was in the neighbourhood of $620 per metric tonne. With the official exchange rate of N305 to the dollar, the landing cost should be N171.40 per litre,” he said.
He, however, insisted that the government would not raise the price of petrol, adding that the NNPC would continue to sell petrol at an ex-depot price of N133.28/litre to marketers, who should be able to make considerable profit when they dispense at N145/litre.
The Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, said he would sell petrol to residents on Christmas day at the pump price of N145 to lessen the burden of fuel scarcity on the people during the festival.
The governor said he would use the fuel in government dump for the purpose to teach the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government how to be responsive to the people.
He berated the Federal Government for “failing the people and turning the Yuletide into a period of gloom with the fuel scarcity and poor finances.”
Fayose spoke while swearing in the 16 newly-elected local government chairmen at the Government’s House where he charged them not to distance themselves from their people.
The governor stated that Nigerians would not welcome the release of any Chibok girls at this point in time.
He said, “They don’t have the clue about the problems facing the country. We will sell petrol to people at the pump price of N145 per litre and we are pumping out petrol that we have in the government dump to do that.
“We are going to locate a filling station to use for the sale on Christmas day in Ado-Ekiti.”
The National Association of Road Transport Owners has kicked against the proposed scrapping of the Petroleum Equalisation Fund, saying that the body plays an important role in making available petroleum products at government-approved prices to Nigerians.
NARTO stated this on Sunday in Ibadan in a speech delivered by its National President, Dr. Kassim Bataiya, during the executive council meeting of the Petroleum Tanker Drivers’ branch of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Oil and Gas Downstream, Senator Kabir Marafa, had called for the scrapping of the PEF.
The lawmaker representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Senator Shehu Sani, on Saturday said Nigerians could have called for the sacking of the Minister of Petroleum Resources but for President Muhammadu Buhari being the occupant of the office.
Sani, in a Facebook post on Saturday night, spoke against the backdrop of the ongoing scarcity of petrol across the country.
While Dr. Ibe Kachikwu is the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Buhari has held on to the portfolio of Minister of Petroleum Resources.
The situation, according to the senator, has left everything to become more perplexed, puzzled and bewildered.
The post read, “If we ask the President to sack the Group Managing Director of (the) Nigeria(n) National Petroleum Corporation, they will say the GMD reports to the Minister of State for Petroleum. If we ask the President to sack the Minister of State for Petroleum, they will say the Minister of State reports to the Minister of Petroleum. If we ask the President to sack the Minister of Petroleum and appoint a competent one, everything becomes more perplexed, puzzled and bewildered.”
In a related development, the lawmaker representing Bayelsa East Senatorial District, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, said the current fuel scarcity was frustrating the celebration of this year’s Christmas by Nigerians.
He said while the scarcity was a reality, Nigerians never expected it.