HEADLINE | Posted: Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Scarcity: Fuel shortage, queues worsen in Lagos, Abuja, others

By Udeme Akpan, Energy Editor, Obas Esiedesa & Favour Ulebor

The nation’s fuel shortage appears to have worsened, yesterday, as filling stations ran out of stocks, thus shutting their gates against motorists and other users of the product.

Checks by Vanguard in Lagos showed there were long queues at filling stations with commercial stocks of the product as panic buying continued across the state.

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Illegal operators were also seen hawking the product along Ikorodu Road, Maryland and Marina, due mainly to the absence of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority, NMDRA, industry regulator, to enforce compliance.

Also in Abuja, petrol supply situation grew worse yesterday as more filling stations ran out of stock while black marketers hiked their price to N1,500 per litre.

Checks by Vanguard showed that most petrol stations including outlets owned by major marketers in the central area of the city were shut down.

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However, NNPC Retail mega station and NIPCO stations continued to dispense with long queues seen at the stations located in Karu, Airport Road and the Central Business District.

The supply difficulty which the NNPC Limited blamed on logistics challenge and flooding in the coastal areas continued into the sixth day despite assurances from government officials that the challenges were being resolved.

Minister of State assures consumers

The Minister of State Petroleum Resources (Oil), Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, said that normalcy was being restored.

In a post on his verified social media handle X (formerly Twitter), the Minister wrote: “Dear Nigerians, I understand the frustration many of you are feeling due to the fuel queues in cities such as Abuja. Recent flooding on the trucking route and unavoidable logistical challenges due to weather concerns have temporarily disrupted our distribution chain.

“I assure you that our dedicated team is working round the clock to resolve these issues. We are committed to restoring normal fuel supply as quickly as possible. Thank you for your patience and understanding during this time”.

FG should tackle issues behind shortages – TUC

However, the President General, Trade Union Congress, TUC, and President of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, Festus Osifo, yesterday, urged the federal government to tackle logistics, weather and other issues, currently stalling supply to motorists and other users of the product in all parts of Nigeria.

He stated this during an interview with journalists on the sidelines of the ongoing Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, Women Annual Convention, PWAC, on Tuesday in Abuja.

He said: “We will continuously have perennial oil scarcity until we do what is right. There is no silver bullet today that is going to stop the scarcity that will come periodically. About a week ago, if you are driving between Ayele and Auchi, you realize that some people sleep on that road for two days, and the road is completely cut off.

“So if you are bringing the product from Port Harcourt, for example, and coming to Abuja, you need to pass through that road, depending on where you are bringing the product from. So the roads today are bad. If you check different parts of the world, how many countries are using tankers to supply PMS or supply AGO; it is not done. Naturally, what is done is the use of pipelines, and in some cases, they use rails.

“If you go to the Western world, you see some rails that have over 2,000 tanks. Railway lines, whether it is in the rainy season, or dry season, are okay to go. So until we imbibe technology, until we fix our pipelines, until we fix our depots, that are also key. If the depots that we have, if the nooks and crannies of Nigeria today are all working, then we could have had reserve stocks in those depots. So that when our roads are bad, we can get those depots that are closer to the major cities, you have fuel supply. Then when the roads are good, you restock them, and at the end, you go back to business as usual.

“So we must be able to deepen the facilities of oil and gas logistics, if we don’t do that, perennially we will have it. So we must be able to sit down and define our distribution value chain in oil and gas logistics. Until we do that, this problem, we will solve it now, but in the next few months, it will come back.”

FG should tackle problems — PETROAN

Similarly, the National President of the Petroleum Products Retail Outlets Owners Association of Nigeria, PETROAN, Billy Gillis-Harry, said: “Snake-like queues have been seen at filling stations across the country. The situation has worsened traffic in states as the long queues spilt on major roads, hindering vehicular movement just as thousands of people were stranded at bus stops with transport fares doubling the previous amounts.

Aside from NNPC filling stations selling at about ¦ 570 in Lagos, retail outlets owned by independent marketers jerked up their prices from about ¦ 615 to over ¦ 650. The prices are far higher in Abuja and other states.

He confirmed that the NNPC, which imports petrol into the country and supplies marketers, has not changed its price but “if we do not get the product directly from NNPC, we will get it from depots struggling to do everything to get products out in the market, so the prices will not be the same”.

He said the NNPC was carrying out an upgrade on its platform and that should be concluded as soon as possible “but that did not stop NNPC from making alternative arrangements to make sure we have petroleum products. As far as we know, the challenges are all supply-based”.

“If there is anybody to be blamed; it should be blamed from the source of the products because retailers only sell what we are given, we do not import or refine,” he added.

Gillis-Harry said the cost of logistics was getting more complex daily because diesel used by trucks has also become scarce and expensive. He said the prices of logistics for fuel distribution across Nigeria should be subsidised by the government.

He denied the allegations that petrol marketers are taking advantage of Nigerians by hiking the prices of the commodity, adding that the highest cost of petrol should not be more than ¦ 680.

“I would expect that the highest price of petrol where the depots operate – Lagos, Delta, Calabar, Rivers State – should be anything between ¦ 620 to ¦ 680 maximum.

‘’When you add all the transportation issues that should take it from state to state, you can then look at the incremental additions that can come in, and make us not to be selling at ¦ 1,000,” Gillis-Harry said.

Forex shortage

The PETROAN chief said forex shortages have impeded the importation of petroleum products into the country hence limiting the full operationalisation of the deregulation of the sector.

“If we are importing products in a way that the deregulation is set for us to be able to import, which we desire to do, but we are hamstrung by the unavailability of foreign exchange to make that endeavour work.

‘’Even though we don’t want Nigeria to be an import-centred place for PMS, we need PMS to be able to work until our refineries are producing,” he said.

Gillis-Harry urged Nigerians to be patient and understanding as the current fuel shortages would be resolved.



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