Widespread outrage as fuel scarcity spreads
•Consumers in panic buying •NUPENG, IPMAN, others warn against hoarding •DPR seals 14 fuel stations
Rumour of possible hike in prices of petroleum products festered on Saturday, resulting in confusion and panic buying among consumers, with the attendant outcry from concerned entities over dangers associated with hoarding petroleum products.
Investigation by Sunday Tribune reporters in parts of the country indicated that queue that had been unusual in fuel stations had been returning to some, while a few other stations had been accused of deliberately keeping the commodity from the reach of consumers.
Meanwhile, stakeholders across the nation, including the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) have been urging caution against panic buying and hoarding, giving assurance of the commodity’s availability.
Panic in Delta
Amidst uncertain atmosphere, residents in major towns of Delta State woke up on Saturday to be confronted with fear of increase in pump price of petrol.
As early as 8:00 a.m. when Sunday Tribune headed to filling stations along Warri – Sapele road, queues of vehicles and kegs had emerged at Total Filling Station near Hausa Quarters.
It was gathered that the cause of the queue was not absence of petrol, but a mechanical hitch with the generating set of the gas station. But in no time, it was repaired and normal sales began at the normal price of N145 per litre.
However, this was not the case with every other gas station in that axis of the town, such as Forte Oil, Mobil, among others, which did not open to customers at all, citing non-availability of (Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).
Stranded buyers alleged hoarding of the product as reason for their refusal to sell.
Checks at gas stations in Sapele and Ughelli as of 3:30 p.m. revealed that pump price of petrol had been jacked up to N150 per litre.
Long queues had reportedly emerged at dispensing stations in Ughelli, while others were said to be hoarding the product.
In Asaba, the state capital, the situation was said to be normal with neither queues nor hike in pump price in filling stations visited in the metropolis.
Queue, panic, but stable price in Kwara
Sunday Tribune observed panic buying of petroleum products among motorists in the Ilorin metropolis and neighbouring communities since last Tuesday as many fuel stations had not been opening for business.
The situation which had persisted in almost all parts of the state has, however, not brought about any increase in the pump price of petroleum products or transport fares. The panic buying has also brought back queues at filling stations which have the commodity to sell.
While many fuel consumers could not give reason for the panic buying of petroleum products, it was gathered from fuel attendants that there had been shortage in supply of the commodities to stations from depots.
Calm in Bauchi
Though there is uncertainty about the increase in the pump price of petroleum products, particularly PMS, marketers and consumers in Bauchi State are feeling at ease, as there has not been panic buying in any filling station visited.
In all the stations that have the products, consumers were seen buying at the official price of between N143 and N145.
At all AYM Shafa filling stations, buyers of PMS were seen buying stress.
Also, at the NNPC mega station along Bauchi – Jos road, there was enough product with a few buyers. The station manager said it was always like that there was more vehicular movement within the town at weekends.
Some of the consumers who spoke to our correspondent expressed concern over the panic, calling on the Federal Government not to do anything that would increase the suffering of the masses.
Scarcity already taking toll on motorists in Ondo
Residents of Akure, the Ondo State capital, also resumed queuing at the filing stations for PMS as scarcity of the product reportedly loomed in the state.
Many of the fuel stations were under lock and key, while the few that were selling the product were filled up with vehicles, causing traffic gridlock.
Sunday Tribune noticed that most of the fuel stations selling fuel to the public were owned by major marketers, while stations owned by the independent marketers were not selling.
Some motorists who spoke with our correspondent lamented over the scarcity, expressing the fear that the situation would add to the hardship being experienced by the people of the state.
Depot owners lament scarcity of product
In a reaction, chairman of IPMAN, Ore Depot, Mr. Shina Amoo, attributed the development to the scarcity of the product at the depot, saying his members were not getting the products (for purchase) from the depots.
Amoo said; “the product is not available at the depots. So, we have to buy from the private depots, which is more expensive. We bought for N139 per liter from the depots, excluding other expenses we incur before landing it at the petrol station. So, it may increase at landing.
“That is why we are having the scarcity. We don’t have enough product in the country. But believe it will soon be resolved.”
Ondo govt threatens errant fuel dealers
Meanwhile, the Ondo State government vowed, on Saturday, to sanction any dealer that attempted to hoard petroleum products, especially PMS, in the state.
Senior Special Assistant to Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu on Special Duties and Strategy, Dr Doyin Odebowale, gave the warning in a statement issued in Akure.
Odebowale said the state government had viewed, with grave concern, the latest attempt “by some unscrupulous persons to create panic through the hoarding of PMS otherwise known as petrol or fuel.”
According to him, the assault on decency was coming at a time the NNPC continued to reiterate facts on the availability of the product. He explained that the NNPC had assured Nigerians of regular supply of the product and Ondo government had no reason to disbelieve the organisation.
“It is against this backdrop that the government warns, sternly, all petrol dealers in the state to desist from any unpatriotic act which may inflict pains on the people.
“We, on our part, will resist and sanction any untoward practice, conceived and or executed to engender hardship in the state. Consequently, the government directs all filling stations operating in the state to open same forthwith.
Panic buying in Osun, Ogun too
In Osun State, motorists, commercial motorcyclists and other users of petrol, on Saturday, stormed filling stations to buy the commodity.
Though, our correspondent found out that independent oil marketers were selling at N145, N143 and N142 per litre, the rush for the product culminated in mild queues at fuel station around Ogo-Oluwa and Ayetoro areas of Osogbo, the state capital.
Some of the motorists, who spoke with Sunday Tribune said they decided to buy petrol, following rumours about imminent scarcity of the product.
In the same vein, most petrol stations within Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, were not dispensing fuel to motorists, due to the rumour that the Federal Government planned to hike prices of petroleum products.
Long queues were observed in few petrol stations that opened for operations, while only few commercial cabs and motorcyclists were plying the roads.
However, Sunday Tribune learnt that officials of the DPR went round the capital city to ensure that dealers with products were selling to motorists.
In Lagos, panic buying continues, despite NNPC assurances
Despite assurances by the NNPC that it had several billions of litres of PMS in stock, long queues subsisted in various filling stations within the Lagos metropolis.
Checks by Sunday Tribune on Saturday revealed that motorists did not trust NNPC and went ahead to stock fuel due to imminent fuel price increment.
There had been rumour that the Federal Government might increase pump price of petrol, due to what marketers termed ‘poor margin’ on pump price of petrol at N145 per litre.
From Mobil to Oando, CONOIL and Total filling stations around Maryland axis of Lagos State, motorists were seen wasting hours at the fuel stations to buy petrol.
The situation was not different on Ikorodu road where Forte Oil, Mobil, NNPC retail stations were dispensing fuel to motorists desperate to buy fuel.
A visit to some suburbs like Idimu, Egbeda, Alagbole, Akute and Ayobo, where independent marketers hold sway, revealed that most, but not all, of the independent marketers were dispensing fuel.
Motorists cry out in Sokoto
Motorist in Sokoto State cried out to the Federal Government and relevant agencies over sudden reappearance of fuel scarcity in the state.
Our correspondent who went round the state capital noticed long queues in the filling stations selling petrol to motorists, while other stations did not open for business at all.
Meanwhile, some of the independent filling stations selling the product at between N142 and N143 per litre before now adjusted their prices to N145 per litre.
DPR seals 14 fuel stations in Sokoto, Kebbi
DPR said it sealed 14 fuel stations in Sokoto and Kebbi states for selling above control price and suspected diversion of products.
The Zonal Operations Controller of DPR in charge of Sokoto and Kebbi states, Mr Muhammad Makera, told the NAN on Saturday in Sokoto that the sanctions were meted out between Wednesday and Thursday, April 10 and 11.
He said the department had visited 43 fuel selling stations in Sokoto State, noting that three fuel stations were sealed off for selling above control price and one for suspected diversion of the products.
He added that 69 fuel selling stations were visited in Kebbi State and five were sealed off for selling above control price, two without valid operating licenses, while three were shut for suspected diversion of products.
Again, NNPC assures buyers of availability of petrol
The NNPC has, however, again appealed to Nigerians to disregard “trending social media report of an impending fuel scarcity due to purported refusal by some oil marketers to lift products from depots.”
The NNPC, in a release by its Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Ndu Ughamadu, explained that the news of imminent fuel scarcity was fabricated by mischief makers with intent to create undue panic in the prevailing sanity in the fuel supply and distribution matrix across the country.
NNPC said it had over one billion litres of petrol in stock, while Imports of 48 vessels of 50 million litres each had been committed for April alone, noting that there was no need for panic buying or hoarding of petroleum products in anticipation of “a phantom scarcity.”
The NNPC spokesman said the pump price of petrol remained N145 per litre.
… Major oil marketers too
Also, the Executive Secretary of Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Mr. Clement Isong, through is Personal Assistant, Olise Wakwe, said MOMAN members had petrol in their depot storage tanks and were loading out petrol to all filling stations.
“MOMAN members will continue to receive petrol into their storage tanks from NNPC vessels lined up for discharge throughout the weekend and will keep its stations replenished and operational throughout this period to serve the public and to kill the queues at filling stations.
“MOMAN members urge the public to avoid panic buying as there is enough product supply in the distribution system to meet public demand,” he said.
Don’t hoard fuel, IPMAN, NUPENG also say
In the same vein, IPMAN and NUPENG urged Nigerians to stop panicking over fuel scarcity as there was sufficient product.
The duo said this in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday in Lagos against the backdrop of the ongoing fuel scarcity in the country.
National president of IPMAN, Mr Chinedu Okoronkwo, told NAN that there was no need for panicking over fuel scarcity, as virtually all the NNPC depots across the states had commenced loading of petroleum product by marketers.
‘’Marketers are currently loading petrol in Makurdi, Kano, Enugu, Aba,Yola, Suleja, Kaduna, Ejigbo, Mosinmi, Ibadan and other depots across the country.
‘’The shortfall in distribution was due to slow pace of product importation and hitches at the jetty which had been addressed. But the Federal Government is on top of the situation. There is enough of petrol to go round. I have also instructed all our members to ensure adequate distribution of the product across the country. I also directed them to ensure product is sold at official price of N145 per litre. If there is any issues on distribution and pricing differentials, members should call the secretariat for further action.
‘’The PPPRA template has not changed. So, no marketer should influence hike or sell above official price,” he said.
The chairman of Lagos Zone of NUPENG, Mr Tayo Aboyeji, also corroborated the IPMAN president, saying “there is enough fuel. Nigerians should avoid panic buying.”
Aboyeji said “there is fuel. As I am talking to you now, some of the depots have received the products and are already loading. What is happening is panic buying. People think there might be price increase from government or removal of subsidy. But nothing of such; government has assured us that no increase in petrol pricing for now. So, Nigerians and marketers should avoid being panic over fuel scarcity.”
However, the chairman, Western Zone of IPMAN, Alhaji Debo Ahmed, attributed the ongoing queues at some stations to shortfall in NNPC distribution network to depots.
Ahmed said all depots within the South-West zone were loading at a low pace, due to insufficient products.
“We have lots of pending tickets from marketers awaiting loading at depots, but were still stranded,” he said.