• Scarcity bites harder, may linger
The blame game over the five-month fuel scarcity continued at the weekend with motorists and other users of the product paying between N240 and N550 per litre in major cities across the country.
In Lagos, Ondo, Edo, Kwara Abia, Anambra and Benue states, some independent marketers boldly displayed unofficial prices on their pumps. Others left the old official price of N167 per litre, but verbally announced higher prices to willing buyers.
In some of the stations, motorists still queued for hours. But, in others, it was drive-in and buy.
However, major marketers like the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporaton (NNPC), still sold at N185, a price that was surreptitiously introduced over a week ago. Buying at many of the stations came with a condition introduced by greedy attendants and their managers: The term was a mandatory payment of 10 per cent on the quantity purchased
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Our correspondents reported that most of the major marketers along routes like Bank Anthony, Ikeja; Ikorodu Road; Murtala Muhammed Road, Yaba and Obafemi Awolowo Road in Ikoyi were under lock and key yesterday. The few that opened for business had motorists waiting for hours.
In Akure, where motorists also stayed in lines for hours, pump price hit N500 per litre at petrol stations in the city.
A motorist however, told The Nation that he bought fuel along Ondo Road at N550 per litre.
Only independent marketers sold at between N300 and N380 in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.
Bovas, a private marketer, which sold for N190 per litre, had a long queue that caused gridlock. In the last three days, NNPC mega filling station in the city metropolis has been dispensing fuel at the approved official pump price.
In Abia, the product sold for between N370 and N400 at stations operated by independent marketers like Alba.
Total, Eterna Oil and a few others sold at N295 on Friday and early hours of Saturday in Umuahia and Aba but did not sell yesterday.
Stations like Tonimas and Easy On that sold between N340 and N350 had no queues.
An Independent Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) member at Osisioma Depot blamed the hike on factors beyond their control.
He said: “The increase that you noticed was a result of the price that we bought from tank farms.
“There’s no way you will buy a product at N10 and sell at N10 after expenses. The end to the current fuel pump price increase is not yet in sight unless tank farms reduce their price as well”
A motorist in Awkuzu, Oyi Local Government Area of Anambra State, said he bought at N450 per litre while another in Onitsha said it sold for N370.
IPMAN Chairman in the state, Chinedu Anyaso, attributed the present price hike to a shortage which, according to him, cannot be resolved by President Muhammadu Buhari-led 14-member committee.
He argued that mass flooding of the market with fuel would force the price to crash.
Anyaso said: “The problem we have is a shortage in supply, there is not enough product in the system. If the government can flood the system with products, I don’t think this committee is necessary. The government must come out open and explain to Nigerians their major challenges rather than setting up different committees that may not proffer immediate solution to the problem at hand.
“The only thing the public will want to hear at the moment is that the product is available for marketers to load and distribute to the people instead of sourcing from private tank farm owners at an exorbitant price. Government also needs to ensure that all local refineries are working.”
Only independent marketers in Makurdi and its environs sold fuel to motorists, who struggled for hours, at #350 per litre.
A motorist, Agatha Zugwem, expressed concern that the lingering scarcity had taken a toll on many businesses in the state.
The Nation further gathered from key stakeholders that the cost of renting a daughter vessel, diversion of allocations by some marketers and sabotage were responsible for the scarcity and hike in prices.
The players, who also warned that the scarcity might last longer, added that government’s failure to pay N600 billion it allegedly owes IPMAN members and rationing of fuel were also factors.
While stakeholders accuse marketers of instigating an increase in pump price, the marketers blame the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) for the scarcity.
A marketer, who admitted that they receive fuel from depots at the official price, said that additional costs make it unprofitable for them to sell at the price approved by the government. For instance, the source said renting a daughter vessel to evacuate petrol to a place like Calabar cost about $90, 000 a day, while in Lagos, it costs about $30,000 per day.
He said: “If the daughter vessel is delayed due to processing of documentation or finds it hard to anchor and stay longer than a day, then the depot owner has to pay for all the number of days it spends to complete the operation. They will still pay for maintenance of their facility, NIMASA and NPA charges- all in dollars and you expect them to sell at the regulated price?”
Industry sources also allege that there is ongoing sabotage within the system that is aimed at increasing pump prices. One of the sources was quick to point at the unofficial movement of petrol price from N165 to N170 per litre and just last week the increase from N170 to N185 per litre.
He said: “In these instances, the government tamely denied increasing the price without insisting on its reversal.
“By selling petrol beyond the official price, marketers are daring government to come and arrest them knowing that it is not possible because the government is also aware of what is happening in the industry. “This thinking is that when the people can no longer bear the pains of the scarcity, they will eventually bow to deregulation of the price which is what marketers want.”
Another source claimed that IPMAN is also reluctant to continue lifting fuel at the unofficial price from depots.
He said that IPMAN wants the government to pay its members over N600 billion for bridging the gap. This claim has however been disputed by the government.