Fuel scarcity triggers price disparity across major cities
There were indications during the week at across that some major fuel marketers may have struck deals with foreign partners to bring in fuel into the country without recourse to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for foreign exchange.
But those without foreign links are still grappling with the challenges of scare foreign exchange, as they are still unable to access the elusive forex from autonomous sources within the country.
Executive Secretary, Major Oil Marketer Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) Mr. Olufemi Olawore, 5told The Guardian last week during the week that although the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is still importing the bulk of the fuel, major marketers have started to get foreign exchange from their international partners to bring in the fuel to complement the import by. He said he “We have ordered for fuel and the product is coming in gradually because marketers have started getting forex from their international partners. But the foreign exchange is still a problem. The Central Bank has asked us to go to the autonomous market, where foreign currencies are not available. This is why fuel is not coming the way it used to.”
In Lagos, fuel scarcity has abated as long queue are gradually disappearing, although buyers are still faced with the issue of differential prices at different filling stations.
While major marketers retail the product in most part of Lagos at regulated price, the independent marketer are still selling it at between N120 and N130 per litre, about N40 above the regulated prices.
This explains the queue at the filling stations owned by major marketers in the city, where consumers now prefer in order to cut cost.
The same situation prevails in other cities in the country. Queues have reduced, but disparity in pricing persists between stations operated by major and independent marketers, where the former keeps to the approved N86 pump price and the latter sells between N100 to N150 per litre.
In Port Harcourt, findings revealed that 113 trucks of petrol were loaded and distributed within Rivers State last Tuesday, making the product relatively available in the supposedly oil-rich city. However, most of the filling stations were still selling above approved pump price of N86 per litre.
Investigations revealed that most of the stations, especially the independent marketers, were selling between N130 to N140 per litre. Major marketers such as NNPC, Total, and Oando kept to the approved N86 price, but motorists were trapped in long queues, while buying from them.
Some filling station managers, who pleaded anonymity, blamed the disparity in pricing on inadequate supply and high cost of the product at depots.
A manager at a South-south filling station claimed that he hardly get supplies from the NNPC depot, a situation that forced them to buy from private depots at exorbitant prices.
Another station manager told The Guardian that often times; the products are diverted out of the state, thereby worsening the fuel crisis.
In her reaction, the Port Harcourt Zonal Operations Controller of DPR, Mrs. Chioma Njoku, confirmed that 113 trucks of PMS were distributed within the state on Tuesday, assuring that more supplies would continue to be made available.
According to her, the agency is working tirelessly to ensure that the state and zone get exactly the products meant for them, and that the fuel crisis would soon be over.
She disclosed that the DPR recently apprehended two trucks loaded with PMS, meant to be discharged at Etche in Rivers State, at Uyo and ordered that the product be taken back to the rightful location.
In Plateau State, it was gathered that most fuel stations now have sufficient supply of PMS, as motorists can go to any station and be assured of getting the product to buy.
However, queues were witnessed in some filling stations that sell at government-approved price of N86 and N86.50 per litre.
A commercial driver identified as Musa, who plies Jos and Abuja axis, told The Guardian that the situation is now ‘normalised,’ as there is fuel in all the filling stations.
However, he had a reservation concerning the black market operators, who dispensed the product between N100 and N130 per litre.
Said he: “These black marketers are selling these products above the government pump price without any harassment and intimidation from the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and other security agencies.”
Commander of OPSH, Major General Tagbo Ude, at the height of fuel scarcity, directed that petroleum products in gallons and jerry cans be seized, as the products were not available at filling stations.
This curtailed the trade in the black market, as the operators now recorded low patronage, forcing them to slash the price for a gallon from between N700 and N800.
“There is free flow of vehicular movement now and transport fares have drastically reduced,” a transporter told The Guardian.
According to Alamba Joseph, a civil servant, “Plateau is a civil service state and the biggest challenge is the non-payment of salaries to workers, so that now that there is fuel everywhere, there is no money to buy the product. However, we are wishing and praying that there should be no fuel scarcity again in Nigeria.”
Meanwhile, Major Marketers’ Outlets (MMO) dispense PMS at the official pump price in Kwara State, but the product sells at N140 per litre at the majority of Independent Marketers’ Outlets.
It was gathered that over 60 percent of about 300 filling stations in the state has no product to dispense to customers.
Longer queues of vehicles are observed at the MMO, causing prospective buyers to spend over five hours to buy the product, unlike at other outlets, where vehicle owners access the product with ease.
But in the past one week, the activities of black market operators have reduced, due to a strict enforcement of the order of the Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase. Arase had declared such sales as illegal, with a threat of prosecution of those caught in the act.
Although the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) in the state is trying to ensure the product’s sale at regulated price, over 98 per cent of independent marketers still sell late in the evening at the rate of N150 in order to beat DPR’s surveillance team.
Fuel scarcity is yet to abate in Taraba and Yobe States, where is sold for as high as N250 per litre. Fuel queues are yet to disappear as motorists continued to keep vigil at filling stations to get the essential commodity.
The Chairman of Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) in the two states, Alhaji Abubakar Abdullahi Butu, blamed the protracted fuel crisis on what he described as the selective treatment by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in discharging their responsibilities .
Butu, who spoke in Yola last week during stakeholders’ meeting organised by DPR Adamawa and Taraba Area office to find solution to the fuel crisis, said scarcity would persist until officials discontinue their unfair and unequal treatment of customers and marketers.
He said DPR was enforcing the government regulated price at filling stations without any attempt to ensure compliance with the price regulation on petroleum products at the private deports.
“Private depots are selling the products at N115 per liter, so how can we buy it at such price and still sell at N86.50 kobo? It is impossible. Why is DPR not controlling them, but wants to force us out of business. If we buy at government approved price, we must sell at government approved price, we cannot sell at government price in situation where we buy at a higher price.”
He said the NNPC is yet to supply 365 trucks of fuel, which his members had already paid for since January, hence their patronage of private depot operators.
According to him, the fuel situation in Adamawa and Taraba States might get worse next week, as the union is planning to direct all its members not to buy products again from private depots to avoid issues with DPR officials that are already sealing filling stations.
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