Innovator develops App to stop manipulation of fuel pumps
JohnPaul Attueyi is the founder of Fuel Padi, a mobile application that enables people to find the cheapest fuel in their vicinity. It alsohelps to fight fuel pump manipulation at the filling stations in Nigeria. He spoke with Roseline Okere on how to curb manipulation of dispensing pumps at filling stations. Excerpts.
Since the partial deregulation of the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), many filling stations have actually reduced the price of petrol below N145 per litre and there is fear that the dispensing pump may be tampered with. You have just developed an application, which can actually help customers to know whether they are being cheated or not. What is the name of this new application and how does it work?
The name of the application is Fuel Padi. It’s an app to help Nigerians fight against increasing/uneven fuel prices at the fuel stations, stop manipulation of fuel pumps by fraudulent fuel station agents, and spring up competition amongst fuel stations which will ultimately help bring down the cost of fuel in Nigeria.
What motivated you to develop such app and how long did it take to come out with the result?
When it was announced that fuel subsidy had been removed and fuel would sell between N135 and N145 per litre. There was rumours that the NLC would embark on strike to oppose the price increase. My car was almost on empty when I heard the news, in anticipation of the strike and the nation coming to a standstill, I grabbed my fifty (50) litre keg and headed straight towards Ijora from Surulere. Just before you ascend the bridge, there is a Total fuel station to the right of the bridge so I went to that fuel station, joined the queue and eventually bought 70 litres for my car and 50 litres for my keg. Then I pulled out the fuel station and made a u turn under the bridge, as I turned I saw Oando on the other side of the road selling for N135.
It immediately hit me that I just lost N1,200 simply because I didn’t know the fuel station down the street was selling for less. Then the idea hit me, “what if there was an outlet for us to know which fuel stations have the cheapest fuel around us, instead of just randomly driving to any fuel station to buy fuel?
” This is why I started the Fuel Padi app. It’s essentially an app to help Nigerians collaborate and fight back against these greedy fuel marketers that keep holding us to ransom.
I have been working on this concept for about two and half months now, the app would be released before the end of the month.
How can people access the app and how much does it cost?
People will be able to get the app for free from Android play store or Apple store. There will be a link to download it from our Facebook page www.facebook.com/fuelpadi and we are working on our website www.fuelpadi.com which will detail everything you need to know about the app and how it works on the website.
Have you tried to introduce this app to the Department of Petroleum Resources, which is the regulatory agency for the industry? If the answer is yes, is there any form of collaboration with the agency?
I haven’t reached out to them yet, but I do intend to work with them at the second stage of the project. If you remember the price of fuel has always been regulated, but usually people in Lagos and Abuja are the only ones that actually get those prices. People in other states usually pay higher fees. This app can make it easier for the Department of Petroleum Resources to make sure that fuel stations in all the states are actually complying with the directive given to them. The app can tell them which stations are selling above N145, which stations are manipulating the fuel pumps etc. I am willing to go into a partnership with them where I can generate reports for them from our database to make it easier for them to track down these fuel stations.
Apart from monitory the dispensing machines, which other features are in the app?
Even though fuel is now pegged between N135 and N145 per litre. Most stations quickly jumped to the maximum amount they can charge which is N145. In Nigeria, when prices go up, they hardly ever come down so, we have to find a way to force these greedy marketers to come down on their prices.
Fuel padi is simply a medium by which we can communicate with each other and inform each other when we see cheaper fuel around us, when people start flocking to the stations selling at cheaper rates, the greedy fuel stations will have no choice but to lower their rates or be stuck with their goods. When fuel stations begin to compete with each other, the consumers (you and I) win.
Also, I understand that not all marketers are greedy, some of them genuinely want to charge a fair price. For instance, I was speaking to my younger sister who works and lives in Abuja, she informed me that AA Rano in Abuja, at a point was putting up billboards advertising fuel at N140 per litre. I thought, if AA Rano is spending money on billboards to inform people, the advertising cost would be an added cost which could have gone to the consumer if they didn’t have to advertise. So I asked myself “What if we took away the advert cost for them, maybe they can then pass the billboard cost to us and sell cheaper than N140 per litre. So for the non greedy marketers that want to reach out to the consumers, this app is for them also, all they have to do is update their fuel price on the app and customers with the app will know their fuel stations are selling cheaper and they (the customers) will patronise them. You save on cost of advertising, the customers get cheaper fuel; a “win win situation”.
What were the challenges you encountered in the process of developing the app?
In what areas do you think government can assist young innovators like you in the country?
I had two major challenges while making this app. The first one was that we banked on Google Map technology to produce this, but Google map in Nigeria is not as detailed as Google map in the US. So we had to find a way to close the gap.
The second challenge we had was with our payment gateway in Nigeria. There are lots of payment gateways available for websites, but very few are available for mobile apps. We found one that would work but the cost was just too exorbitant, considering I am funding this project by myself, I had to find cheaper alternatives. Eventually, I was able to find a way to bridge the gap.
I lived and worked in the U.S. for over a decade. I came back to Nigeria to try to make a difference, but the environment is not conducive enough. Most people would run back, but I am determined to make a mark in this country in my own little way. I think the government should consider incentives for people in diaspora to come back to the country. I think the government should create grants to help young innovators make their ideas reality. Information Technology is the way of the future, the sooner we begin to create an enabling environment for it, the sooner we can begin to get out of our current recession.