Nigerians Brace For Long Fuel Scarcity, Ahead Of Inauguration
IT all started like the normal queues and fuel scarcity Nigerians have been used to over the years, especially following a price hike or strike or threat of it by workers in the oil sector.
But unlike in the past when the queues thinned out over time, particularly when there has been an agreement between the workers and the federal government or denial of impending increase in pump price, the current fuel scarcity is lingering and may persist for some time to come.
Already, the scarcity, which is worsening by the day, following shortfall in supply (importation), compared to demand, has negatively affected all commercial, economic and social activities across the country, which is the seventh largest oil producer in the world. Gradually, the number of filling stations with products to dispense is reducing, with petrol selling between N120 and N200 per litre, depending on location.
Correspondingly, the number of black marketers has increased, with hawkers, including women and teens, found on the major roads.
Similarly, more black market depots have emerged and are thriving, with some filling stations with the product more willing to sell directly to them than customers/end users.
The erratic power supply is putting more pressure on demand for the products, with some Nigerians warning that the scarcity would persist until early June this year, when the oncoming government must have taken over and negotiated with the major importers on new terms and payments.
In Lagos, as in many other parts of the country, most filling stations were barricaded and the few that had products witnessed long queues of vehicles. In some parts, black marketers were cashing in on the situation by selling to desperate customers for as much as N3000 for 10 litres.
The scarcity has forced many car owners to park their vehicles at home, adding to the number of stranded commuters at major bus stops as few commercial vehicles on the road hiked their fares to remain afloat. Surprisingly, the effect of the four-week-old scarcity has also trickled down to how the city is lit at night and reduced noise pollution in most neighbourhoods as only a few generating sets now run at night.
Most areas in Lagos remained in darkness at night as many can no longer get fuel to power their sets or can no longer afford at the current prices which have been increased by about 300 per cent.
The major oil marketers had on Wednesday last week warned that the current scarcity may persist beyond May 29 if the federal government fails to pay their outstanding claims on subsidy. The government is yet to take any decisive decision on the development and it is not clear how the incoming government would handle the delicate situation either.
The Executive Secretary of Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Mr. Obafemi Olawore, had disclosed at a media briefing last week that the outstanding payment on subsidy and interest remained unpaid by government and had led to its members’ inability to import petroleum products in the last few days, warning that the scarcity might persist beyond the handover date (May 29).
“Because of the huge outstanding that we have; because we have not been able to pay back the loan we have taken, because our suppliers are not too confident, we are unable to bring fresh import,” he explained.
Olawore said unless the over N200 billion that the government owes both MOMAN and DAPPMA was paid, the scarcity might remain.
Executive Secretary of Depot and Petroleum Products Marketing Association (DAPPMA), Mr. Olufemi Adewole, also said the federal government owes its members over N200 billion.
As it stands, the scarcity is likely to bite harder in the coming days as the available products are used up.