Saturday, 2nd December 2023

Holidaymakers groan as petrol hits N500/Litre in black market

By Eno-Abasi Sunday, Gbenga Akinfenwa, Wole Oyebade, Paul Adunwoke and Eseoghene Laba (Lagos), Kelvin Ebiri (Port Harcourt), Lawrence Njoku (Enugu), Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu (Benin City), Kingsley Jeremiah (Abuja), Murtala Adewale and Abba Anwar (Kano)
24 December 2017   |   4:52 am
Less than 24 hours to Christmas, it has been lamentation galore for holidaymakers crisscrossing the country to spend the Yuletide with their loved ones.

Less than 24 hours to Christmas, it has been lamentation galore for holidaymakers crisscrossing the country to spend the Yuletide with their loved ones.

Airports and motor parks in many cities were replete with forlorn passengers and families, who have either been disappointed by checkered flight schedules, or who have had to spend way beyond their budget on transport fare.

Not only have travellers been forced to pay nearly thrice of the usual fare, they have also had to cough out large sums as luggage charges, as the petrol crisis worsens.

In parts of the country, black market operators, including the very shrewd at Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Council of Lagos State, sold a four-litre gallon of fuel for as high as N2, 000, that is, N500 per litre.

In Kano, the product was sold at N250 per litre, and was unavailable in most filling stations in the metropolis, while black marketers had a field day plying their trade.

Apart from selling above the regulated pump price, most petrol stations along Murtala Mohammed Road, dispensed the product from just one or two pumps, forcing queues to run for kilometers. At A. A. Rano, along Sharada Road, where a litre went for N145, hundreds of cars queued patiently for their turn.

It was no surprise when the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), within three days of routine monitoring sanctioned eight filling stations in the state for defaulting, out of the 166 that were inspected, according to the acting Operations Controller, Kano Field Office, Mr. Paul Jehzi.

Jehzi, who claimed there was improvement in the supply of the product, said, “…we were getting between 20 to 24 trucks of the product daily. But now we get the supply between 39 to 40 trucks,” he revealed.

From Port Harcourt to Benin City, to Abuja and Lagos, travellers were forced to weigh their options after fare on some interstate trips were increased by nearly 300 per cent by transporters.

As Paul Osayande lamented having to pay N6, 500 to get back to Lagos from Port Harcourt, a student of Rivers State University of Technology, Roland Laba, was in pains after coughing out N8, 000 on the same trip on Friday.

“I had to pay N8, 000 to Lagos from Port Harcourt on Friday, using Agofure Motors, a journey I usually pay N4, 500. But it was one of the cheapest I could get. The other transport company that I went to, God is Good Motors, charged N14, 000 to Lagos on Friday.

Mr. Kayode Akin, who was travelling from Port Harcourt to Lagos, with four members of his family, lamented the increment, adding that he felt like he was being fleeced.

Virtually all the filling stations along the busy Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway; Ikwerre Road; Old Aba Road; East-West Road, were under lock and key. Those selling petrol sold the product at N250 per litre.

The shylock dealers argued that since they have been buying the product at a high price, and it would be preposterous for them to sell at regulated pump price of N145 per litre.

Most travellers leaving Abuja for other parts of the country at major motor parks were disappointed, yesterday, as limited vehicles were available, with a swarm of travellers on ground.

A traveller, Alaribe Grace, who usually pays N7, 000 to Lagos from Abuja, ended up paying N10, 500 to book ahead on the online platform of a major transport company.

Most commercial operators, blame the situation on the shortage of fuel across the country.

Ikenna Gorge, a transporter said he resorted to buying from black market, as long queues linger across the FCT.

In Edo, the scarcity lulled preparations for Christmas celebration, as transport fares shot up by over 50 per cent. As at Friday, a litre of petrol at the black market sold for between N250 to N300.

Very few major marketers like NNPC Mega Station and Total service stations sold the product at the normal price, while virtually all independent marketers in Benin City, were shut.

At Ameosa Transport Company, located at the popular Igun Street, a trip that usually cost N500, from Benin to Warri, in Delta is now N1, 200; Benin to Port Harcourt that used to be N3, 500, has now jumped to N4, 500.

Some of the passengers agreed that the increment was unjustifiable by whatever means saying: “This increase is uncalled for. They are just exploiting us. We appeal to the President to do something fast before we experience more pains and hardship.”

At Faith Motors, Benin to Enugu, a trip that usually cost N3, 500 is now N5, 000, while Benin to Uyo, is over N6, 000.

In Lagos, travellers going to Asaba, Onitsha, Enugu, Aba, Abakiliki and Port Harcourt lamented the fare hike.

When The Guardian visited Ojota and Mazamaza motor parks, it was gathered that some transporters charged as high as N12, 000 per South East-bound passenger.

At the Ojota Motor Park in Lagos, a passenger, Mr. David Ochigbo, said the increase in fare every Yuletide remains an ugly development in the country.

At ABC Transport Limited Park in Ijesha, Lagos to Calabar, in Cross River State, was priced at N12, 000 against previous N6, 000, while at God Is Good Motors Park, Mazamaza, Lagos to Uyo, Akwa Ibom State also goes for N12, 000 as against N5, 000.

A commercial vehicle driver, Mr. Obinna Jonathan, said, “We don’t know where this country is heading because we experience fuel scarcity every year, especially in December. Since morning, I have been looking for fuel. I know how I struggled to get N3, 000 worth of fuel, which I used to convey passengers.

A motorist, Mr. Henry Isong, said the struggle to get petrol had disrupted his plan to travel to Cross River.

He stated, “I am very confused and tired; I have been running up and down the whole day to get fuel. I started moving up and down with a jerry can looking for fuel. I was eventually able to buy only five litres of fuel for N2, 000, which I poured into my vehicle.

However, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has described the fuel scarcity as deliberate effort by the Federal Government to punish Ndigbo, even as it urged the people to intensify their prayers for peace in the country, and never forget to bring back their wealth to their homeland.

President-General of the body, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, in his Christmas message said knowing what Christmas means to Ndigbo the Federal Government is very uncharitable to the people by allowing fuel scarcity in the country during the Yuletide.

He said Christmas provides a good opportunity for the Igbo to pray more to God to send a succour to alleviate their sufferings in the country.

He urged Ndigbo not to allow the hardship occasioned by the anti-people policy of this administration to affect them about thinking home, and ploughing fractions of their wealth home.

Indigenes of Enugu State who returned to the state through the free transportation service provided by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s administration have commended the governor for the kind gesture, kindness and commitment to their wellbeing.

The returnees thanked the governor for making it possible for them to return home to celebrate Christmas and the New Year with their loved ones, saying it was the first time they had experienced such gesture.

The visibly excited indigenes, who spoke after they were formally received on arrival by the Managing Director of Enugu State Transport Company Limited (ENTRACO), Bob Itanyi and other top government functionaries at the company’s former main depot in Enugu, noted that they experienced a smooth journey and expressed gratitude to God for the safe trip.

The returnees from Abuja, Jalingo, Kaduna, Makurdi, Lagos, Minna, among others, said that if not for the magnanimity, kindness and caring spirit of the governor, who offered them free transportation, they could not have returned home, especially during this period of fuel scarcity, and attendant high transport fare.

Meanwhile, normalcy, yesterday returned to local flight operations at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, with more passengers now travelling on schedule.

Hundreds of passengers that had their flights rescheduled, cancelled, or unable to get travel tickets on Friday, freely travelled from the busiest airport on Saturday.

It would be recalled that flight services were partially paralysed Friday, when Arik Air crew embarked on a strike in protest of unpaid wages, leaving all its flights grounded and passengers stranded nationwide.

The dispute was, however, resolved and operations resumed by afternoon. But the backlog of flights either had to be rescheduled or cancelled, much to the pains of passengers travelling for the yuletide season.

Other airlines like Air Peace and Med-View also had operational issues that resulted in flight delays, rescheduling and cancellations.

But at the time The Guardian visited the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) and Murtala Muhammed Airport II (MMA2), both in Lagos, yesterday afternoon, all scheduled flights on high-traffic Abuja and Port Harcourt routes were going seamlessly. Other routes like Enugu, Calabar, Uyo among others experienced about an hour delay before take-off.

Price of tickets across the counter (where available) spiked by about 50 per cent for the economy class and about 30 per cent for the business class. The hike is due to high volume of travellers heading for the South and East. Almost all flights were fully booked, The Guardian learnt.

The airlines also apologised for the delays, pledging to improve on their services. Spokesperson of Arik Air, Banji Ola, assured customers, especially those traveling during this festive season that the airline will do its best to ensure they get to their destinations safely and on time.

Spokesperson of Med-View, Obuke Oyibotha, also apologised to passengers following flights delays, and rescheduling experienced in the week.

The airline attributed the delays to adverse weather conditions and unscheduled aircraft maintenance, which are critical to flight operations.