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Regulator mum over scarcity as NNPC relocates team to Lagos

By Kingsley Jeremiah and Collins Olayinka (Abuja)
15 February 2022   |   4:22 am
The Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA), yesterday, remained mum on the situation of fuel distribution, as motorists struggled to buy premium motor spirit spread across major cities in the country.

Motorists and passengers stranded as filling stations preferred to sell to black market operators in Abuja…yesterday. PHOTO: BRIDGET ONOCHIE

Marketers blame panic buying as fuel queues worsen nationwide
The Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA), yesterday, remained mum on the situation of fuel distribution, as motorists struggled to buy premium motor spirit spread across major cities in the country.

While efforts to evacuate adulterated fuel and maintenance of adequate supply appeared to have been overwhelming the system, The Guardian learnt, yesterday, that the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited has relocated key management staff to Lagos in search of sustainable solutions.

The Guardian checks revealed that while the defunct Directorate of Petroleum Resources (DPR) monitored activities of operators in the distribution value-chain, the NMDPRA has remained invisible to check the abuse by some players.

Although some marketers noted that panic buying and black market activities are worsening current development as motorists now buy way above their immediate needs, there are indications that the queues may persist for a while as the country may not have enough funds to keep spot purchase of petroleum products at the international market.

With the country also struggling to meet up with expected production of crude oil, The Guardian learnt that companies operating direct sale, direct purchase (DSDP), where crude oil is given in exchange of products are being owed thousands of barrels of crude oil.

NNPC Limited had admitted that four PMS cargoes imported by four consortia of its direct sale, direct purchase (DSDP) had imported adulterated fuel into the country leading to petrol scarcity across the country.

A top management team of the NNPC Limited who pleaded anonymity told The Guardian that the company was forced to relocate key management team to Lagos.

“We are evacuating the dirty fuel and at the same time working to ensure supply. This is not very easy because some trucks spend about five days on the road.

“We have already moved some of our members to Lagos to ensure this ends. But there is no magic, it can only be phased out gradually,” he stated.

While President Muhammadu Buhari had insisted on retaining fuel subsidy against extant provision of the Petroleum Industry Act, The Guardian gathered that the company, which would have moved into a neighbouring depot to redirect cargoes to Nigeria under a spot purchase, lacked such fund as fuel subsidy payment erodes the gains coming from the windfall in the international oil market.

In what appeared as a dilemma, the country is also unable to pump enough crude oil to meet OPEC quota as contractors under the crude for fuel arrangement are not getting the needed crude.

The Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) noted that panic buying is worsening the current development as most motorists demand way above usual.

Executive Secretary, MOMAN, Clement Isong told The Guardian products are being trucked out but Nigerians must avoid panic buying, adding that the situation will only worsen development as there already exists a gap.

In Abuja yesterday, traffic gridlocks were across major parts of the city as service lanes were closed to traffic due to queues from fuel stations.

At the EFCC junction leading to the airport road, where Optima filling station was dispensing, most travellers navigated from the Jabi Park to head out of the city and those heading to work spent hours in traffic jams as motorists jostling for petrol took over the road.

A few stations dispensing on the Kubwa Expressway, especially NNPC Retail, A.A Rano and A.Y Shafa experienced a similar situation.

In Lagos, the situation is no different as many major and independent marketers only dispense products at night in a bid to exploit the crowd seeking petrol both for their cars and generating sets.

Most stations in the city were shut as some motorists remained on long queues even when some stations were closed, awaiting when such stations would dispense.

Called at about 12:24 p.m. on Friday last week for inquiries, spokesperson of NMDRA, Apollo Kimchi requested a written enquiry, while the message was delivered to his WhatsApp number as requested at 12:56 p.m., he told The Guardian during a follow up call at 4:35 p.m. that he was off the office and would immediately forward the comment to another member of his office for adequate response. No response was received from him till now, despite follow-up calls.

MEANWHILE, most filling stations in Abuja and environs no longer have petrol in their tanks, as queues for the product get longer.

This comes as key players in the petroleum products distribution network have assured NMDPRA that their trucks and filling stations will only carry and sell quality products that meet the specifications of the authority.

While the NNPC and its partners are trading blames amid exploring the way out of the shortage of petrol nationwide, motorists are groaning as transport fares have shot up in Abuja metropolis.

Most of the filling stations have run out of supply, but not having petrol have not stopped motorists from queuing up, hoping for early supply.

Adamu Abdullah said his decision to queue at a filling station that has no fuel was hinged on hope and a rumour that the station might have fuel later in the day.

Also, a civil servant, who works in the Federal Secretariat located on Shehu Shagari Way, Florence Samuel, said: “I am a junior worker here on a salary scale of N38,000. I live in Lugbe, which used to be N200 before the scarcity but is now going for N400 or N500. That means I will have to spend N1,000 on transport per day.

Meanwhile, The Guardian gathered yesterday in Abuja that the NNPC and its partners are currently exploring a way of blending the adulterated fuel with Nigerian spec with the hope of restoring normalcy soon.

The marketers, in a meeting with the Authority’s Chief Executive, Farouk Ahmed, said since the discovery of contaminated products, they have taken steps to ensure that no off-spec PMS (fuel) reaches end-users by isolating and sterilising all storage facilities.

They hinted that measures had been put in place to guarantee that only on-spec products that meet the approved specification are sold in all their filling stations.

On the raging disagreement on freight of petrol nationwide by transporters, the stakeholders, on behalf of the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), appealed to the Authority to review the current freight rate for petroleum products transportation to reflect market realities based on the rising cost of spare-parts, AGO (Diesel), foreign exchange and inflation, among others.

Ahmed, who commended the group for its effort and support in minimising exposure of end-users to the off-spec PMS in the distribution network, said that the Authority would soon host a stakeholders’ meeting with NARTO to chart a way forward.

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