FUEL CRISIS WORSENS IN ABUJA DESPITE ASSURANCES BY GOVT AS STAKEHOLDERS CLAIM THE WORSE IS YET TO COME

Worse days ahead, stakeholders fear

• PPMC agreed to supply products to us directly, say, marketers

• NARTO warns members against smuggling

• NMDPRA, IPMAN move to steady PMS price at N165 per litre

Despite assurances of supply and continuous provision of service, scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) has failed to abate in major cities in the country, especially in Lagos State and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), as motorists and businesses count losses.

This is coming despite the agreement reached between Petroleum Pipeline Marketing Company (PPMC) and retailers of PMS for direct supply of the product to fuel stations in strategic locations in the country, especially Lagos and Abuja.

Though most stakeholders and marketers insisted, yesterday, that the worst days are ahead for the energy crisis in the country, the Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) and Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigerian (IPMAN) dispelled such notion, saying an agreement had been reached to ensure petrol is sold at the approved N165 per litre price.

Across the highbrow areas

of Abuja, including the headquarters of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC), black marketers are smiling to the bank, selling a litre of petrol for between N350 to N500.

In Lagos, the queues are longer at stations where the product is being sold at N165 per litre, while stations, mostly those belonging to independent marketers, witness lesser queues, as the product is sold at N180 and above.

There are, however, concerns over the growing smuggling of petrol into neighbouring countries, as the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) warned that members engaging in the act would be prosecuted.

The President, of Petroleum Products Retail Outlets Owners Association of Nigeria, Billy Gillis-Harry, said a meeting with PPMC has led to the direct supply of PMS to retail outlets in some key locations in the country with strict joint monitoring that would ensure that the product is not diverted.

At that, Gillis-Harry said the only sustainable solution to the growing fuel crisis in the country is for the Federal Government to allow full deregulation of the downstream segment of the petroleum industry.

He said the queues lingered because marketers had to source products from private depots at prices that are not sustainable, adding that the product should not be selling below N600 per litre if market realities were allowed.

According to him, it now takes over N9 million to take delivery of a 45,000-litre truck, adding that the cost of diesel to transport the product as well as operate the stations is no longer sustainable.

“As a country, we do not have any other option than to deregulate. We can’t sustain the current situation, especially when you look at the difference between the landing cost and the pump price. The bridging rate has just been reviewed upward. That happened without an increase in the price of the products. That additional cost is coming from somewhere,” Gillis-Harry said.

At separate meetings with IPMAN Northern and Southwest branches, the Authority Chief Executive (ACE), Ahmed Farouk, said both organisations are working towards settling the outstanding bridging costs.

While welcoming the association as critical stakeholders in the energy sector, Farouk assured of the Authority’s support in the distribution of petroleum products to all parts of the country.

The ACE expressed concern about the rise in petroleum product theft and pipeline vandalism, especially line 2B, which services Mosimi, Ibadan and Ilorin depots, leading to revenue loss for the government.

He urged Southwest IPMAN to assist in checkmating the unscrupulous act as they have done in the past. He also revealed that the Authority had received complaints of private petroleum depots selling PMS above the approved price, thereby, disrupting the value chain and leading to higher pricing in some areas.

He called on the Association to report any depot selling products to its members, above the approved ex-depot price.

The Authority assured the association of its commitment to ensuring product availability and sustainability of the industry.

In his remarks, the Zonal Chairman, IPMAN Southwest, Dele Tajudeen Lamidi, said the purpose of the visit was to seek collaboration and support the Authority, in line with the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA 2021).

The zonal chairman identified product sharing, rise in penalties, difficulty in getting tax clearance, and high cost of doing business in the country as challenges confronting their members.

He pledged to the Authority and Nigerians that despite all the challenges, it has resolved not to embark on any industrial action as a conflict resolution technique.

He added: “As far as we are concerned in the Southwest, we have gone beyond the strike. The strike is not the solution to any problem because if there is a strike, it affects the masses and our businesses.

“We will work together to ensure free flow of petroleum products and also make sure that products are sold at the government-regulated price if we get them at the normal price.”

National President of NARTO, Alhaji Yusuf Lawal Othman, who commended the Federal Government for acceding to increase the freight rate by reviewing upward the national transport fund by N10, said the association would improve the level of service delivery in the face of the difficult operating conditions occasioned by the high rate of inflation, insecurity and dilapidated road infrastructure in the country.

He asked all members of the association to keep away from smuggling petroleum products across Nigeria’s borders, stressing, “we have given Nigerian Customs our full-pledged commitment that our members are law-abiding and patriotic, therefore, they will not be involved in this unlawful practice. Any member that is involved in this unwholesome practice would be made to face the full wrath of the law.”

Olufemi Alo, an Abuja resident, said the current fuel scarcity was unnecessary, accusing filling stations of deliberately not selling fuel or at least not selling to their maximum capacity.

“In recent weeks, I’ve had to buy black market for my generator at the rate of N350 because filling stations won’t sell and those that sell will have a very long queue. That means, I spend a lot of money on just my generator on a weekly basis.

“It is similarly difficult to fuel my car, it takes an average of two hours in a queue to get fuel on a very lucky day. It is so stressful and time-consuming. I wonder why everything gets so difficult nowadays. Hopefully, the government will wake up to their responsibility,” Alo said.

An entrepreneur, Akwu Obaje, said the development has resulted in a hike in transport and cost of baking items.

“The stress of queuing for so long just to get fuel when you have other things to do is stressful. Delivery companies that usually charge N2,000 to deliver products within Abuja now take more. Some end up cancelling orders, even e-hailing drivers,” she stated.

Energy consultant, Henry Adigun, said the current situation may not abate given prevailing economic indexes.

Adigun noted that the country is practically spending its earnings on fuel subsidies, adding that the low state of external reserves is worrisome.

A motorist, Oyindamola Yinka, who was in the queue at Nipco Station in the Banex area of FCT, said she spent the major part of her productive day in the fuel queue.
She had earlier spent about an hour in the queue at a different station but was unlucky as the fuel finished before her turn.

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