Fuel queues at a filling station in Abuja. Photo: Olatunji Obasa
Black marketers, on Monday, positioned themselves in strategic locations in parts of the Federal Capital Territory, hawking Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, in jerrycans to interested motorists and other consumers as the scarcity of the product resurfaced.
Also, queues of desperate motorists were noticeable in some parts of neighbouring states such as Nasarawa and Niger.
Although some filling stations dispensed the commodity in the morning, it was reliably gathered that there were supply hiccups, which made many retailers to halt the sale of petrol.
Retailers claimed that the ex-depot price of the commodity had been increased by private tank farm owners from the recommended N148 and N149.5/litre to between N153 and N155/litre.
This, according to them, has made many retailers to suspend the sale of the product coupled with their inability to get the required quantity, a development that led to the emergence of the black marketers.
Some hawkers were spotted in front of the Total filling station, opposite the headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force in the Abuja city centre.
They sold the product in 10-litre jerrycans for between N2,000 and N2,500 to motorists, who could not stay in queues at filling stations.
Some black marketers were also seen at the Kubwa end of the Kubwa-Zuba Expressway around Nipco filling station.
A senior official of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria told one of our correspondents that the partial scarcity in Abuja could be due to product hoarding by tank farm owners, who recently increased the price.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stated, “Petrol scarcity is likely going to happen, because there is supply drop and some of the private tank farms have increased their price from the previous price. We don’t know what is causing the problem.
“If it continues like that, there will be problems. Most of the tank farm owners are always sceptical about pushing out products towards the end of the month.
“Also, you know we are approaching the festive period. So, it is like there is product hoarding on their part. There is no communication yet from the government on this.”
When contacted, the National Public Relations Officer, IPMAN, Chief Ukadike Chinedu, denied that the marketers were involved in hoarding petrol.
He said, “Marketers will sell when they have products. Availability of products determines the operation of marketers, who want to sell at any given time to maximise profits.
“But right now, adequate supply is not there. Supply is the most important thing. We buy from tank farms and from the Port Harcourt refinery’s depot. We are having supply issues due to pricing.
“The cost of PMS in the private depots before was N149.5 per litre, but now they are selling at between N153 and N156 per litre.
“The NNPC depots are not loading enough to satisfy the numerous consumers of petrol across the country. Some of the depots don’t have products because of pipeline vandalism. Also, the roads are bad to convey products.”
Chinedu stated that insufficient supply from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation depots might further result in higher prices by private depot owners and that this might lead to a complete halt in sale by retailers.
He said, “If there is insufficiency from the NNPC, this price increase from N149 to N155 by private depots will give a wrong signal to anybody in the oil and gas business that any moment from now, it may get to N160/litre.
“And if it gets to N160/litre, we will not be able to sell at the current N162 to N165 official pump price. This is because we must factor in our transportation cost, logistics and the maintenance of our filling stations, among others.”
When told that the government insisted that it had enough products to keep the country wet for months, Chinedu maintained that private depot owners had increased the PMS price and that this was creating uncertainty in supply.
The IPMAN PRO stated, “Like I told you earlier, most of the private tank farms are selling PMS at N153, N154 or N155 as against the N149, which it was sold recently. This is creating a lot of panic and there is serious uncertainty.
“Most of the tank farms in the South-East do not have products. I want to tell you again that there is an issue. The government, through the NNPC, has not increased the price of petrol, but I’m telling you that private tank farms have increased the ex-depot price.”
A senior official of the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria asked our correspondent to report what the retailers said about pricing, but declined to confirm or deny their claims.
“Why don’t you want to report what they told you? Look, there are issues in the downstream sector; that’s all I can say for now,” the official stated.
However, officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company denied any increase in petrol price, insisting that there had been no official directive on the issue.
The NNPC has been the sole importer of petrol into Nigeria for more than four years. Other marketers stopped PMS importation due to their inability to access foreign exchange to make purchase.
“I was with the chairman of IPMAN over the weekend and there is no such thing as petrol price increase,” a senior official of the corporation, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stated.
“If there is a price increase, there will be a policy statement about it and it will be announced,” the source added.
The NNPC official insisted that the corporation had enough of the product and stressed that the queues would completely disappear in the shortest possible time.
“It is something that will go away in the shortest possible time. Just give it a little time, up till tomorrow (Tuesday),” the official said.
The source stated that the queues would completely clear out in the Abuja city centre, as they had started disappearing in some suburbs of the FCT and neighbouring states by Monday evening.
“There is enough supply and the NNPC has sufficient products to last not just November and December, but beyond January. So, if some people are speculating and trying to make an issue out of it, such people will lose,” the official added.
Other operators confirmed that there was no official increase in the pump price of petrol, but admitted that some of the over 200 private depot owners across the country had raised their price due to issues around logistics, among others.
The Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mr Clement Isong, who spoke with one of our correspondents on Monday, said there was no supply issue in Lagos.
“We have stocks in Lagos; we are expecting more product supply from the NNPC, and there is no need to panic-buy,” he said.