Entrances to many filling stations in Lagos and other parts of the country remained shut to motorists on Sunday following a sharp drop in the supply of petrol to the market.
Findings by The PUNCH revealed that oil marketers were no longer interested in importing the product mainly because of the rising exchange rate of the dollar to the Naira.
The other factors responsible for the marketers’ action are delayed subsidy payments and rising interests on loans from banks.
An official of a major marketing firm, who declined to have his name in print, said, “I am afraid that we cannot continue to import petrol because it costs more now to do so owing to the recent devaluation of the Naira. The rising amount of petrol subsidy arrears payable to us coupled with the high interests on loans from financial institutions, are still major issues in our hands.”
Another marketer told one of our correspondents that an exchange rate of N226 per dollar was demanded on import duties contrary to the inter-bank exchange rate of N198 posted on the website of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency for the pricing template of PMS approved on February 19, 2015.
The major marketers import close to 60 per cent of petrol consumed in the country while the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation imports the balance.
Our correspondents observed on Sunday that the states hit badly by scarcity of petrol were Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Bayelsa, Ondo, Ekiti, Kaduna, Delta, Plateau, Akwa-Ibom. Abuja, the nation’s capital, appeared to be the worst hit by the shortage.
The Chairman, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, Lagos Zone, Alhaji Tokunbo Korodo, said the depots did not have enough products to serve filling stations across the country.
“If there were enough to go round, tanker drivers, of course, would move products to the areas of need. Nigerians should not be surprised that this is happening now. It is really unfortunate,” he said.
In Lagos, many filling stations did not sell petrol but those that were open for business had long queues of motorists to contend with.
Although their pump prices remained N87 per litre, black market operators sold 10 litres for N1,200, i.e N120 per litre.
Drivers of commercial buses capitalised on the situation to increase their fares. For instance, fare for Ojodu-Berger to Magboro, which hitherto was N50, was N100 on Sunday.
One motorist told one of our correspondents in Lagos that, “If our fuel finishes now, we will go and queue to get another fuel. Now that we have fuel, passengers would have to pay more until the situation improves.
It was a Herculean task for motorists in Sango-Ota, Ijebu Ode and Abeokuta in Ogun State to purchase petrol from the stations.
Although most of the stations sold petrol at the regulated price of N87 per litre, the Oando Filling Station in Ijoko, Ota sold it for N100.
A motorist, who bought from the said station demanded for and was issued a receipt which she forwarded to one of our correspondents.
In Ibadan, Oyo State, one of our correspondents had learnt on Friday that the scarcity was due to unsubstantiated information that petrol price would go down to N65 per litre.
A manager at one of the stations in the Mokola area of the city, said the rumour seemed to be gaining ground and that the marketers were studying the situation.
He said, “No businessman wants to run at a loss. The product we have now was purchased at the old price. We have not added any price to the stipulated N87 per litre of petrol but the queue is long because many people are not sure of the availability of the product in a few day’s time or why some fuel stations are not selling.
“Those who are not selling must have exhausted their product and are unwilling to buy more at the old price because of the fear that the rumour of a new price of N65 per litre could be true. If we buy today at the current price and government slashes price tomorrow, who pays for the deficit?”
The situation was the same in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State on Sunday as many filling stations rationed the product.
A station along Adebayo Road which on Saturday sold the product for only two hours in the evening and did not on Sunday.
Motorists and commercial transport operators went to the hinterland where petrol sold at a higher price but readily available. The price ranged between N100 and N105 per litre.
The shortage which was noticeable in Warri, Sapele, Ughelli and other parts of Delta State thinned out on Sunday.
But the pump price of the product remained high in Asaba as motorists paid between N95 and N100 per litre.
The attendants said the directive to sell at prices higher than N87 was given by their bosses, who they said claimed to have bought the product at a higher price .
The scarcity in Ondo State which began on Thursday worsened on Sunday. Petrol also sold for between N95 and N110 per litre in filling stations that were operational.
Checks by our correspondent in the state showed that most of the stations were still locked .
The Chairman, Independent Marketers Branch, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, Ore, Mr. Olakunle Ajulo, attributed the scarcity to the failure of government to pay subsidy claims.
He expressed hope that the matter would soon be resolved as stakeholders were already tackling the issue.
Ajulo blamed the shortage in Ondo and Ekiti states on the fact that the Ore Depot was not functioning.
There was also scarcity in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State. Apart from a few filling stations and the NNPC mega filling stations, others did not sell the product.
Some motorists spoken to said it was only the NNPC mega stations that sold petrol for N87.
A motorist, who gave his name simply as Femi, said he bought a litre for N90.
The product also sold for between N110 and N120 per litre in Jos, Bukuru and its environs in Plateau State.
An attendant at one of the stations, who identified herself as Yeni, said, “We have product, but the manager asked us to lock up the station.”
Many filling stations in Uyo, Akwa Ibom on Sunday were selling petrol at N110 per litre as against N140 to N150 per litre which was prevalent price for a litre of fuel last week.
Motorists and commuters in Kaduna State continued to groan in pain in the wake of fuel scarcity that hit the metropolis and its environs since Friday.
The Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division of the NNPC, Ohi Alegbe, told our correspondent on the telephone that the Federal Government had injected fresh 680 million litres of petrol to boost the product supply base.
He said the effect of the injection which was done at the weekend would be felt from Monday(today).
He advised Nigerians to desist from panic buying of petrol because there was no need for such.
Meanwhile, the Presidential Campaign of the All Progressives Congress has said that the return of queues at filling stations is a confirmation that the policies of the Goodluck Jonathan administration are founded on deceit and insincerity.
According to the APC campaign, it is now evident that the recent reduction in cost of petrol was borne out of political expediency, rather than compassion.
It also condemned the poor electricity supply across the country by power firms, describing it as a sad reminder of the failure of the PDP-led Federal Government.
The group, in a statement by its Director of Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, wondered how a political party which has been in power for 16 years, could still feel confident to seek another term in office.
The statement partly read,“The issue is that being unable to set up even one new refinery in the past five years and unable to get existing refineries to function up to 50 per cent capacity, the people of Nigeria surely need another set of people to be in charge of affairs.