Loading of petroleum products commenced at fuel depots in Apapa, Lagos, on Monday afternoon, although Nigerians are still counting the cost of the crippling energy crisis.
The resumption of product loading followed the suspension of the strike by marketers and workers of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
Two marketers confirmed the development to one of our correspondents in separate telephone interviews.
The marketers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Nipco and Capital Oil loaded products on Monday.
One of them, who is a member of the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, said all the major marketers were likely to commence loading today (Tuesday).
It was gathered that other depot owners aside from Nipco and Capital Oil could not start loading on Monday because they did not have facilities for overnight loading.
Another marketer said normalcy would likely return to the depots by Friday as the current product scarcity had already eaten deep into the system.
In Abuja, marketers of petroleum products resolved to mobilise their members for the immediate distribution of fuel across the country at a public hearing organised by the Joint Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream and Downstream).
The Co-Chairman of the joint committee, Senator Magnus Abe, who read a communique signed by the representatives of the major stakeholders, explained that the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and others at the meeting unanimously agreed to the deal in interest of the nation.
He also explained that following the intervention of the Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Dr. Joseph Dawah, the strike embarked upon by the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria had been called off.
Abe said that the Executive Secretary, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Obafemi Olawore, had agreed to direct members of the body nationwide to start lifting petroleum products from 7pm on Monday, while the body equally agreed to pay the National Association of Road Transport Owners the transport cost for the products that would be determined by them.
The energy crisis currently rocking the nation has thrown the manufacturing sector into a near state of redundancy.
While lots of the manufacturers have embarked on working half schedules to cope, others are planning to shut down production completely until the situation improves.
Some of the manufacturers, who spoke to one of our correspondents in Lagos, said they had decided to cut down their working hours because of the acute shortage of petroleum products and electricity to run their factories.
A pure water maker, Mandu Obi, said he was buying diesel for N800 per litre instead of the previous N150.
“My plant needs about 1,000 litres of diesel to work every day. For a small business owner like me, I don’t see how I can keep up with such expenses. I had 1,500 litres of diesel left from last week and this morning, I decided to top it only to spend four times what I usually spend on a litre of diesel,” she recounted.
The President, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Frank Jacobs, said manufacturers were losing a lot of money as a result of the energy crisis.
He added that no one could put a figure to the amount being lost, but admitted that the manufacturers were losing a lot of money.
The Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Muda Yusuf, said the situation had completely crippled the manufacturing sector.
He said, “A lot of people are cutting down their working hours. Some companies have also shut down. It is a very bad situation. It is crippling businesses that depend on diesel and fuel.
“It is affecting productivity because instead of working for eight hours, companies are forced to work for only two or three hours.
“The public power situation is not reliable and the fall-back position is diesel or petrol. Now, both of them are not available. There are very few businesses that can be run without energy.”
Most civil servants were absent from work in Abuja on Monday as a result of the nationwide fuel scarcity.
Only a few people reported for work at the Federal Secretariat located in the Central District, a part of the city that is always crowded.
By 2pm, most offices at the secretariat had been deserted as the few civil servants who turned up for work had gone home.
The fuel scarcity also took a toll on the banking sector as five prominent banks in the country had to close their branches in the Federal Capital Territory by 1pm on Monday.
They are Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Zenith Bank Plc, Skye Bank Plc, First City Monument Bank Plc and First Bank of Nigeria Limited.
Similarly, many banks and insurance companies in Kwara State closed early on Monday because of the lingering fuel scarcity.
The situation was not different in Lagos as the banks and other offices closed early.
Our correspondent, who monitored the development in Ilorin, the state capital, observed that many of the banks stopped allowing customers entry into the banking halls from 1pm as against the normal 4pm.
Most filling stations visited by one of our correspondents in the FCT on Monday were not dispensing petrol, thus increasing the hardship of the residents many of whom were seen trekking long distances due to hikes in transport fares.
It was learnt that a bus ride from Nyanya to Wuse, which hitherto cost between N150 and N200, went for N300 on Monday.
Taxi fares have also doubled as the operators now charge a minimum of N1,000 for journeys that normally cost between N500 and N700.
In Ondo, some members of the state Chapter of the National Union of Road Transport Workers staged a protest against the acute scarcity of refined petroleum products.
For almost two hours, commercial vehicles in Akure, the state capital, were stopped from operating, especially on the popular Oba Adesida and Oyemekun roads, by the protesting NURTW members while some drivers who had already taken passengers were forcefully ordered to drop them.
As a result of this development, the commuters did not have any alternative but to continue on their journeys by trekking, while those who could not trek returned home.
Business activities were substantially paralysed in Abeokuta and most major cities in Ogun State on Monday.
Some of the banks in Abeokuta shut their doors against their customers around 12noon, while some did not open for business.
Many civil servants resumed late for work, whil e some did not bother to leave their homes due to the few number of commercial vehicles on the road.