Many filling stations in Nigeria are still not dispensing Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, a development that worsened the nationwide PMS scarcity and paralyzed activities across the country on Wednesday.
In Abuja, Lagos, Rivers, Bayelsa, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Kano, Ogun states, among others, queues by motorists for petrol greeted the very limited number of filling stations that dispensed the commodity.
The crisis caused by the adulterated petrol imported into Nigeria about two weeks had led to a hike in the cost of the commodity in many states, as black marketers of the PMS also cashed in on the development.
The cost of transport fares skyrocketed nationwide, and many small businesses were grounded due to the inability of the owners of the ventures to access petrol to run their activities.
Meanwhile, oil marketers also restated on Wednesday they were making moves to start blending the adulterated PMS since the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited had yet to recall all the contaminated products.
The NNPC had stated on Tuesday it was working hard to address the situation, as it noted that over 2.3 billion liters of PMS would arrive in the country between now and the end of February 2022.
This, it said, would restore sufficient volume and above the national target of 30 days.
“As of today, the NNPC has over one billion liters of petrol in stock, and the PMS being dispensed today at the various filling stations in the country is safe,” the oil firm said in a statement issued in Abuja.
But despite the NNPC’s promises, the queues across the country persisted and the cost of petrol continued to rise above the official rate of N165/liter.
In Ogun State, residents and traders in Abeokuta and some parts of the state lamented the hardship experienced over the scarcity of fuel in the state.
Most of the filling stations in the capital and its environs were either shut to customers or increased the pump price of the commodity.
Many residents and traders complained that they could not carry out their business activities due to the scarcity, which also forced an increase in transport fares and commodities.
In Kwara State, the scarcity paralyzed economic activities in Ilorin, the state capital, as most commercial and private vehicles were off the roads with many commuters stranded.
The few filling stations that dispensed fuel were jam-packed by motorists in Ilorin, as transport fare increased by about 300 percent for intra-city transportation, while inter-city fares doubled.
Meanwhile, the anti-vandal unit of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps which went out to monitor the fuel situation on Wednesday said that it had ordered petrol stations that hoarded fuel to dispense it.
In River State, the scarcity of petrol in Port Harcourt and other parts of the state caused a sudden rise in transport fares, leaving many commuters stranded.
Findings by our correspondent on Wednesday showed that petrol sold for N250 per liter in some filling stations, while long queues were seen in the few outlets that dispensed products.
As a result, fewer vehicles were seen on the roads, while commuters were seen trekking to their destinations.
In Plateau State, the scarcity that resurfaced in Jos in the past one week persisted and grew worse on Wednesday with many motorists and residents lamenting the situation.
Findings also showed that the price of the product had increased to between N175 and N200 per liter in the few filling stations that had the products.
Many commuters were also stranded on various roads, as a result of very few available taxi drivers plying the routes.
A motorist, Giwa Johnson, said he spent over eight hours in the queue trying to buy fuel at a filling station along the Yakubu Gowon Way in Jos, describing his experience as terrible.
In Bayelsa State, the fuel scarcity also hit several towns and queues grew at filling stations around Yenagoa, the capital city, and its environs on Wednesday.
Checks indicated that the shortage of petrol had occasioned an increase in the pump price of petroleum products in the state.
Some of the petrol stations along the ever-busy Mbiama-Yenagoa Road and the Isaac Boro Expressway did not open for business on Tuesday and Wednesday, as consumers suspected that they might be hoarding the product.
A few black markets were, however, sighted along the Isaac Boro Expressway selling a 10-liter jerrycan of fuel for N2,000 and 20 liters for N4,000.
In Benue State, the fuel scarcity continued on Wednesday as black marketers took over the streets of Makurdi, the capital city.
Our correspondent who went round the major areas of the state capital reported that most fuel stations had no product to dispense. At Jenny, Gabrow, and Rain Oil located within Makurdi metropolis, long queues were observed, while some other fuel stations were under lock and keys.
A motorist, who simply identified herself as Charity, said she had been on the queue at Jenny filling station for two hours and had yet to get the product at the time she spoke to our correspondent.
The Trade Union Congress said it was monitoring and engaging with stakeholders over the prolonged fuel scarcity in many parts of the country.
Also, an official of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Emmanuel Ugboaja, said the NLC was still consulting with the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers after which it would decide on its next line of action.
The situation apart from resulting in high transport fares in many states had also caused untold hardship to many Nigerians.
Speaking at a briefing in Abuja on Wednesday, the National President, Trade Union Congress, Quadri Olaleye, vowed that the union might be forced to take an “emergency decision” if the situation persists after the union’s consultation.
According to him, the union may proceed with industrial action or lead a protest over the matter.
He said, “At the moment, we are watching, we are monitoring and doing some engagements for us to be able to make emergency decisions. When Labour takes an emergency decision, you know what it means? It is either strike or protest.
“You can see that even what they are using to investigate the man-made problem is part of the funds made for the Nigerian workers. So we are monitoring and when it is time to take a decision we would.”
On his part, Ugboaja said, “We are still consulting with NUPENG, which is one of our affiliates. We are expecting them to brief the leadership of the union, afterwards, the union would determine the next step to take.”
The Federal Fire Service has cautioned Nigerians against storing petrol in their homes due to the lingering scarcity in many parts of the country.
We’re processing dirty fuel professionally for distribution, says, marketers
This came as the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria further revealed on Wednesday that the off-spec petrol was being processed professionally for distribution.
It disclosed this in a statement, as it urged Nigerians to bear with operators in the sector.
The statement read in part, “We have worked assiduously with the regulatory authorities from the onset to curtail the further distribution of the off-spec fuel in all DAPPMAN depots and retail outlets.
“DAPPMAN also seconded versatile professionals to the Technical and Commercial Committees set up by the regulators and stakeholders who have initiated best practices ‘Standard Operating Procedures to ensure not only that the off-spec products are quarantined, professionally processed, tested and certified good for distribution to the market, but we are also working with NNPC Ltd through its subsidiary, the PPMC LTD, to ensure that adequate stocks of ‘on-spec’ petrol are made available to Nigerians in all nooks and crannies of the nation.”
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream) on Wednesday said it would invite those engaged by the Federal Government to import the PMS to explain the circumstances surrounding the recent supply of an off-spec variant of the product, which has caused a crisis in the country.
This came as the NNPC said it regretted the hardships caused Nigerians by the supply of the dirty fuel, saying the struggles for petrol would end by next week, with the efforts being made by the company to correct the anomaly.
The Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Melee Kyari, also disclosed that the company was filing claims against suppliers of the substandard PMS, while alleging that Duke Oil, one of the company’s subsidiaries, shares in the blame.
The committee, which grilled the NNPC GMD, at its investigative hearing in Abuja on Wednesday, demanded sanctions against the erring importers.
The Chairman of the committee, Abdullahi Gaya, in his opening address, stated that the probe was “to elucidate the current fuel scarcity which has a negative impact on the people.”
Gaya asked, “The whole country would like to know the current situation of the nation in respect of the supplies and what transpired from the beginning to the end.”
Responding, Kyari said the NNPC had taken every necessary step to restore supply.
“We have placed orders significant enough for us to cross into March, with at least 2.1 billion liters of the PMS in our custody. The situation you are seeing today, I can assure you that by next week, it will vanish, all things being equal, because of distribution issues that we may not have control over, including the movement of trucks. Otherwise, we have a robust supply arrangement to make sure that we exit this issue,” he said.
The NNPC GMD said most of the petroleum products consumed in Nigeria are imported. He noted that imports are done based on contractual arrangements known as Direct Sale Direct Purchase.
“Even if all our refineries come up today, except Dangote Refinery, we will still be in short supply of PMS, because all of our refineries can only make 18 million liters of gasoline (per day). Consumption is certainly above 18 million liters,” Kyari stated.
He also decried that petrol, which the Federal Government subsidies, is being smuggled out of Nigeria, giving rise to the high daily consumption figure.
The GMD of the NNPC said, “On the basis of those contracts, our suppliers bring products to us and reconcile with them regularly. Part of those supply arrangements is to give specifications to your suppliers.”
He added, “There was simply no way, based on the current specification, that you will know this PMS contains methanol. It is not part of their requirements at the load port. So, we did not ask them to declare whether it contained methanol because it is not part of our specification.”
However, a member of the committee, Adediji Olamide, replied, “Ignorance is not an excuse in law. We are in a situation where all Nigerians are suffering as a result of an oversight or as a result of an unspecified request from the NNPC to all the companies that are the importers of the cargo.”
Other members including Olododo Cook and Abubakar Yalleman, corroborated the view.
Responding, the NNPC GMD disclosed, “What we have done is that we put all our suppliers on notice that there will be liquidated damages. It is the practice that once you file liquidated damages, the supplier will transfer that to the next person until it gets to the originating supplier.
“I do not know how many people are in this chain because in one cargo, you can have three sellers. Every one of them will transfer the liquidated damages until it gets to the originating supplier. This is what we are doing to ensure that the liquidated damages are settled. It is both a commercial and legal problem.”
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party on Wednesday asked the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to step down as petroleum minister.
It also called for the sack of the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva.
The main opposition alleged that the All Progressives Congress-led administration was pushing Nigerians to take to the streets in protest against its “continued arrogance, corruption, insensitivity to the feelings of the people.”
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, said this in a statement he signed on Wednesday and titled ‘N201b for toxic fuel: you’re pushing Nigerians too far, PDP cautions Buhari, APC.’