The recurrent fuel scarcity being witnessed in many parts of the country, particularly in Lagos and Abuja, continued yesterday, showing no signs of easing up, while respite seems not in sight for motorists and residents.
This was even as oil marketers disclosed that they have suspended the importation of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, into the country due to the failure of the Federal Government to pay them their claims.
A top source in the depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association, DAPPMA, told newsmen that majority of the oil marketers are yet to be paid by the Federal Government, making it impossible for them to secure fresh funds from the banks to finance fuel import.
The source called on the Federal Government to pay the marketers the amount being owed, stating that out of the huge amount owed DAPPMA members only about N4 billion was paid to some of them a few days ago while others are yet to be paid.
The source said: ?The money that the marketers were paid by the Federal Government was, according to the banks, like a tip of the iceberg, compared to the huge amount the marketers owe the banks. Majority of the marketers are not able to repay their indebtedness to the banks, making it impossible for them to secure new facilities from the banks to finance fuel import.
?We want the Federal Government to pay the debt owed marketers as it is only then will we be able to repay our debts to the banks and secure fresh credit facilities from the banks to enable us finance our fuel import.?
The source further stated that majority of the oil marketers have stopped importing fuel, despite the fact that they have gotten the approval of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, to import.
The source noted:?We have approval to import fuel, but we do not have money to finance the import. The banks told us that they have a ceiling for borrowing and they have reached their borrowing limit, with oil companies accounting for a substantial portion of the loans.
?We are asking the Federal Government to pay us the claims we are being owed so that we can have money to offset our debts and finance fuel imports.?
Petrol goes for as high as N250/litre in Abuja
Furthermore, with the worsening scarcity, majority of the petrol stations now engage in sharp practices. Specifically, most of the petrol stations in a bid to make huge profits, sell at between N120 and N140 per litre, while others prefer to sell to black marketers. The shady dealings, in most cases, were consummated in the night in a bid to escape sanctions from the authorities.
In Abuja, petrol stations sell to the black marketers at between N120 and N140 per litre, with the black marketers reselling same to motorists at between N160 to N250 per litre.
Scores of the black marketers were seen at the front of almost all the petrol stations in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, beckoning motorists to patronise their wares which they carry in 10-litre plastic gallons.
All the petrol stations along the Airport Road were shut, while only the NNPC mega station and Conoil were selling, with queues stretching for about three kilometres, impeding traffic around the area.
The prolonged scarcity has also brought in its wake, a hike in transport fares, commodities and services in the FCT.
The scarcity has lasted for about four months and has defied solutions, despite several meetings and promises by the Ministry of Finance; the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC; Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR; PPPRA; Pipelines and Product Marketing Company, PPMC, and oil marketers.
Some motorists who spoke to newsmen expressed anger at the persistent scarcity, adding that the scarcity is fast becoming a way of life.
Motorists, commuters groan in Lagos
As in Abuja, all the filling stations, be it independent or major marketing outlets, which had the scarce commodity, are selling petrol above the regulated price of N87/litre to motorists and other users of the product.
Petrol stations along areas like Ajagbandi, Iyana-Ishashi, Amukoko, Festac, Cele, Okota, Isolo, Oshodi, Apapa, Badagry Road, were all selling above the approved pump price.
Specifically, those at Ojo Road in Ajagbandi (Adekam Oil, Ralhamed), Isolo/ Okota in Cele Road (Mobil, Rainoil, Conoil, PM), Amukoko sold between N110 and N160 per litre.
While others are making brisk businesses, many petrol stations had since last week, shut their gates to motorists. These include Forte Oil, NNPC, MRS, Mobil at Festac, Forte Oil, Total, Mobil at Mobil Road, Apapa.
It was also discovered that like their peers in Abuja, some of the outlets preferred to sell their products to black marketers carrying plastic gallons at premium costs.
One of the aggrieved motorists at Ishashi Road opined that it was easier to buy from the jerry cans than from the pumps. Another motorist, Mr. Robert Chukwuka, wondered why the government has refused to ease the plight of the common man, who has to pay between N250 and N300/litre depending on the area in the black market.
?Against these odds, we have not heard any comment from the Federal Government or its officials trying to checkmate this situation, which has continued to affect every sector of the economy,? he said.
Women, children now hawk petrol
To get a piece of the action, even women and children don?t want to be left out from the fast money and are seen hawking petrol in strategic locations around the state.
One of the hawkers confessed that their trade is thriving because they get their products very early from the filling stations, which they later resell to motorists who cannot afford many hours queuing for the product in the outlets.
?We are making more sales this period because from what I heard from one of the managers in charge, some of these marketers are trying to recover as much money as possible owed them by the government before the President-elect takes over.
Due to the suspension of loading at the depots in Apapa, residents, commuters, and ports users have continued to suffer unending hardship along the Oshodi/Apapa Expressway, as tankers simply abandoned their truck along the road, thereby restricting vehicular and human movement.
Efforts to reach DPR officials or representatives of both the major and independent oil marketers as well as the Petroleum Tanker Drivers, PTD, were not successful.