One week after getting some reprieve from fuel supply hitches, long vehicular queues were noticed at the weekend in some major filling stations across Lagos metropolis.
Majority of Major Marketers and Independent filling stations were actually out of supply as at Friday and Saturday. But the situation was further compounded yesterday when only a few of the filling stations dispensing fuel had long queues of vehicles.
The worrisome development, observers say may have been triggered by fresh threat issued by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) to commence an indefinite strike by 0.00 hours today.
Efforts by the Ministry of Labour and Productivity to resolve the lingering crisis between PENGASSAN and Neconde Nigeria Limited and Ontario Energy over unfair labour practices by the two companies proved abortive.
Meanwhile, in a telephone interview with Daily Sun, Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, attributed the latest buildup of queues in Lagos to panic buying.
Ughamadu said the Corporation has enough petroleum products in stock to meet the nation’s needs, stressing that the latest threat by PENGASSAN could have contributed to the queues.
“You will agree with me that the statements from labour unions in the petroleum sector are taken seriously by Nigerians. And in a bid not to be cut unaware, Nigerians would want to stockpile products based on this threat from PENGASSAN. But let me assure Nigerians that the relevant government agencies are already in talks with PENGASSAN.”
The NNPC spokesman equally said all of the Corporation’s depots are awash with products and supplying same to marketers, hence there was no cause for alarm particularly as NNPC was on top of the situation.
For their part, the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Kano Zone, dismissed the claim that the current fuel queues experienced in some parts of the country was as a result of panic buying but rather due to inadequate supply from NNPC.
The zone equally said the allegation that marketers diverted petrol tankers meant for the state was untrue and unfounded.
The IPMAN Kano Zonal Chairman, Alhaji Bashir Dan-Malam, made the clarification while speaking with newsmen in Kano on Saturday, as prices of the product jumped from N145 to between N180 and N200 per litre.
“Kano metropolis alone requires no fewer than 250 trucks of petroleum products daily while the other four states under the zone need about 100 trucks each on daily basis.
He said when the scarcity started about two weeks ago, the zone was being allocated only 50 tankers, which were grossly inadequate to meet the public demands in the zone.
“It was only on Friday we received 114 trucks for the zone since the scarcity of the product started two weeks ago. So Kano and the four other states under the zone require no fewer than 600 trucks of the commodity daily to meet the need of members of the public,” he said.
Fuel scarcity returns
•Abuja, South East, Port Harcourt, others affected •Filling stations sell above N145 pump price •PENGASSAN insists on nationwide strike today
Indications that fuel scarcity has returned emerged yesterday when queues became more pronounced in some filling stations in Abuja, Port Harcourt and parts of the South East.
This is even as the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASSAN), insisted on its threat to commence a nationwide strike from today over some unresolved labour issues.
Barely 48 hours after Abuja residents heaved a sigh of relief over what seemed like a return to normalcy after two weeks of scathing fuel scarcity, long queues resurfaced in many filling stations in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Many stations visited within the FCT had scary queues stretching as long as 300 metres, a scenario last seen about five days ago.
Majority of the private filling stations along Kubwa-AYA Road were shut as they claimed to have run out of petrol. The only ones seen dispensing petrol were mainly the NNPC mega stations.
Almos all the motorists on queue had jerry cans in the trunk of their vehicles to stock the product as they were not sure how long the strike would last, since the meeting with the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu was deadlocked.
A motorist on queue at the NNPC mega station in Kubwa could no longer mask his frustrations over the worrisome scarcity.
“What sort of country is this? This is about a week or so to Christmas and here we are on queue. Today (yesterday) is Sunday and I am supposed to be home resting but I have to be here scouting for petrol for work this week. No light. No petrol. No salary. Nothing. This is a replica of hell,” he lamented.
John Adams, a transporter said: “We were already celebrating the end of fuel queues when this nonsense resurfaced yesterday. How long are we going to continue like this? This is an oil-producing country without petrol. It is like having a borehole and no water. This can only happen only in Nigeria.”
Reports from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, said the scarcity continued as filling stations pegged the price of petrol at N165.
It was gathered f that some petrol stations in parts of the city including Rumuagholu, Rumuosi and Mgbuoba placed the pump price at N170.
Although the development did not affect transport fare significantly, there were worries about the development.
Some petroleum stations pessimistic of the development locked their products and refused to dispense. Many of the filling visited yesterday were shut down.
Based on the fear that the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), might pounce on them, many of the stations refused to adjust the N145 price tag on their meters.
Pump attendants were seen using calculators to check the prices.
Apart from the NNPC mega stations in the Port Harcourt metropolis, there was no vehicle at any of the major falling stations.
The fuel situation in Owerri, Imo State, got worse as most filling stations were selling the product at N180 per liter.
The product was selling for N200 outside the Owerri capital.
There were long queues at the NNPC mega station on the Owerri/Onitsha Road, Owerri, being the only station selling at N145 per litre.
The same situation was reported in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, where motorists paid between N150 and N180 per litre.
The hike affected prices of some commodities particularly transport fare. Before this increment, tricycle operators charged N30 for a relatively short distance and N50 for a distance little longer.
The charges for the same distances jumped to N70 and N100 respectively.
Ladies’ wears previously sold between N2,000 and N3,000, as at yesterday sold for between N4,000 and N4,500; as well as between N5,500 and N6,000. A bag of onions sold N12,000 three months ago now sells for N37,000.
A bushel of rice previously sold N4,000 now sells between N5,500 and N6,000.
Daily Sun observed that major streets in Owerri were becoming emptier as private car owners resorted to public means of transportation.
It also affected cost of transportation in Anambra State, the pump price rose to between N160 and N170 per litre.
In Awka, only the NNPC mega station was still selling at normal pump price of N145.
Bus fare from Awka to Enugu, which used to be N500 was between N700 and N1000 yesterday, while the city transport moved up by about 100 per cent.
However, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) insisted it had sufficient stock of petrol for the Yuletide and beyond.
Its Chief Operating Officer, Ventures and chairman, NNPC Special Task Force on Fuel Monitoring, Dr. Victor Babatunde Adeniran, assured members of the public at the weekend that the corporation would be taking delivery of tanker vessels laden with petrol almost daily. In a similar vein, the Managing Director of PPMC, Mr. Umar Ajiya, said the NNPC took delivery of two cargoes last Wednesday with 50 million litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) otherwise known as petrol. He added that the corporation was expected to take delivery of a minimum of one cargo per day.
He said the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) personnel were deployed to all the depots across the country to ensure that petroleum products were sold at the official price to petroleum marketers to avoid any shock in supply.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) penultimate week gave marching orders to Kachikwu to resolve the crisis within few days.
But the queues initially thinned out only to resurface 10 days later.
Currently, the NNPC happened to be the only company importing petrol as independent marketers reportedly halted imports since the hike in price of refined petrol in the international market.
NNPC, contending with the challenge of distribution had to come up with the 24-hour operation strategy, yet to deal with the new round of scarcity.
FG begs PENGASSAN to shelve strike
The Federal Government yesterday appealed to the Petroleum and Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), to shelve its proposed industrial action in the spirit of peace brokered between the union and Neconde Energy Services Ltd.
The appeal came on the heels of the fuel scarcity that entered its third week in some major cities especially Abuja.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, said with the reconciliation he brokered, the impending action by PENGASSAN had been effectively apprehended in line with the provisions of the relevant labour laws whose powers are invested in him as minister.
A statement by Deputy Director, Press, Samuel Olowookere, stated: “We recall that the minister had on Wednesday, December 13 and Thursday, December 14, brokered long hours of conciliation between PENGASSAN and Neconde Energy Services Ltd and secured an agreement.
“By that agreement, Neconde will review the termination of the affected staff members with a view to making it conform with the relevant labour laws as regards disengement of staff.
“Neconde should also within three months restore the PEGASSAN unit in its establishment in the spirit of the freedom of association as enshrined in the ILO Convention as well as section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which deals on the same issue.”
Another highpoint of the agreement was that labour issues related with other oil and gas companies like CISCON were to be taken in the second week of January 2018 .
The agreement therefore, required PENGASSAN to honour its own side of the bargain, “report to its Central Working Committee with a viewing to shelving the strike.”
According to the minister, the appeal had become imperative in order to save Nigerians from further hardship in this yuletide.
PENGASSAN had issued notice of strike expected to commence today
Fayose blames FG for scarcity
•Alleges planned N185 pump price hike
Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State has accused the Federal Government of deliberately causing the current scarcity of fuel to justify the planned increment of petrol pump price from N145 to N185 per litre.
The governor, who said government was being insensitive to the plight of Nigerians, added: “Petrol is scarce because the Federal Government deliberately reduced supply since it is only the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) that is importing the product.”
Fayose’s Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, quoted him as saying in a press statement yesterday: “Allowing fuel scarcity to persist for over two weeks when Nigerians are preparing to celebrate Christmas and New Year is the height of wickedness on the part of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Federal Government.
“Instead of directing its anger to President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the Minister of Petroleum, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) chose to give the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, seven days ultimatum to end the fuel scarcity. Today (yesterday) is December 17, exactly 10 days after the misplaced ultimatum was given, the situation has even gotten worse.
“By the time PENGASSAN goes on strike as being threatened, the whole country will be shut down and one wonders what will become of Nigerians that desire to move around during the festive season.”
Fayose said it was necessary for government to tell Nigerians the truth about the situation: “It is only the NNPC that is bringing products in; and the result is the scarcity being experienced now. “The thinking is that by the time the scarcity persists for like one month, with Nigerians already buying at N200 per litre, the people will jump at it if petrol is increased from N145 to N185 per litre.
“This time, Nigerians will resist any attempt to further impoverish them by increasing the pump price of petrol.”