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3 Days to Christmas: Commuters Stranded, Fares Rise as Fuel Scarcity Bites Harder

Cars on queue to buy fuel

Commuters and motorists had hectic time on Thursday, as fuel scarcity continued to halt activities across the country.

The development came as both the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) traded blames over the cause of the scarcity.

From the South-West to the North-Central, North-East to North-West, even South-South, the effect of the scarcity was felt by commuters and motorists alike, with the resultant hike in transport fares.

Most commuters were left stranded as they struggled to board the few available vehicles to their various destinations.

There were long queues in some of the petrol stations within Abeokuta metropolis in Ogun State, with some motorists leaving their vehicles at the entrance of the Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC), located on IBB Boulevard, Abeokuta, to buy fuel.

Most of the filing stations sold at official pump price of N145 per litre, while transport fare within the metropolis had not been increased.

Nigerian Tribune on a visit to Kuto Garage observed that intra-state fare had not been increased.

In Osun State, especially at the capital city of Osogbo, there were long queues, resulting in gridlock in the metropolis.

Most motorists struggled to get fuel at the few stations where the product was dispensed, while many nearly engaged in fisticuffs in the ensuing melee.

As early as 6.00 a.m., long queues were formed at most filling stations, the rowdy situation was exacerbated by some people who thronged the few filling stations on Gbongan-Ibadan road with jerrycans to buy the product.

Two of the NNPC sales outlets around Ogo Oluwa, Osogbo were besieged by motorists and commercial motorcyclists, with a view to buying the product.

Other independent marketers locked up their fuel stations, claiming they had run out of stock.

Credible sources in other communities in Osun, such as Ikirun, Ada, Ilesa, Inisa, Ile-Ife and  Sekona told the Nigerian Tribune that a few of the petrol marketers in those areas were dispensing fuel to motorists at varied prices of between N170 and N200 per litre.

In Ondo State, commercial and social activities were paralysed, with both motorists and commuters stranded on roads.

Nigerian Tribune gathered that the product was unavailable in most of the filling stations in Akure, Ondo, Ore and Igbara-Oke, while some few stations that had fuel sold the product for between N150 and N220 per litre.

Further findings revealed that most of the filling stations were hoarding the product, as long queues were noticed in some of the few stations selling fuel, especially those selling at official rate of N145 per litre.

Workers on the employ of the state and some other private companies were stranded on the road, while many of them resorted to trekking to arrive at their offices on time.

A trader at Afunbiowo Market, Mrs Hilda Ajayi, speaking with the Nigerian Tribune, said the scarcity of fuel had caused low sales.

A commercial driver in Akure, Akin Oluremi, said “despite fighting and struggling to buy fuel at the station, we have been experiencing low sales. People rather stay indoors now as a result in the hike in fares. I cannot buy a litre of fuel for N220 and charge N50 per drop, it’s not possible.”

A commuter, Ibrahim Khaleel, said “I had to trek from Isikan road to Oba Adesida early today because I couldn’t get a bike for N50. I couldn’t get a taxi, either.”

In Lagos and its environs, despite the assurances by the NNPC of daily supply, most filling stations visited by the Nigerian Tribune on Thursday were shut, due to non-availability of petrol.

The few ones dispensing the product had long queues of vehicles, waiting endlessly to get the product.

One of the two NNPC retail outlets situated on Kudirat Abiola Way, Oregun, was out of stock, while the other was dispensing to motorists at N145 per litre.

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Mobil, Total and Conoil filling stations on the same route were also dispensing to motorists.

The situation was similar with Mobil, Conoil and Oando filling stations in Maryland. The Mobil station at Anthony was not dispensing, while MRS and NNPC retail outlet at Palmgrove were dispensing.

NIPCO, Forte, Conoil and Total at Fadeyi were dispensing, yet the stations experienced long queues of vehicles.

A visit to some filling stations around Abule Egba-Sango axis, Ikeja, Ogba and even Maryland revealed that the fuel-induced pains being experienced by Nigerians, especially Lagos residents, in the past few days, was far from over.

Only two filling stations, Mobil and one NNPC filling station, out of the over 30 filling stations on Abule Egba-Sango axis, were dispensing fuel around afternoon when the Nigerian Tribune visited the area.

Though the price remained N145 per litre, some people were seen collecting N100 from motorists at one of the stations before being allowed to drive in.

In Bauchi, only a few filling stations sold fuel to motorists who had to stay on long queues for hours to get the commodity.

Checks at AYM Shafa filling stations within Bauchi metropolis revealed a lot of hardship motorists and others were subjected to before getting fuel.

Some of the motorists even complained that after spending several hours on the queue, the station would only dispense 25 litres to a vehicle.

One of the motorists, Adamu Yakubu, told the Nigerian Tribune that he spent over two hours on the queue, waiting for his turn. He said he could not make it to office due to the development.

When the Nigerian Tribune visited some motor parks within Bauchi metropolis, a few commercial vehicles were available as others had been on the search of the commodity.

An official of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) said there had to be a slight increase in fares since most of the union members got petrol from black markets.

Commercial motorcyclists also had a field day, as any drop was charged N100.

The situation worsened in Kaduna metropolis as most of the filling stations closed to business.

The few stations dispensing the product sold for between N165 and N185, above the official pump price of N145.

A fuel attendant who pleaded for anonymity said the high price of the product was as a result of its non-availability.

In Jos, the Plateau State capital, motorists spent the night at filling station, queuing for petrol.

Many filling stations also  jacked up their pump price to N200 per litre.

Going round the city, Nigerian Tribune findings revealed that despite the suspension of strike by PENGASSAN, there were long queues in all the filling stations that had fuel.

Also, those selling the product in jerrycans were making brisk business by selling at exorbitant price.

Checks revealed that the numbers of those selling petrol by the roadside had increased and they dotted all the major roads within the state capital.

Four litres of fuel was being sold at between N1,000  and N1,500.

Major roads in the city were deserted, while the few commercial vehicles on the streets had their fares increased.

One of the officers of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) in Jos, who craved anonymity, said the situation would soon return to normal as stations had started receiving supply.

In Ilorin metropolis and environs in Kwara State, Nigerian Tribune gathered that only a few filling stations dispensed fuel to buyers, while there were attendant long queues of vehicles and commercial motorcycles at the stations.

Transport fares within the metropolis attracted a slight increase as few of the commercial drivers were operating, just as commuters spent more time at bus stops to get to their different destinations.

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A distance which had hitherto attracted N50 fare before the fuel scarcity now attracted between N70 and N100, depending on the bargaining power.

The situation had, however, not caused hike in transport fare in inter-state journeys.

There was chaos in major bus stops in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, as the few commercial operators on the road hiked their fares by between 20 and 50 per cent.

Monitoring the city from Iwo-Road, Ojoo, Challenge, Mokola roundabout, Apata, Nigerian Tribune noticed commuters trooping into bus stops while commercial okada riders made brisk businesses.

For example, transport fare from Challenge to Mokola roundabout, which had hitherto been between N70/N80 was being charged N100 flat.

Other areas had their fare hiked, due to the effect of the scarcity.

At Adeoyo Junction, a passenger had to pay a bike rider N300 for two persons to Dugbe/Onireke, a fare that would go for between N150/N200 before.

A passenger, Musiliu Ashiru, informed the Nigerian Tribune that he had to trek from Mokola roundabout to Dugbe when the gridlock around the area left most passengers stranded.

The fuel problem, which had become visible in Warri, Delta State, since Monday, continued on Thursday, as a litre of petrol oscillated between N160 and N180 in few fuel stations where it was available.

Panic followed the development as transporters began to jack up their fares.

The situation was, however, different in Ughelli, Kwale and Asaba, where there was absence of queues in fuel stations and commuters had no qualms getting to their destinations.

Checks in parts of Delta State, however, especially in Warri axis, revealed that the fuel situation had reached an acute stage.

Transport fare from Warri to Ibadan increased from N4,000 to N5,000 and above.

Intra-city transport fares did not fare better as commuters were forced to pay through their noses to cover short distances.

A check of some filling stations in Abuja by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) revealed that the queues were getting longer across the city.

Of the 16 petrol stations on the airport road, only three were dispensing the product while the rest were closed.

In Benin City, Edo State, a litre of the commodity was sold for between N185 and N250 on Thursday.

Checks showed that only few stations in Benin City sold fuel, even as many motorists alleged that majority of the filling stations that did not open for business had fuel but refused to sell.

At a filling station on Airport Road, a near clash between staff of the filling station and people was averted as the people kicked when they saw that the station only sold fuel to some selected people.

The situation gave way to the thriving of sale of fuel at the black market in many parts of the city, such as Dawson Junction, Akpakpava Road, Sapele Road, Airport Road, Ugbowo, Oluku and Sakponba Road.

A motorist said he bought four litres of fuel at N1500 while another one said he got 10 litres for N3000.

At the NNPC mega filling station,  where fuel was sold for the approved price of N145/litre, the queue was long.

Motorists, commuters and operators of business outfits groaned as price of petrol hits N270 per litre in major filling stations in Bayelsa State.

While some filling stations did not have the product, those who had increased the price to N270 per litre.

The development crippled businesses, economic activities, social and commercial life of the people, while the situation was worsened by the unstable power supply in the state.

Long queues were seen at the few filling stations selling the product, leading to congestion on the Mbiama/Yenagoa road.

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In Maiduguri, Borno State, some stations sold for N160 per litre, while others sold for as high as between N240 and N250.

On Baga road and some parts of Maiduguri-Damaturu road, only the NNPC mega station at the Molai Damon axis sold the product at N145 per litre.

Meanwhile, PENGASSAN has exonerated itself and blamed NNPC, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria  (IPMAN), Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria  (MOMAN) and Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria (DAPPMA) for the prevailing fuel situation.

According to a statement by PENGASSAN national publicity officer, Fortune Obi, fuel scarcity was prevalent before it issued its seven-day strike ultimatum notice to the Federal Government.

“I wonder why people are blaming PENGASSAN for the current fuel scarcity in the country. The scarcity started two weeks before PENGASSAN issued a seven-day strike ultimatum notice on December 7.

“Then, the problem of the government (federal) and IPMAN was at the front-burner, as IPMAN threatened showdown with the government over irregular supply of petroleum products. Despite resolving the problem, the scarcity persists.

“There is scarcity because marketers want petrol price to be increased. They have been arguing that the margin is not profitable and, therefore, seek increment which the government has been resisting and pegging at N145 per litre,” the statement read.

Obi also stated that another reason for the persistent scarcity was the rivalry among IPMAN, MOMAN and DAPPMA over fuel allocation.

However, the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Dr Maikanti Baru, has said the corporation doubled the daily supply of petrol from daily 700 trucks (about 27 million to 30 million) litres per day supply to 80 million litres per day since the current hiccup in the supply chain was noticed.

The GMD attributed the hiccups to rumours about purported planned increase in the price of petrol.

He stated that some marketers, in their quest to cash in on the situation, suddenly started hoarding products.

“At the time the rumour started, we had about 30-day sufficiency,” he said.

He further informed Nigerians that the NNPC had enough products sufficiency that would last up to 30 days.

Spokesman of the corporation, Mr Ndu Ughamadu, in Abuja, on Thursday, said fuel queues would normalise by today and disappear by weekend.

Ughamadu told NAN in Abuja that there was an increase in the number of incoming trucks of petrol into the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to curb the queues in the city.

According to him, Dr Baru had met with the heads of Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) and Petrol Tanker Drivers (PTD) to nip the problem in the bud.

“He said Lagos should be maintained at 300 trucks but the actual figure coming into Abuja should be increased by 150. Port Harcourt refinery has also increased refining and so by tomorrow (Friday), queues should normalise and by weekend, it would have disappeared,” Ughamadu said.

The NNPC also blamed the current petroleum scarcity in the country on marketers.

Baru expressed joy at PENGASSAN’s call-off of its planned strike, while urged motorists not to engage in panic buying as the corporation had more than enough products for domestic consumption.

While signing a memorandum of understanding between the corporation and the Benue State government on the Agasha-Guma bio-fuels projects, Baru said at least a billion litres petrol-laden cargoes were expected by December.

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