21 days in hell
It is an interesting time in the country. From Port Harcourt in the Southern region to Maiduguri in the Northern region, Nigerians are groaning in frustration, queuing hours unend, mostly under the scorching sun, at petrol filling stations for fuel that comes in short supply, or never at all. Yet the people need the precious liquid to power their automobiles and their generator sets – that have long ago become the alternative source of electricity.
To say the last 3 weeks have been harrowing for the Nigerians is to understate the distress that the citizens have gone through. Even the newly born are not sheltered from the anguish of this season. Hospitals are forced to operate with no lighting or power, business offices operate at very high overheads, and the streets and homes across the country remain perpetually dark at night. The lingering fuel scarcity has also caused death and destruction of properties in different parts of the country.
To worsen the situation, the weather condition has been unkind: extreme heat has been more frequent and severe since the beginning of the year. At the receiving end of this deprivation are the ordinary Nigerians, some of those who, during interviews, pour out their anger and frustration to The Guardian. They insist that the APC-government should just deliver the change it promised during the campaign last year and stop finding reasons for the breakdown of public institutions.
AJIBOLA AMZAT (Features Editor), SAXONE AKHAINE (Northern Bureau Chief), KELVIN EBIRI (Port Harcourt), EMEKA ANUFORO (Abuja), HENDRIX OLIOMOGBE (Asaba), OLUWASEUN AKINGBOYE (Akure) STEVEN TANBA (Lagos) contribute to this report. Photographs by SUNDAY AKINLOLU AND AYODELE ADENIRAN.
Mr. Ikechukwu, an interstate commercial driver with Peacemass Transit had been on the queue at A.P Filling Station Old Ojo-road, Agboju Lagos since 4pm on Tuesday. After staying on queue for three hours, the fuel attendant announced that the station was closing for the day because “there is no more fuel”. A cacophony of noise broke loose from the customers who had waited several hours before then. When it became certain that the filling station had no more fuel to dispense, the customers began to disperse reluctantly, many cursing their leaders whom they think are responsible for their suffering.
Ikechukwu too had no option than to leave. As early as 5 am the following day, he was back at the filling station, but he was not early enough. The queue had already grown longer than what he met the previous day. Another option opened to him was to buy from the youths by the roadside who sell 10 liter of petrol between N2800 to N3000. Should he go for that option, he would be spending about N21000 instead of N6000 he normally spends to fill his petrol tank. “So how much fare would I charge the passenger from here to Benin?” He asked. Instead, he joined the queue to wait it out.
If Ikechukwu’s experience illustrates the agony of many Nigerians in bold relief, then the experience of a youth at the Forte Oil Petrol Station AP Bus stop 21 Road FESTAC Town, Lagos was simply heartrending. The young boy was accosted by a team of Civil Defence officials who alleged him of peddling petrol on the street. But before the accused could convince the law enforcement officials that he just bought the fuel for personal use, he was gunned down right on the street by one of the officers acting on the order of her commander.
During the week, a father and his two daughters were burn to death in their own home in Lagos when a jerrycans of fuel exploded while they were sleeping.
The Manager of Domoros Hotel Amuwo Odofin, Lagos Mr. Felix Ubah relived his experience at the filling station this way: “The situation is terrible, there is no light, and the economic condition has gone worse. For two days I have been trying to fuel my car without success. The present government should seek the right advice to move Nigeria forward. It is sad to see that we have moved backward 10 years within 11 months of this administration. Imagine Nigerians coming out as early as 6 am to buy fuel and still struggling to buy at 2 pm without hope. It is highly frustrating, the suffering is too much.”
In Port Harcourt, most of the filling stations along the busy Port Harcourt-Aba expressway, Ikwerre Road, Old Aba Road, East-West Road were under locks and keys on Tuesday. The few stations selling were besieged by motorists and customers with jerrycans. Those who are not patient enough to stay on long queues for as much as five hours have resorted to purchasing petrol from black market dealers who sell at N300 per litre.
“It is painful that we should be buying at an exorbitant price when the price of petrol has fallen globally, said a taxi driver,” Gabriel Nnamdi.
Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State where Nnamdi spoke is the second highest oil-producing states in Nigeria.
Similarly, as scarcity bites harder in Asaba, the capital city of Delta state, another oil producing state, most petrol filling stations have learnt to ward off angry customers with a terse message scribbled on cardboard: “Sorry, No Fuel”.
Major retail outlets along Nnebisi Road,Dennis Osabebey, Summit Road and Ibusa Road are closed down. Only Rainoil Filling Station on Okpanam Road was open for the market, and a litre is sold for N140 at the filling station.
At the NNPC Mega Station on the outskirts of Asaba, where the price of Petrol is sold at the official price of N87 a litre, the queue is usually overwhelming. The scarcity has affected transport fares across the state as The Guardian investigation reveals. For instance, the transport fare from Summit to Ogbeogonogo Market which before now was N50 has increased by 100 percent, same for the trip from Summit to Cable which has increased from N60 to N120. Also, the two hours journey from Asaba to the oil city of Warri which was formally N800 is now N1, 200.
The story is the same in the northern part of the country. Only a few vehicles could be found plying on Kaduna highways and other roads as hundreds of motorists are already parked at many filling stations in the metropolis and suburbs without a hope of getting fuel supply.
As a way of discouraging the operation of “black market” in the State, the state government has recently banned the sales of petrol in jerrycans.
“Residents of the state are urged to help uphold and enforce the Kaduna State Petroleum Products (Anti-Hoarding and Adulteration) Law of 1992. This law empowers a task force to ensure that petrol is sold in a safe manner, and imposes a financial penalty on violators, “said the Special Assistant to the Governor, Mallam Samuel Aruwan.
But this measure appears to have further subjected the citizens of the State to greater hardship as the black market price of fuel which was previously N1, 000 per four liters gallon has jumped to N2, 000.
In Abuja, Idris like every other resident of the Federal Capital Territory is faced with biting fuel scarcity and near zero electricity supply.
The young man has contemplated the option of sub-letting his dry cleaning shop and selling off his work tools.
For weeks now, Idris has been unable satisfy his many customers. Piles of dirty clothes litter his office, awaiting his action. His standby generator has been in the permanent state of inactivity. Getting fuel to power it has become more a hard task because fuel stations have stopped selling in jerry cans and fuel stations in the neighbourhood are closed. The only one that gets supply sells at N180 per litre officially.
When he attempted to buy at the filling station, he spent 5 hours before it got to his turn. Idris’s experience is representative of the majority of residents in Abuja.
Consequently, commuters have to spend more to move about in the city. A trip from Kubwa to the Federal Secretariat via public transport that previously cost between N150 and N200 has increased to N300 on the average. Private car owners have also abandoned their vehicle for public transportation.
“At home, there is no light to guarantees good sleep, and the weather is being harsh, and getting fuel to power their generators has become a no mean feat,” Idris lamented.
A majority of Port Harcourt’s residents also constantly experience epileptic power supply. While the city requires as much as 400 megawatts of electricity per day, what it currently gets hovers between 50 to 70 megawatts per day.
A bottle water manufacturer whose factory is located around the Ozuoba area near Port Harcourt, Mr. Godswill Nimi, told The Guardian that the economic losses due to power interruptions has forced most businesses to acquire generating facilities. He said the poor power supply has not only hiked the energy cost, but it but also results in increased environmental emissions.
Some parts of Port Harcourt like Old Government Reservation Area, Rumuokuta-Choba Road, Diobu, D-Line have witnessed improvement in power supply in the recent weeks. However, the situation in other parts of the city is deplorable. For instance, the Rumuokoro, Rumuodumaya, Rukpokwu, Igwurita, Rumuaholu, Ozuoba, Rumuodara and Port Harcourt old town area axis residents are still groaning under darkness.
Ejike Emmanuel who resides at Rukpokwu told The Guardian that nothing has changed in the area since the previous administration privatized the distribution of electricity. He said that the entire Rukpokwu has been in darkness for weeks.
In Akure, power outage, which seemed to be a permanent experience of the people in six local government areas in the southern senatorial district of Ondo State for the past 16 months now has been extended to the other two districts of the state, paralysing business activities in Akure North and Idanre LGAs.
The youths of Iju-Ita-Ogbolu in Akure North LGA, under the aegis of Ita-Ogbolu Progressive Youth Movement (IPYM) has blamed the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) for the darkness they experience in the past six months.
Kolawole Bamigbele, an engineer, who is an electrical contractor from the area, told The Guardian that electricity supply in the area has been irregular since last year after BEDC shared the 33KVA that feeds the community with other power legs such as Owo in the north senatorial district, Oba-Ile, Ijoka and Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA) in Akure South LGA.
The chairman of IPYM Special task force and coordinator of Owode youths, Mr. Adekunle Akoledowo lamented that the total blackout has fomented immeasurable pains and agonies on the people of the area, whose livelihood depend mainly on the power supply.
Adeyelu Adeniyi, an estate manager from Okitipupa in Okitipupa LGA decried the nonchalant attitude of the government and inhuman treatment meted on the people of the south district.
He said the power outage coupled with the present scarcity and the hike in the price of petrol has further impoverished the people of the state.
He said now that it is difficult to get fuel, “how then do we survive? This is not the change that we voted for.”
Nnamdi, told The Guardian that the inability of the federal government to solve the lingering fuel crisis despite Nigeria’s status as one of the major producers of the petroleum is disheartening. He warned that the present government will be punished at the ballot in 2019 if they fail to adequately address the major challenges faced by Nigerians.
“We will express our disenchantment in 2019. We will punish this government severely. Nigerians will revolt through the ballots in no distance time,” he said.
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu has however promised that the fuel scarcity will end yesterday, April 7. But, this is yet to happen.
“The earlier this promise is kept the better for APC government,” said Nnamdi.