Fuel scarcity: Relief not so much

FUEL-6--08-04-2016• Calabar residents groan as marketers, tank farm owners’ shady deals keep product at N400 per litre
• Petrol scarcity affecting our studies, students lament

It was more pains for citizens at the weekend, who besieged filling stations the outlets across the country for respite to the lingering fuel scarcity in the country.

A filling station belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), located exactly opposite the First Bank on Kudirat Abiola Way, Oregun, Lagos, at the weekend sold petrol only to consumers, who were willing to hand out a bribe, ranging from N500 to N2,000. The filling station left the legitimate entry permanently closed and instead sold fuel to motorists entering through the exit way.

The National Association of Polytechnic Students (NAPS) has decried the fuel scarcity being experienced across the country, saying the development is affecting their studies. The Deputy Senate President of the association, Comrade Abdulmajeed Oyeniyi, said students are the most affected by the scarcity, because of increase in transportation fares.

“It is disheartening that the federal government has not been able to proffer a lasting solution to the fuel scarcity. Most of our parents depend solely on monthly income and they have stipulated budgets, but this scarcity has altered their plans. Some students now trek to school.”

It was, however, observed at the weekend that the long queues witnessed in recent weeks in most filling stations across Lagos is fizzling out, following increased supply of petroleum products by the NNPC.

Unlike before when motorists spent five hours and more queuing for fuel, the situation has now improved. With less than an hour, motorists are now able to fill their tanks.

“For the first time since the scarcity started, I was able to buy fuel at normal price and I spent just 50 minutes at a filling station along Lagos-Ibadan expressway in Berger,” said a motorist, Segun Isaac.

It was also observed that relative sanity has been restored to most filling stations, as motorists now queue in an orderly manner. This was after the government warned motorists and filling stations that it would not tolerate indiscriminate parking of vehicles, which resulted in traffic snarls across the state.

The Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) had on Thursday announced plans to impose fine on impounded vehicles disrupting free flow of traffic at filling stations.

The Chief Executive Officer of LASTMA, Chris Olakpe, said “the fine for willful obstruction of traffic while trying to buy fuel at any filling station ranges from N10,000 to N100,000. The owners of such vehicles will also pay towing fines, which also ranges from N10,000 to N100,000 as the case may apply.”

The NNPC depot and other tank farms located in Calabar, Cross River State, The Guardian investigation reveals, are also neck-deep in fraudulent activities, deeming the hope of ending fuel scarcity and long queues.

A litre of fuel in Calabar and its environ goes for between N200 and N250 at filling stations owned by independent marketers, instead of N86.50, while at the black market, it is sold at N400 per litre. Curiously, none of the major marketers, apart from NNPC and Northwest filling stations, are dispensing fuel to the public.

According to a source, trucks belonging to independent marketers are given a priority of loading from the NNPC tank farm to the detriment of established major marketers.

“At the private tank farms which are about 22 in Calabar, PMS products are sold at government official rate of N77 curiously to independent marketers alone and they don’t dispense to the public at the approved rate of N87 because of the shady deals going on and money that will be paid to some cartels.”

The Managing Director of First King Oil, King Amba Bassey, said as a marketer, he source for his product through a co-broker, who deals directly with the depots. “The amount I paid through the middle man to Vine Petroleum is N107 per litre and that was on March 2, 2016. On the arrival of the product, we were asked to add N10 to what I paid making it N117.

“After the discharging of the PMS into their tank farm, we were further asked to add another money of N8 now making it N125. Up till date, the product has not been given to us and our money, which we sourced through overdraft from the banks have not been returned.

“The information we got is that the product meant for us which we paid for about a month ago have been resold to customers that are richer than us at N135 and N140 per litre,” he said.

However the Depot Manager at Vine Petroleum, Mr. Offiong Nsemo, denied allegation of fraudulent act. He said: “Their products will be loaded; we are only reconciling the payments and other logistics.”

On the allegation that the products were resold at a higher price to other marketers, he said the information is not true. “Vine has issued passes to the marketers to commence loading. It’s just that it is not yet the turn of the affected marketers to load. Right now, we have resolved everything and they will get their loading pass.”

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