Unending Queues In Lagos Filling Stations
DESPITE assurance by the Federal Government to pay the N413 billion subsidy debts to petroleum marketers in the country, queues again returned to the filling stations in the last one week, triggering increase in transportation and general cost of living.
Though President Muhammadu Buhari has asked the National Assembly to approve the payment of their N413 billion claims, The Guardian learnt that the marketers are determined to continue to hoard petrol until the debt is fully paid.
As at yesterday, petrol was being sold for between N100 and N400 per litre in various parts of the country, while queues at filling stations where the product was being sold were long, just as many others remained shut for lack of supplies.
When The Guardian visited Total filling station along Ojuelegba road in Lagos, the gates were locked, while black market thrived, while Oando and MRS along the same road were not also selling.
Sabola, Rain Oil and Petroleum Manager along Okota and Oshodi Apapa expressway were seen selling petrol with one dispensing machine, thereby creating a long queue along the major roads.
Most fuel stations on LASU-Isheri road were shut, while long queues were seen at the few that were selling.
Five litres of petrol was being sold between N2,000 and N2,500 in most parts of the metropolis, with some stations selling at between N200 and N150 per litre.
With long queues at the few petrol stations that were open, desperate consumers appeared ready to buy at any amount.
Some marketers who spoke with The Guardian expressed displeasure at government’s inability to release money for the subsidy claims and resolved to stop loading petrol at the depots.
A marketer, who spoke with The Guardian yesterday, alleged that no marketer had been able to source funds through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The latest development has brought untold hardship to consumers, who are compelled have to pay so much for transportation and goods.
A foodstuff dealer at Cele Market, Mrs. Chidima Kalu, said traders had to increase the prices of their commodities due to higher cost of the items from their suppliers.
According to her, a rubber of melon, otherwise known as egwusi, which they used to buy for N300 now sells for N500, making them to push both the cost of transportation and goods to the final consumers, so as to sustain their business.
On his part, a garri dealer in Ikotun Market, Mrs. Celina Adebola, said the increase in transportation cost has affected the prices of commodities.
She explained that transport operators have taken advantage of the scarcity to increase fares.
She said a big rubber of garri, which formerly sold for N500 and N650, now sells for N700 and above due to increased transport fare.
She said: “This is really ridiculous. How can we enjoy the weekend without electricity and petrol? I cannot enjoy the day with my family because there is no power.
“The federal government should settle with the oil marketers before things go out of hand,” a consumer told The Guardian.
Another aggrieved buyer blamed the scarcity on the federal government, alleging that it was a calculated attempt to frustrate the incoming government.
“The Federal Government is doing this on purpose. They should have paid the oil marketers before now. They left our refineries in tatters and we are left at the mercy of these so-called marketers,” he fumed.
Speaking on the issue, the Executive Secretary of Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Femi Olawore, said the majors were willing and ready to work with the Petroleum Ministry and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to restore normalcy.
“For us, there is only one thing we know how to do and that is to sell petroleum products in accordance with the law.
“For us, it is just a matter of few days before we get to normalcy.” Olawore said.
He noted that MOMAN would never do anything that is against prevailing regulations on the supply and distribution of petroleum products.
A leader of the DAPPMA, Dapo Abiodun, pledged the commitment of his members to work towards the achievement of government’s objective in ensuring free flow of products across the country.
Chairman of JEPTFON, Chief Ifeanyi Uba, while pledging the readiness of tank farm owners to support the initiative, called for government assistance in clearing the perennial traffic carnage at the Apapa loading gantries.
Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) president, Ayuba Wabba, expressed labour’s anger at the continuing incidences of fuel scarcity, resulting in high prices and long queues spreading to different parts of the country.
“We note that this is happening despite assurances from government and its agencies that there is enough fuel being distributed around the country and that citizens need not go into panic buying,” he has stated.
He noted the fact that the situation has not visibly improved after over 72 hours of such assurance means that the marketers and other groups that have held the country hostage over the years were still determined to continue as if it is business as usual.
The NLC president said such unpatriotic act from those considered as cabals in the oil sector was completely unacceptable, as Nigerians are forced to go through the perennial hardship, especially towards the end of the year.
“Government needs to urgently address the issue of hoarding by marketers and others who have continued to canvass for so-called deregulation, in which government would hands off regulating prices of petroleum products.
“Given that petroleum products continue to be the artery of our economy, indeed our existence, it is naive and foolhardy to expect that government will hands off the downstream sector and allow those whose sole purpose is profit-making to take over full control of determining the prices of these critical products,” he stated.
The NLC boss urged the government to take prompt action to stop the suffering of Nigerians.