Residents of Abuja and neighbouring states of Niger and Nasarawa are still facing tough times sourcing for Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), popularly called petrol, with the commodity selling for as high as N400/litre by black marketers.
The development came almost one week after the import of millions of dirty PMS from Europe into Nigeria disrupted the fuel supply system of the country, leading to long queues nationwide.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited has ordered the recall of the contaminated fuel but oil marketers have been battling various challenges, ranging from PMS supply shortage to complaints by consumers who claimed the bad product has damaged their vehicles.
However, finding show on Sunday that black marketers who sell petrol in jerry-cans are now the easily accessible suppliers of PMS in Abuja and neighbouring states.
A significant percentage of filling stations in Nigeria’s capital city do not currently have petrol to dispense.
Oil marketers told our correspondent that a few other outlets that had products were still trying to return the adulterated petrol supplied to them since last week.
This, they said, had prevented the affected stations from taking in uncontaminated products, as they currently lacked space to store new consignments.
Heavy queues greeted the limited number of filling stations that dispensed petrol on Sunday. Motorists spent several hours under the scorchy sun waiting to be served petrol.
The NNPC filling station on Arab Road in Kubwa, Abuja had hundreds of motorists who formed long queues that blocked the road and caused severe traffic in the area.
The Nipco filling station on the Kubwa end of the Abuja-Zuba Expressway also had a large number of PMS seekers. In Zuba, Niger State, it was observed that several outlets were closed.
It was also gathered that many filling stations in Nyanya, Mararaba in Nasarawa State were closed on Sunday.
This led to a worrisome level of scarcity in Abuja, Nasarawa and Niger, a situation that had kept dragging for weeks, even before the advent of the contaminated fuel imports.
The scarcity of petrol in filling stations created a business for black marketers, as they surfaced on major roads in Abuja displaying and selling their wares.
While some of them priced their petrol for as high as N6,000 for a 10-litre jerry-can, others sold theirs at N4,000 for 10 litres of PMS, translating to N400/litre.
The high cost of petrol by black marketers forced motorists to stay in lengthy queues, while those who could not wait in the queues had to part with the costly sum for petrol.
Providing an explanation as to why many filling stations were still not selling petrol, the National Public Relations Officer, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Chief Ukadike Chinedu, said some retailers who purchased the adulterated products were still struggling to return them.
He explained that the contaminated products were still occupying spaces in the underground tanks of the affected filling stations, adding that this had prevented the outlets from accessing new stocks.
“Where will you discharge your new stock when your underground tanks still have contaminated products that have not been returned? Many of those who bought the contaminated products are still struggling to have them returned to NNPC,” the marketer stated.
He added, “I told you that a marketer currently has about 100,000 litres still in his tanks underground and as we speak, it will take him close to N700,000 to evacuate it. And not just that, the product is occupying space.”
Ukadike had earlier called on the government to provide a clear directive on how marketers would return the contaminated products, as this would create space for new uncontaminated stock.
“We also want the government to come out with clear cut directives and procedures on how products that are contaminated should be returned,” the IPMAN official had stated.
He added, “Some marketers are still having the contaminated products in their stations and are not selling because of this. The products have not been returned yet due to lack of clear cut directives on how it should be returned.
“Also, you need documents to enable you to move the tankers from your filling station back to the place where the product is to be returned because if the police get you without the necessary accompanying documents, they will say you are involved in bunkering.”
When contacted on Sunday on what the NNPC was doing as regards the severe scarcity, the spokesperson of the oil firm, Garba-Deen Muhammad, called for patience.
He said, “Every possible measure that is to be taken is being taken. Our top management and other staff are (working) round the clock to ensure the return to normalcy. Be patient. The queues will abate very soon.”
Muhammad had told our correspondent that a technical committee had been set up to look into the recall of the contaminated products and how it would be managed.
He said, “The first thing is to ensure that it is recalled and not in circulation. There are various ways of handling this kind of product, we will leave that to the technical committee that has been set up.
“This committee is drawn from MOMAN, DAPPMAN, downstream regulator, NNPC, and all stakeholders. They all have technical people and know the best way to handle this kind of product.”
The imports of adulterated petrol into Nigeria had triggered widespread concerns among government officials and players in the downstream oil sector, as it resulted in PMS scarcity across the country.
As the scarcity of fuel bites harder in parts of the country, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps has warned oil marketers not to exploit the situation to cause artificial scarcity of fuel in the country.
The Kwara State Commandant, NSCDC, Makinde Iskil, who gave the warning during an assessment of petrol stations in Ilorin, the state capital, on Sunday, also warned dealers not to use the opportunity to hike the price.
Makinde said the corps would not hesitate to seal any erring filling station and prosecute the owners if found to be involved in any of the criminal activities.
Represented by the Head, Kwara State NSCDC Anti Vandal Unit, Yusuf Ayinde, the commandant read the riot act to stations who reportedly refuse to sell PMS or were selling the product above the recommended pump price of N165.
“Based on intelligence reports made available to us, some filling stations have been alleged of selling PMS as high as N175 and N250 per litre which is above the recommended pump price of N165 per litre and that is why the commandant ordered the on the spot assessment of the situation at some stations.
The spokesman for NSCDC in the state, Babawale Afolabi, disclosed in a statement that “some petrol stations were caught selling fuel over the approved price; they were ordered to revert to normal price.”
Afolabi said some of the filling stations visited by the team included the NNPC filling station at Surulere area, Topland and Demo filling stations at Amilegbe, Total Comfort Oilfield at Ita Amon, among others in the Ilorin metropolis.
He said that the exercise would continue on Monday. – Punch.