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Black marketers on prowl as fuel scarcity worsens in Abuja

By The Citizen
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The scarcity of the Premium Motor Spirit  (PMS) yesterday took a different dimension as black marketers took over Abuja roads, especially around petrol retail outlets.

Their action followed the unavailability of the product at petrol stations as most of the retail outlets were not opened to customers.

The product that should have officially sold for N86.00 and N86.50 at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)  stations and independent stations respectively was sold for N2,000 per 10 litres by hawkers that sold in plastic kegs.

This worsened the traffic jam around the stations where most hawkers displayed their stock unmolested.

The NIPCO at Kubwa on the same expressway  sold fuel to customers at the official price.

Some of the customers said they spent over two hours to get the product, while others queued up in locked stations in anticipation of sale.

The fuel situation was  yesterday a far cry from the promise of the Pipeline Products Marketing Company  (PPMC) that queues would disappear from retail outlets by weekend.

Meanwhile, the current scarcity of the PMS may end this weekend as more depots in Lagos State begin massive load out of the product as from Monday, The Nation has learnt.

The Minister of  State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, it was gathered, has directed the Products and Pipeline Marketing Company (PPMC), an arm of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), to supply substantial volume of fuel to some credible independent marketing companies to ensure the queues at filling stations end this week.

To further stall reoccurrence of another round of scarcity, the government has told the marketers that the second quarter (Q2) fuel importation allocation will be done on March 15 or 16 to forestall a gap in supply.

The Nation learnt that some independents, including Ascon Oil, NIPCO and Capital Oil, will begin massive loading of fuel as from Monday. NIPCO, for instance, was supplied 15 million litres, a source said.

The source also said the major marketers, including Mobil, Oando, Total MRS, and Conoil, had steady supply from the NNPC since the beginning of the week. The spokesman of Mobil Oil Nigeria Plc, the products marketing arm of the multinational oil firm, Mr. Akin Fatunke, also corroborated the statement.

Fatunke also noted that due to foreign exchange issue, all the private companies apart from Mobil and Total have not been importing.

He said Mobil took delivery of a ship load of fuel, which was 4.7 million litres of petrol Monday and took delivery of another 20 million litres Thursday. He urged the public to have confidence because the situation will normalise.

'We have loaded out many trucks today (yesterday) from our depot. Our concern first, is to ensure that customers are satisfied. We have taken delivery of the 20 million litres, and we will load as much as possible. Our customers should be patient,' he added.

The Nation's survey yesterday showed that more filling stations have begun to sell, and the queues were not long. Mobil filling stations at Agidingbi, Ogba, Agege and Oregun roads, as well as Oando filling stations at Anthony, Berger, Ogba as well as Bovas along Ogunnusi Road, Total at Obanikoro and Conoil opposite LASUTH Ikeja, were all selling at approved prices and the queues were not so long.

The Executive Secretary, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Mr. Obafemi  Olawore, also said the queues will vanish this weekend. He said the NNPC since Wednesday has stepped up petrol supply to Lagos from 97 million litres to 10.2 million litres. He said the NNPC imports about 78 per cent of national demand and that is putting pressure on distribution because of logistics constraints.

However, he was optimistic that the importation ratio of 78:22 percent for NNPC and other marketers respectively may be reviewed next quarter, but urged the government to be courageous enough to deregulate the downstream.