The current fuel scarcity in the country may worsen this week as more filling stations ran out of supply at the weekend.
CODEWIT gathered from the managers of some petrol stations in Lagos that the few filling stations that had fuel, exhausted their stock at the weekend and would likely not have the product this week.
However, the marketers disagreed with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) that they were hoarding the product and attributed the scarcity to the delay in the release of the first quarter import allocation.
According to them, the tight supply would linger until the marketers begin to bring in the product, adding that the situation was worse in Lagos, because of its large population as the commercial nerve centre.
Sources hinted that the situation was getting out of hand in some parts of the North, South-east and South-west, as the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the oil and industry regulator appears to be losing the war against profiteering and black market operation. CODEWIT gathered that virtually all the filling stations in Owerri, Enugu, Aba, Onitsha, parts of the North and South-west dispensed petrol at between N100 and N120 per litre.
It was also observed that most filling stations in Lagos operated by major marketers were not dispensing petrol yesterday, while the few that had, had long queues of vehicles waiting to buy.
Independent markers, who claimed they received petrol from third parties at above the stipulated ex-depot price, dispensed the product only in the night at above the official pump price of N97 per litre.
However, the NNPC maintained yesterday that corrupt marketers were creating artificial fuel scarcity in Lagos and environs to short change anxious motorists.
The corporation said it would begin new measures to halt what it described as artificially-induced fuel scarcity, which is becoming extreme in various parts of the country particularly in Lagos and Abuja.
In a statement was signed by its acting Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Dr. Omar Ibrahim, in Abuja that in conjunction with the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), (DPR) said it would commence detailed monitoring of fuel stations in Lagos and its environs.
NNPC explained that the monitoring exercise would also extend to other states of the federation to checkmate the incidence of hoarding and panic buying of fuel among marketers and consumers.
â€œWe tried it in Abuja and its environs and today the effective monitoring has decimated the hitherto long fuel queues in Abuja. We are extending the extensive joint monitoring to Lagos,â€ Ibrahim said.
He further stated that as the federationâ€™s supplier of last resort, the NNPC would do everything within its mandate to alleviate the avoidable hardship caused by the fuel scarcity.
Ibrahim also reiterated that the federal government had no plan to increase the pump price of petrol as being speculated.
â€œIt is pertinent to state for the umpteenth time that there is no plan by the federal government to increase the price of petrol. Once again, we appeal to marketers to refrain from hoarding and to members of the public not to engage in panic buying. We are convinced that in the days ahead, the fuel situation will normalise as there are enough petrol to go round,â€ he added.
Meanwhile, many filling stations in parts of Delta and neighbouring Edo State continued at the weekend to witness long queues of vehicles as the scarcity of petroleum products persist in the area.
Worst hit is petrol, which is mostly used by Nigerians, though kerosene continued to be scarce with prohibitive price that is generally more than 200 per cent of the official or regulated price.
The DPR has been engaged in a running battle with major and independent marketers over the apparently induced scarcity.
Between Tuesday and Friday last week, the regulatory agency attempted to stop the sharp practices, including hoarding, illegal adjustment of pumping machines and unwarranted hike in price of the products by carrying out raids on many filling stations.
The Warri Zonal Operations Manager, Warri Zonal Office of the DPR, Mr. Olumide Adeleke, dispatched teams that made unscheduled visits to stations in Warri/Effurun metropolis and environs as well as Asaba, Benin-City and other major towns with heavy vehicular and commercial activities.
CODEWIT investigations revealed that the monitors from the DPR sealed up many dispensing machines in filling stations in the above-mentioned places for various offences ranging from hike in price to under-dispensing of the products.
However, Adeleke, who insisted that the current scarcity was artificial and speculative, said the DPR had continued to apply limited sanctions on culprit marketers simply to avoid a worsening of the situation of availability of the products.
Pumping machines were on Thursday sealed off in at least 20 filling stations in Benin-City and Warri as well as the surrounding areas, which are notorious for profiteering offences and flouting of DPR and NNPC regulations.
While numerous fuel outlets were found to be using under-dispensing pumps to sell petrol to unsuspecting and helpless members of the public, some filling stations were practically under lock-and-key, refusing to sell the product even though they had supplies.
However, two of the worst incidents at the weekend were recorded at filling stations on Ekenhuan and Airport Road, both in Benin-City, the Edo State capital, and operated by independent marketers.
At a filling station on Ekenhuan Road, all eight petrol pumps had been deliberately adjusted to under dispensing products such that unsuspecting customers were being cheated by as much as N250 for every 10 litres of petrol they purchased.
The Goody Agusa-led team comprising officials from the Warri and Benin-City offices of the DPR eventually sealed off the entire filling station.
At the Airport Road, the pump price officially displayed was N113 per litre, as against the NNPC-regulated price of N97 per litre.
Nonetheless, the DPR officials compelled the station manager to revert the pump price to N97 and ensured that the petrol was sold appropriately to the long queues of vehicles and jerrycans.
The DPR further discovered that a filling station on Sapele Road, opposite Adesuwa Grammar School Road, also in Benin-City, was selling with pumps sealed by DPR few hours earlier for flouting marketing regulations.
The filling station was said to be owned by a top ranking officer of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), leaving questions about the legal ability of the DPR to effectively check the erring marketers.