Around filling stations in Lagos and Ogun states, and in few other locations in South-Western states, long queues for Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, are beginning to resurface.
Although The PUNCH gathered that queues were not seen in Abuja and other states in the North, it was learnt that depots in Lagos were gradually running dry of petrol.
Queues were sighted at many stations, particularly those on the Oshodi-Ojodu Berger Expressway and some sections of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, as vehicles that waited to purchase petrol stretched into the expressway, slowing down movement on the service lane.
North-West filling station had the longest queue, as it dispensed petrol at N568/litre. Others such as Eterna – N568/litre; NNPCL – N568/litre; TotalEnergies – N570/litre; and Mobil – N570/litre had shorter queues.
Conoil, Enyo and Oando at Berger in Lagos, had no product to dispense.
While some of TotalEnergies stations were seen dispensing, a branch of the station located on the Berger axis was locked.
A few others such as Worldoil, Fatgbems and Quest in Ogun State shut their outlets.
The Chairman, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Satellite Depot, Akin Akinrinade, told The PUNCH that the depot had not loaded products in the last three weeks.
According to him, even the NNPCL Retail depot is currently operating skeletal dispatching of products.
“From our end, the issue has been with the pipeline vandalism which we raised an alarm over since July. Satellite depot has not loaded any product in the last three weeks, and whenever there is a problem here, it is going to affect Lagos and the whole of South-West.
“Although I don’t know what has been happening in other depots, from what we gathered yesterday, even NNPC Retail has been operating skeletal product dispatching. The NNPC Retail loaded just three to four trucks to Ikoyi on Monday. No product was dispatched to other places. I don’t know about other depots,” he said.
The NNPCL Retail has 21 depots across the country, nine in the North, and 12 in the South. However, The PUNCH had reported in December how the company abandoned the depots due to pipeline vandalism, and now relied on private depots to dispatch products.
Recently, NNPCL had been making efforts to put the pipelines in order. One of those efforts was the Satellite depots in Lagos which resumed operations last year, but was again vandalised in July.
Managers of the Ejigbo Satellite Depot had raised the alarm over incessant activities of pipeline vandals on System 2B pipeline in front of Good Luck Estate at Idimu, Alimosho Local Council Development Area of Lagos.
A statement released by Akinrinade at that time, said, “IPMAN Satellite Depot are constrained with heavy heart to announce the vandalism of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited pipeline at Idimu in Alimosho LCDA of Lagos State, in front of Good Luck Estate.
“This continuous vandalism is a setback to the effort of IPMAN and NNPCL to ensure uninterrupted supply of petrol to Lagos and the entire South-West region of Nigeria.”
The PUNCH also gathered that some depots owners had been unable to import products due to rising foreign exchange.
Sources close to the matter told The PUNCH that many filling stations had shut down operations as many could not afford to buy products due to high prices at the depots.
“Stations are now cutting down costs because most don’t have enough money to buy products to distribute to their outlets. That is why you see that those with more than one station had to close down some of them,” one of the sources told The PUNCH.
Another source who craved anonymity told The PUNCH that “the economy is tough right now and marketers have been unable to import products. Emadeb had teamed up with some other marketers and brought in about 27 million litres.
“But since then, who else did you hear has brought in the product? We are now back to the era of NNPCL being the sole importer, and would still continue to dictate what the market price would be.”
A top member of the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria told one of our correspondents that demand now outweighs supply.
“NNPCL has reduced importation. And the whole idea was for private individuals to also augment what NNPCL brings in. But marketers are not importing. So NNPCL still remains the only importer,” he said.
When contacted to speak on the development, the spokesperson for NNPCL, Garba-Deen Muhammad, said he was speaking with an official of oil firm who had idea about the issue.
He promised to revert and our correspondent kept calling him for update, but got no response to the matter from the oil firm as of the time of filing this report.
Meanwhile, Muhammad had stated in June that the company would cut down its fuel imports programme in August once the Dangote Refinery began to push out refined petroleum products from late July or early August. NNPCL owns a 20 per cent stake in the Dangote Refinery.
Muhammad had said, “NNPC Limited is bringing in products from outside Nigeria as a matter of necessity, not as a matter of choice. We would have preferred that we produce here; refine here and we sell and provide the energy security that the country needs.
“Because of the circumstances that surround our refineries, we cannot allow the country to be grounded. So we have to buy wherever we can get and sell. So if Dangote products are available, why should we not buy from Dangote?
“There is absolutely no reason. And that is the reason why we are interested in the Dangote Refinery. We are co-owners, shouldn’t we do business with our partners rather than do it with other people?”
Corroborating Muhammed, while speaking to journalists after a meeting with oil marketers in Abuja, also in June, the Chief Executive, Nigeria Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, Farouk Ahmed, said NNPCL had cut down on importation.
Ahmed had said, “The market is open already, we have to follow the regulations. So we have rolled out policies that are user-friendly. Some of them (marketers) have already started putting their applications in place. This is because we don’t want to create a gap. NNPCL is slowing down on their importation.”
Since the end of fuel subsidy, the price of petrol had risen from an average of between N180/N200 per litre, to between N614 and N700 per litre. Although it was later debunked by the NNPCL, rumour had it that the price could go as high as N720 per litre due to the rising exchange rate and increase in the cost of crude at the international market.
The National Controller Operations, IPMAN, Mike Osatuyi, confirmed that oil marketers were not importing because of the price. He, however, said there was no cause for alarm.
“Marketers are not importing because of the price. But marketers can still pick it up from the NNPCL. We know NNPCL would intervene. So no cause for alarm,” he said.
Further checks by The PUNCH revealed many major outlets within Lagos metropolis did not dispense fuel to customers on Tuesday.
It was observed that between Berger and Iyanoworo stretch of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, major outlets like Conoil (two outlets), Total (two outlets), African Petroleum, Oando and Enyo did not dispense fuel to customers.
At Mobil Filling station located adjacent to the Lagos State Secretariat (in-bound Alausa), there was a sizeable queue of motorists waiting in line to buy petrol while other customers lined up with jerry cans and jostled in a bid to get ahead in the queue.
The development sparked fears among motorists who expressed concern that Tuesday’s turn of events could be a prelude to an increase in the pump price of petrol.
A cab driver, Babatunde Onifade, who plies between Berger-Victoria Island, told one of our correspondents that the sudden closure of many filling stations along the axis had triggered panic among commercial transport operators who had a hard time buying fuel on Tuesday.
Some filling stations along Idimi-Egbeda axis were also visited on Tuesday, and it was observed that an outlet belonging to the NNPCL along the axis was not selling.
It was also observed that there was queue at an Oando fuel station on the axis.
A motorist who gave his name as Harry Ugochukwu, said, “NNPC here is not selling and they sold on Sunday. It is only the Oando outlet here that is selling at the normal price and as you can see there is queue here.”
At Dopemu, inward Agege, it was observed that a NIPCO outlet was selling with little or no queue.
Commenting on the development in the South-West, the President, Petroleum Products Retail Outlets Owners Association of Nigeria, Billy Gillis-Harry, said though the queues had yet to get to the South-South, North and other regions, the drop in imports might warrant a spread in queues.
“People cannot import because there is NP forex to do that, and this is not good for a liberalised market. That is why we’ve continued to advocate for the rehabilitation of refineries in good time to avoid a spread of such queues to other regions of the country,” he stated.
Source: The PUNCH