Entrances to many filling stations in Lagos and other parts of the country remained shut to motorists since Sunday following a sharp drop in the supply of petrol to the market. Findings revealed that oil marketers were no longer interested in importing the product mainly because of the rising exchange rate of the dollar to the Naira. The other factors responsible for the marketers’ action are delayed subsidy payments and rising interests on loans from banks.An official of a major marketing firm, who declined to have his name in print, said, “I am afraid that we cannot continue to import petrol because it costs more now to do so owing to the recent devaluation of the Naira. The rising amount of petrol subsidy arrears payable to us coupled with the high interests on loans from financial institutions, are still major issues in our hands.”Another marketer told one of our correspondents that an exchange rate of N226 per dollar was demanded on import duties contrary to the inter-bank exchange rate of N198 posted on the website of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency for the pricing template of PMS approved on February 19, 2015.
The major marketers import close to 60 per cent of petrol consumed in the country while the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation imports the balance. Our correspondents observed on Sunday that the states hit badly by scarcity of petrol were Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Bayelsa, Ondo, Ekiti, Kaduna, Delta, Plateau, Akwa-Ibom. Abuja, the nation’s capital, appeared to be the worst hit by the shortage.The Chairman, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, Lagos Zone, Alhaji Tokunbo Korodo, said the depots did not have enough products to serve filling stations across the country.
“If there were enough to go round, tanker drivers, of course, would move products to the areas of need. Nigerians should not be surprised that this is happening now. It is really unfortunate,” he said. In Lagos, many filling stations did not sell petrol but those that were open for business had long queues of motorists to contend with.
Although their pump prices remained N87 per litre, black market operators sold 10 litres for N1,200, i.e N120 per litre. Drivers of commercial buses capitalised on the situation to increase their fares. For instance, fare for Ojodu-Berger to Magboro, which hitherto was N50, was N100 on Sunday.
One motorist told one of our correspondents in Lagos that, “If our fuel finishes now, we will go and queue to get another fuel. Now that we have fuel, passengers would have to pay more until the situation improves. It was a Herculean task for motorists in Sango-Ota, Ijebu Ode and Abeokuta in Ogun State to purchase petrol from the stations.
Although most of the stations sold petrol at the regulated price of N87 per litre, the Oando Filling Station in Ijoko, Ota sold it for N100. A motorist, who bought from the said station demanded for and was issued a receipt which she forwarded to one of our correspondents. In Ibadan, Oyo State, one of our correspondents had learnt on Friday that the scarcity was due to unsubstantiated information that petrol price would go down to N65 per litre.
A manager at one of the stations in the Mokola area of the city, said the rumour seemed to be gaining ground and that the marketers were studying the situation. He said, “No businessman wants to run at a loss. The product we have now was purchased at the old price. We have not added any price to the stipulated N87 per litre of petrol but the queue is long because many people are not sure of the availability of the product in a few day’s time or why some fuel stations are not selling.
“Those who are not selling must have exhausted their product and are unwilling to buy more at the old price because of the fear that the rumour of a new price of N65 per litre could be true. If we buy today at the current price and government slashes price tomorrow, who pays for the deficit?”
The situation was the same in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State on Sunday as many filling stations rationed the product. A station along Adebayo Road which on Saturday sold the product for only two hours in the evening and did not on Sunday. Motorists and commercial transport operators went to the hinterland where petrol sold at a higher price but readily available. The price ranged between N100 and N105 per litre. The shortage which was noticeable in Warri, Sapele, Ughelli and other parts of Delta State thinned out on Sunday. But the pump price of the product remained high in Asaba as motorists paid between N95 and N100 per litre.