The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) is getting tough with marketers found to be hoarding fuel as the current scarcity bites harder nationwide.
At the last count, no fewer than 48 filling stations have been shut down in Delta, Kwara and Ekiti states alone.
The price of petrol rose to N400 per litre yesterday in Abuja as more citizens traveled out of their stations for the Christmas celebration.
Many motorists even passed the night at filling stations in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in their desperation to buy fuel.
It was between N200 and N250 per litre in Lagos, Anambra, Ogun and Abia states.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) declared the scarcity unacceptable and charged President Muhammadu Buhari to rise up to the challenge.
“Nigerians must not be made to suffer, especially at this time of the year when we have the Yuletide and New Year festivities, which come with a lot of activities,” the party said in a statement in Abuja.
The DPR sealed up 38 filling stations in Delta State, six in Kwara and four in Ekiti.
Despite promises made by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to flood the market with more products and ensure that the scarcity evaporates this weekend, motorists continue to groan yesterday about the difficulty in buying fuel and the outrageous prices they were asked to pay at filling stations and by black marketers.
The DPR head of operations in Kwara State, Oyedele Ibitayo, said the affected stations were found culpable for various infractions ranging from diversion of fuel, overpricing and under dispensing to hoarding of petroleum products.
Ibitayo said although fuel supply to the state has reduced drastically in the last two weeks, whatever comes in must be properly dispensed by marketers.
He explained that the state which was receiving 39 trucks of petroleum products daily now receives between 12 and 19 trucks.
He maintained that the erring stations would be made to pay penalties and sign undertakings.
Erring petrol marketers in Ekiti State were fined between N100,000 and N200,000 depending on the degree of infraction.
The DPR team leader in the state, Mr Anthony Onaji, said the punitive
action became necessary to save Nigerians from further hardship.
“We quite understand that there may be short supply to Ekiti State but
the quantity in circulation must be sold to the populace; it
must not be hoarded,” he said.
“I don’t think it will be fair to Nigerians to find it difficult to get petrol, and when they get, they are made to buy above N145. So, this makes it compulsory for us to do our duty by ensuring that no sharp practice is tolerated.”
An unspecified number of filling stations were also sealed up in Anambra State yesterday.
The Edo State Government said yesterday it was collaborating with the DPR to monitor the sale of fuel at filling stations.
It vowed to prosecute defaulting marketers.
Secretary to the State Government, Mr Osarodion Ogie, said the state had received 465,000 litres of premium motor spirit (petrol) this weekend in addition to the 296,000 litres received on Tuesday.
Barrister Ogie explained that the collaboration with the DPR was meant to ensure that the products allocated to Edo State were dispensed to buyers at the official pump prices and save the people the hardship they suffer in the hands of shylock marketers.
He said: “Edo State has been sufficiently supplied with petroleum products and received a fresh 465,000 litres this weekend.
”Motorists and other users of petroleum products should refrain from panic buying that causes unnecessary queues at petrol stations and traffic congestion on major roads in the state.
”Marketers are hereby warned to ensure judicious dispensing of allocated products as the government will not hesitate to apprehend and prosecute any erring marketer.”
Hundreds of motorists who had planned to travel out of Abuja yesterday with their families had to join long queues at filling stations in the hope of getting fuel to buy.
The queues spilled onto highways, disrupting a free flow of traffic in many parts of the city.
The queue at the NNPC super mega station, Kubwa, was particularly long, spanning about three kilometres.
Most of the filling stations run by independent marketers were locked as they had no fuel to sell.
The Vice National President, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Alhaji Abubakar Maigadi told The Nation that there was no improvement in the supply of the product.
On the allegation of the diversion of petrol, he urged Nigerians to blame it on NNPC and major marketers, who according to him, are the ones getting the product from the depots.
“If they talk of diversion they should blame major marketers and NNPC retail outlets because they are the only people who are getting the supply. That is the fact. If the independent marketers are not supplied, there will be a crisis of fuel supply,” he said.
A good number of filling stations in Ibadan opened for business yesterday although with long queues of vehicles.
The sale of fuel was however disorderly.
Some of the dealers had to call in security men to help them maintain order.
Prices also ranged between N150 and N250 per litre.
Commercial motorcyclists who were able to get the product made brisk business by charging 200 percent of the normal fares.
When asked, one of them, Musa Ibrahim, said if only passengers knew what they went through in their efforts to get fuel, they would not complain about of the hike in fares.
According to him, they were molested by soldiers in some filling stations before they got the product, even after queuing for hours.
PDP tasks Buhari on lingering fuel scarcity
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) asked President Muhammadu Buhari, as Minister of Petroleum Resources, to find a quick solution to the lingering fuel scarcity.
“The unbearable fuel situation in the country is completely unacceptable. Mr President must be up and doing,” the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan said in a statement.
He added: “When he took office as President of Nigeria and also as the Minister of Petroleum Resources, he was aware that the buck stops at his table.
“Nigerians must not be made to suffer, especially at this time of the year when we have the Yuletide and New Year festivities, which come with a lot of activities.
“This is the same APC government that promised that it would make fuel available and affordable. Today, under their deceitful and corrupt watch, fuel has not only become extremely scarce, the price has also risen from where the PDP left it at N86.50k per litre to as high as N300 per litre and above.
“The effect is that transport fares, running costs, prices of food, medicines and other basic needs have soared beyond the reach of Nigerians, who are now groaning heavily under the hardship of APC misrule.”
Coming with the hike in petrol price is an astronomical rise in transport fares across the country.
Nigerians travelling to their respective hometowns for Christmas are lamenting the situation.
Fare from Lokoja to Lagos rose from N4000 to N6500 yesterday.
A commuter on the route, Mr Solomon Jatto, said: “I have never seen a country like this; the states will not pay salaries and government will not release fuel.”
Mr Audu Yunusa, a driver, said it was the high cost of buying petrol that gave room for the increase in transportation fare.
The NURTW Chairman, North section, Mr Abdullahi Gambo, said that the cost of transportation was being driven by the cost of petrol, adding that the union could not impose fares on their members because they got their fuel from different stations at different prices.
A petroleum marketer in Lokoja, who did not want his name in print, said that ‘the cabals’ were at work again in the petroleum sector.
His words: “The truth is that the cabals are at work again in the petroleum sector.
“The present administration should keep the cabals at bay in this season.
”The Federal Government should quickly stem this tide. We have had glimpses of President Muhammad Buhari’s fight against corruption. But the present situation is stage managed by corrupt officials at the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR.”
With transport fares rising sharply in Abia State owing to the hike in fuel price to N250 per litre, many commuters were yesterday forced to walk long distances.
Mrs Nkechi Godwin, Mr Francis Okeke and Gift Iheanacho, who spoke to our reporter, lamented the situation and pleaded with the government to intervene immediately.
Hundreds of commuters in Anambra State are also facing hardship on account of the fuel scarcity.
Many commuters who were on their ways to their hometowns were trapped in the state, following the rise in fuel price.
It was N250 at many filling stations yesterday.
Even at that, there were long queues of vehicles at the various filling stations.
When The Nation moved around the state yesterday, some of the people travelling home were stranded at various motor parks in the state for lack of vehicles.
In Anambra State, a litre of fuel was being sold at N250 per litre while long queues became the order of the day.
A traveller, Tochukwu Nwosu from Imo state, described the action of independent marketers as man’s inhumanity to man.
Transport fare from the state capital Awka to Onitsha went up from N150 to N300.
The fuel scarcity in Asaba, the Delta State capital and environs had no improvement.
Transport fare went up by 200 percent on many routes.
Many motorists parked their cars at home owing to the high cost of petrol.
Scores of commuters were stranded in most motor parks in Agbor and the environs as commuters were forced to pay between N800 to N1000 from Agbor to Asaba as against the usual N250-N300.
Only five filling stations had fuel yesterday in Makurdi, the Benue state capital, and they sold at N230 per litre.
It was N300 on the black market.
Queues were long at the filling stations while transport fares also rose sharply.
The NNPC had promised on Thursday that the fuel scarcity would disappear this weekend.
Mr Ndu Ughamadu, the NNPC spokesman, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja that there was an increase in the number of incoming trucks of petrol into the FCT to curb the queues in the city.
According to him, the NNPC Group Managing Director, Dr Maikanti Baru, had met with the heads of Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) and Petrol Tanker Drivers (PTD) to nip the problem in the bud.
He said that the nation, which was consuming 35 million litres suddenly increased consumption to 85 million litres as a result of diversion of fuel to neighbouring countries.
“He met with NARTO and PTD and they assured that trucks would be closely monitored.
“He said Lagos should be maintained at 300 trucks but the actual figure coming into Abuja should be increased by 150.
“Port Harcourt refinery has also increased refining and so by tomorrow (Friday) queues should normalise and by the weekend it would have disappeared,’’ Ughamadu said.
He said the scarcity was artificial as the corporation “as at today has adequate products and a 25-day sufficiency.”