Fuel queues return to major cities

Posted by News Express | 29 February 2016 | 2,357 times

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With long queues of vehicles at filling stations, Nigerians are again contending with the scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise known as petrol.

At major roads in Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja, Kaduna and other cities at the weekend, it was discovered that only a few petrol stations were selling the product while the majority were shut down.

As at yesterday evening, the number of filling stations selling fuel had dropped drastically, leaving long queues of customers at the few outlets that were selling above the regulated price of N86.50 per litre.

All the filling stations along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Oshodi-Apapa Expressway and Airport Road in Lagos, shut their businesses to customers, claiming to be out of stock.

Major filling stations operated by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway witnessed long queues as some motorists slept at the filling stations in a desperate bid to buy petrol at the N86.50 per litre.

It was only the NNPC mega station along new Otukpo road in Benue State that had the product which was sold at the regulated price. Others, like Rainoil Oil at the Modern Market Junction, Total filling station located along Kashim Ibrahim road and opposite Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) office, were either not selling at all or selling at above the approved price.

Hawkers were taking advantage of the scarcity to sell the product to desperate buyers for as much as N600 to N700 per litre as against the official rate of N86.50k.

Though the NNPC has assured that it was doing everything possible to ensure petrol is available in every part of the country, it was learnt that the current scarcity may not be unconnected with the corporation’s alleged delay in signing an oil swap agreement.

Some refineries were said to have met with NNPC officials in Abuja and London over the past month, promising that they could quickly move vessels with petrol to Nigeria. But negotiations are taking longer than expected, leaving a gap in imports.

NNPC said it opted for “the more efficient Direct Sale-Direct Purchase (DSDP) alternative, which allows for direct sale of crude oil by the corporation as well as direct purchase of petroleum products from credible international refineries.”

The corporation explained that it opted for this position after “evaluation exercise of pre-qualified bidders revealed that most of the 44 companies earlier shortlisted for the next stage of the tender process only had affiliations to refineries abroad, a situation which introduces toll on the value chain.”

The NNPC got approval to import 75 per cent of the country’s petrol needs, while the major and independent marketers got the remaining 25 per cent import permit.

It was learnt that the situation has been made worse by the Central Bank Nigeria (CBN) policy on forex, that allegedly makes it more difficult for them to import the 25 per cent slot. An independent marketer said the group had not been able to import fuel partly due to the inability to source forex. “We depend on NNPC to get product and it is like the corporation is finding it hard to meet the petrol need of the country. We have always said that NNPC alone cannot take full responsibility of fuel import and nobody listened to us. The government needs to encourage others by providing an appropriate policy which will protect us to import,” the marketer said.

NNPC said in a statement that it had deployed additional trucks of petrol to arrest the emerging queues in some fuel stations in the Federal Capital Territory.

In a statement by Group General Manager, Public Affairs Division, Ohi Alegbe, NNPC explained that it had increased the number of fuel trucks to Abuja and environs from the usual average of 160 per day to 250 trucks (8.25 million litres) to arrest the lull experienced due to last weekend’s House of Assembly re-run election in Niger State which affected truck movement from the Suleja depot.

It was learnt that the force majeure declared by the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC) on Forcados oil export following disruption in production caused by the spill on the subsea crude export pipeline is expected to reduce crude oil glut at least in the next two weeks.

The shutdown of Forcados terminal, which is one of Nigeria’s biggest terminals with capacity to export 400,000 barrels a day and pipeline outage in Iraq would definitely help to remove about 800,000 barrels and boost prices in the next few weeks before the repair work is completed, according to an analyst.

•Adapted from a Guardian report. Photo shows fuel queue.

Source: News Express

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