THE deadline given by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu has been defied by the continuation of the scarcity of petrol on Thursday.
The minister had said queues by motorists at filling stations would disappear in the Federal Capital Territory and Lagos by Thursday, July 7, 2016 and in other major cities of the country by the weekend.
However, it was gathered on Thursday that the scarcity of the product would persist beyond this week due to logistic problems, limited number of vessels bringing in the product and clearance procedures for the vessels by relevant agencies in the downstream oil sector.
They said if the supply of the product improved significantly, the scarcity should come to an end in the next one week.
Contrary to the minister’s promise, hundreds of motorists were seen in queues at filling stations in Abuja and Lagos on Thursday.
For instance, the Total and Conoil filling stations opposite the headquarters of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation had queues, while outlets in many other locations in the city were besieged by desperate motorists.
In Lagos, many filling stations still did not have the product, while those who were selling it had long queues of motorists to contend with, while black market operators were having a field day as they continued to enjoy patronage from many.
Explaining why the queues would not clear this week, a marketer, who spoke with one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, said, “The queues can’t clear this week. Even if we have 100 vessels lined up, there are other logistic issues that follow and must be sorted out, and there are some agencies that come on board to do these things.
“Fuel is not a product that you just push to the market and everybody begins to buy. We have people that check the commodity, those who see to its discharge, and another group that determines how it is going to be sold.”
Another source, who is an official of an independent marketer, said loading at the depots had not improved significantly, adding that the supply might not improve until Monday.
The Chairman, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, Lagos Zone, Alhaji Tokunbo Korodo, however, noted the supply of the product had improved, compared to what was the case in the past two days.
He said, “Few of the depots have started loading, courtesy of the imported fuel by the NNPC. And they are seriously and fully engaging the services of all stakeholders, who have also resolved to collaborate with the NNPC to ensure that the scarcity will be eradicated soonest.”
It was gathered that gaining access to some of the depots loading petrol in Apapa had become difficult as they were jam-packed on Thursday such that some people were paying as much as N300,000 to get their trucks in.
Another vessel, with capacity of 27 million metric tonnes of petrol, owned by Nipco Plc, is expected to come in by Sunday, a source told our correspondents.
When told that the queues in Abuja were not as severe as they were last week, another marketer with the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, stated that the government gave preference to depots supplying products to the FCT.
The Executive Secretary, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Obafemi Olawore, told one of our correspondents in a telephone interview that the importers were constrained by forex, stressing that the development had been communicated to the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun.
“The minister is talking to the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, and she is also talking to the International Oil Companies,” Olawore explained.
He expressed hope that the arrangement would result in something good and substantial for the market, saying, “At the moment, the products provided by the NNPC are the ones we are releasing to the market.”