Monday, 01 March 2021 03:32

Fear of fuel price hike sparks panic buying, queue in Abuja, Lagos, others

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Queues for petrol grew worse in some parts of the country on Sunday following the shutdown of many filling stations amid heightened expectations of an increase in the pump price of the product.

Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, had on February 9 said Nigerians should prepare for the pain associated with the increase in crude oil price.

International oil price, Brent crude, rose by more than 14 per cent in February as it closed at $64.42 per barrel, up from $56.42 per barrel at the start of the month.

Motorists besieged the few outlets opened for business in Abuja, Nasarawa, Niger and Borno states, while some others that had dispensed petrol the previous day were locked on Sunday.

Two weeks ago, queues of motorists were seen in many locations after oil marketers raised concerns about petrol pricing by depot owners and how this affected petroleum products supply.

The queues resurfaced on Saturday and Sunday, as only few filling stations were dispensing petrol while others were shut.

Some attendants at some of the shut outlets told one of our correspondents that they were not selling petrol because the cost of the product would be increased from March.

Nipco and Gegu filling stations, along the Kubwa-Zuba Expressway, Abuja, had long queues of motorists on Sunday, while IBWAS filling station on the same road that had earlier dispensed products was shut.

Similarly, Major Oil filling station, along Airport Road, Abuja, which had steadily dispensed products up till Saturday, did not sell petrol on Sunday.

Shema Oil, close to Next Cash ‘N’ Carry in Abuja; NNPC outlet in Zuba, Niger State, and few other filling stations in Nyanya/Mararaba in Nasarawa State had queues.

“We have not been advised of any increase in petrol price. Many filling stations are not selling petrol perhaps because they have run out of stock or they are hoarding the product in anticipation of price increase,” National Operation Controller, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mike Osatuyi, said.

Osatuyi, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said he observed queues in some stations in Lagos on Sunday.

“The outcome of the meeting between the President and the governors is not yet known. There will certainly be an increase in petrol price but we don’t know when this will happen,” he added.

In Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, motorists and other users of petrol were hit by scarcity of petrol on Sunday as fuel stations were shut down.

Fuel stations located along major highways, including Kano Jos road, Shehu Laminu way and Baga road, were not dispensing petrol, while motorists queued for hours at the filling stations that were selling the product.

Many commuters were stranded at bus stops in Maiduguri as motorists struggled at filling stations to get petrol.

“They said there is no fuel but they sell to black marketers; they have refused to sell to us. I have been here since 6:45am because my experience yesterday (Saturday) was horrible as I couldn’t get fuel. I’ve been here for over four hours and I have not got the product,” a tricycle operator, Abubakar Shettima, told one of our correspondents.

When contacted, Chairman, IPMAN, Borno, Mohammed Ngala, denied that independent marketers were hoarding petrol, adding that Borno had been experiencing a shortage in recent days.

“Right now, we sell petrol at N165-N170 per litre. But the product is not enough to serve the populace. We don’t hoard fuel,” he said.

Coalition of Nigerian Civil Society Organisations for Petroleum and Energy Security called on the Federal Government to fully deregulate the downstream oil sector to address the concerns about petroleum products’ pricing.

‌Convener of the CSOs coalition, Timothy Ademola, said they had decided to interface with the Federal Government and agencies in the oil sector on the need for deregulation.

He said, “Let the forces of demand and supply be allowed to play out in the pricing of petroleum products. This is when we can say we have full deregulation.

“We are ready to partner government, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Department of Petroleum Resources and other agencies to make this work.”

Managing Director, Realink Oil Nigeria Limited/National Public Relations Officer, IPMAN, Ukadike Chinedu, had said in an interview with one of our correspondents last week that depot owners were hoarding products due to the concern of a possible hike in petrol price.

He said petrol price would definitely rise, going by the increase in global crude oil prices.

But the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency was silent on whether there would be an increase in petrol price in March as expected by marketers.

PPPRA’s spokesperson, Kimchi Apollo, told one of our correspondents that he had not received any directive in that regard.

Reacting to complaints by marketers that some private depots had hiked the ex-depot price of petrol and that this would definitely warrant an increase in pump price, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation said it had not raised its ex-depot price yet.

Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, NNPC, Kennie Obateru, said NNPC had made it clear that it was awaiting outcome of the proposed meeting between the Federal Government and labour unions as touching the price of petrol.

“We have not increased ex-depot price. It is now left for the regulatory agencies to ensure that the approved ex-depot price is what the various depots stick to,” Obateru told one of our correspondents.

On how the meeting between the Federal Government and labour would affect petrol price, the NNPC spokesperson said, “We are also watching to see outcome of that meeting before taking the next step.”

Efforts to the get Department of Petroleum Resources to speak on what it was doing to address the complaints against depot owners was not successful.

Spokesperson for the agency, Paul Osu, did not answer calls to his phone and also did not reply a detailed text sent to him on the matter.