By Oji Odu
From Ikorodu Road in Lagos to Kudurat Abiola Way, and to most parts of the Lagos metropolis, the long fuel queues of vehicles and jerry cans have resurfaced, including the thriving black market. The is same in Abuja the nation’s capital and other parts of the country. Many of the filling stations operated by major marketers are not selling while outlets owned by independent marketers are shut. Those that are selling sell above the official pump price of between N200 to N300 per litre. Do we blame them? What went wrong?
Most Nigerians had thought that the problem which almost grounded the nation during the yuletide was a forgone issue following the explanations by government and alleged agreement between them and the marketers. But, no, it seems to be far from over as the blame game between government and the petroleum marketers has continued, with the masses bearing the heavy brunt.
Reacting to the situation, Executive Secretary of the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketing Association, DAPPMA, Femi Adewole, said if the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC) can raise supply, they will be able to get to inland areas and focus on major cities.
In a chat with the Magazine, a major marketer at one of the besieged filling stations at Kudirat Abiola Way, Lagos, and who craves anonymity said: “ It’s a pity that the NNPC will not want Nigerians to know the truth of the matter. How do they want us to load the product at over N145 per litre and expect us to sell at the so called official N145 per litre pump price? It is not possible. It can only be possible when the pump price is increased.”
But the NNPC has not only denied the allegation that it is not supplying enough fuel to the marketers, it has also debunked the rumour and assured Nigerians that it has no plans to increase prices both at the pump and ex-depot level.
Meanwhile, the Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF), an agency of the federal government, claimed that it pays out a minimum of N26 billion annually as reimbursement to petroleum product marketers as palliative for transportation.
A source at the Fund who craved anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter revealed that the agency pays out a minimum of N500 million weekly to some petroleum products marketers across the country which translate to N26 billion annually.
Although the figures according to the source may vary from time to time, the least amount paid to marketers per is week is N500 million. The source further disclosed that the agency pay over 15,000 marketers across the country weekly.
“When we make payment we deal with more than 15,000 marketers. If we are making payment, you will see that in less than 2 minutes we pay about 15,000 people across every nook and crannies of Nigeria. We pay out over N500 million every week.
“You know in Nigeria people don’t believe that you can pay N50 million without receiving anything, but in this case, you don’t even know who you are paying you are driven by the data,” the source said.
However, PEF’s spokesperson, Dr. Goody Nnaji, refused to confirm the figure to our correspondent, stressing that the agency does not disclose how much it pays to marketers due to the inherent danger in doing so.
According to him, the agency, in sometime past used to publish the payment to marketers but stopped doing so as some marketers said the action exposes them to becoming targets of armed robbers and kidnappers.
In his reaction to the situation, an angry commercial taxi driver at the besieged NNPC filling station, Moshood Adedeji, told the Magazine that he had been on the queue for over four hours without hope that he will get fuel, unless he resorts to the black marketers who sell at between N230 and N250 per litre.
“ In fact, everyday, everything gets worse, and I believe those in government, who do not care about our sufferings are even more confused,” he lamented.
But on his take on the situation, Johnson Okon, a Civil Servant, said that until issue of refineries are resolved, the problem will continue to reoccur. “Enough of the ‘snake and rat game. Nigerians are already overburdened. What we need is adequate supply of petrol that we have in this country,” he said.