Okechukwu Nnodim and Ifeanyi Onuba
Petrol scarcity in Abuja and neighbouring states of Kaduna and Nasarawa has continued despite assurances by the Federal Government that the issue is being addressed.
The scarcity worsened on Monday as hundreds of motorists queued for long hours to buy the product at the few filling stations that sold petrol.
Hawkers of petrol in jerry cans cashed in on the scarcity and sold the product at exorbitant rates to motorists and other users.
Many obscure filling stations sold the product at prices far above the regulated rate. Only filling stations belonging to major marketers dispensed petrol at the stipulated N87 per litre.
Fuel scarcity in Abuja, in particular, is becoming a normal thing as it is becoming impossible to drive into a filling station and get the product to buy without any fuss.
Motorists have to queue for an average of 30 minutes before they can get the product. This has been the situation in the Federal Capital Territory since the beginning of this year.
At the various mega filling stations of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation in the city, hundreds of motorists were seen on queues on Monday waiting for their turn at the pumps.
At the largest of the mega stations on the Kubwa Expressway, the queues were persistent and longer than in most other stations.
Even in front of the administrative headquarters of the NNPC, where the corporation’s management and the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, have their offices, long queues of desperate motorists at the petrol stations there have become a regular sight.
At the Total and Conoil petrol stations in front of the NNPC Towers, our correspondents observed the presence of hundreds of motorists on queues.
Although officials of the corporation stated that the product was being hoarded, some marketers said they were being cautious as the government had yet to clear their outstanding subsidy claims.
Late last month, the Federal Government directed two of its agencies to sanction marketers whom it accused of subjecting Nigerians to unnecessary hardship.
Alison-Madueke had said that the marketers had capitalised on the panic purchase by customers to hoard and divert petroleum products.
She, therefore, mandated the Department of Petroleum Resources and the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency to penalise those that were found wanting.
Earlier in the month of March, the Federal Government expressed concern over the queues that appeared in Lagos, Abuja and other parts of the country, stating that a Sovereign Debt Note of N100bn had been issued by the Debt Management Office to settle part of the arrears owed the marketers as fuel subsidies.
The Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, confirmed the issuance of the SDN through a statement issued by her Special Adviser on Communications, Mr. Paul Nwabuikwu.
The minister sympathised with Nigerians whose lives were being affected by the scarcity and gave an assurance that the government was working hard to end it within the shortest possible time.
Specifically, Okonjo-Iweala said an agreement had been reached between the government and the marketers’ union that N100bn out of the N185bn debt be paid.
The minister said as part of the agreement, the government would not only pay the costs that the marketers had incurred, but also the interests on loans and foreign exchange differentials.
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