by Stanley Opara and Emmanuel Obe
Major cities across the country experienced severe fuel shortage over the weekend as motorists formed long queues at the few filling stations with fuel.
In Lagos, motorists were seen queuing to buy fuel at Ogba, Ikeja, Berger, Ikotun, Akute among other placs withing the metropolis.
However, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation blamed the shortage on the continued closure of a vandalised NNPC System 2B pipeline at Arepo, Ogun State.
In an interview with our correspondent on Sunday, the NNPC spokesman, Mr. Fidel Pepple, said the closure of the Arepo line was a major setback for the corporation.
Pepple said, “The solution to the problem lies in us putting the line on stream. And now, we are unlikely to resolve that as soon as possible because security must be guaranteed at Arepo before repair works could be completed.
“We have product, but we can’t continue to pump through the bad line and have product wasted.”
Repair works at the vandalised pipeline were stopped last week after suspected vandals killed three NNPC engineers at the site.
Our correspondent gathered that the shortage might grow worse in the course of the week.
The President, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, South-West branch, Alhaji Tokunbo Korodo, told our correspondent that loading of products at Lagos depots had dropped by over 70 per cent.
He said, “The situation is not improving at all; it has rather worsened. A depot that can serve about 200 trucks per day, now serves between 40 and 50. Last week it was between 70 and 90.
“Now, marketers are not willing to incur any extra costs. They don’t want to transport products to places outside their depot areas. Right now they are not going to the far east, north or south-south.”
“Government should do the right thing now. Most of these marketers have investments in Nigeria, and can’t just run away like that. So, government should engage them so that we can address this problem.”
About N200bn is currently being owed the oil marketers by the Federal Government.
Also speaking to our correspondent, the Chairman, Independent petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (Western Zone), Mr. Olumide Ogunmade, said the association’s members were also having challenges loading products.
He said the pipeline explosion at Arepo had compounded the problem as most of its members that were loading from Ogun State had been referred to Apapa.
“This is affecting the movement of product. Our members are now loading from Apapa. But the process is slow. We however believe it will stabilise soon,” Ogunmade said.
In Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, on Sunday, motorists accused petroleum marketers of hoarding petrol to create artificial scarcity. Some of the filling stations in the city sold a litre of petrol for N115, while others sold it for N150.
A motorist, Mr. Kunle Folarin, said that he had become frustrated after his efforts to buy fuel in three different filing stations were unsuccessful.
Folarin said that the attendants in many of the filing stations in the town collected bribes, ranging from N100 to N300, before selling fuel to motorists.
Another motorist, Sunday Abolarin, corroborated Folarin’s claim, adding that the fuel scarcity in the town was the creation of the marketers.
“Many of the marketers have fuel but they don’t want to sell because they are expecting an increase in the pump price of fuel. I don’t know what this country has become,” he said.
Most of the stations visited by our correspondent in Abeokuta on Sunday were shut and without attendants.
The NNPC mega station on Moshood Abiola Way was shut on Sunday evening. At Atinsola filling station near Ayetoro Garage, attendants sold fuel at N110 per litre. At World Oil filling station, Ibara, the sale of fuel was said to have been stopped by the attendants at about 2pm, while the long queue of motorists at the station was ignored.
The queue at filling stations in Enugu State grew on Sunday as motorists found it difficult to buy fuel. The queue, The PUNCH observed, were prominent at major filling stations in Enugu where the product is sold for N97, as against N110 at small filling stations.
A motorist at NIPCO filling station, in New Haven, said the queue had always been at major filling stations in the state because “these filling stations sold at N97 per litre and that is the cheapest one can buy.”
The motorist, Mr. Maurice Okafor, said, “The queue is always less at the smaller filling stations because they sell for N110 and it is only those that can afford it that go to such places, but the line at big filling stations has increased because most of the smaller stations do not have the product.”
Another motorist, Mrs. Elizabeth Onyia, said, “I always buy fuel at those unknown filling stations because you would never meet a queue there. But since yesterday, it has been difficult to buy fuel at any of the small stations and that is why many of us opted to come to NNPC, Bontus, Juhel and the rest of them. As you can see, the line here is agonising.”
Vehicular queue witnessed last week at the NNPC mega filling station on Sapele, has however not cleared completely, though it had thinned out by Sunday evening.
In a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, the Acting General Secretary of National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, Mr. Isaac Aberare, said the Minister of Petroleum Resources and Group Managing Director of the NNPC should be held responsible for the resurfacing of fuel queues in the country.
“The Secretary, Petroleum Tanker Drivers Unit of NUPENG in Abuja just spoke on television that there is no strike. If the fuel scarcity in Abuja persists, then the Minister of Petroleum Resources and Group Managing Director of NNPC should give an explanation,” Aberare said.
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