Nigerians faced yet another day of fuel scarcity Wednesday as the authorities said they were working multiple options in a bid to resolve a substandard fuel problem that has seen national reserves coverage down by 10 days.
Millions of Nigerians were this week thrown into chaos amid scarcity of fuel in petroleum outlets across the country.
The Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority earlier in the week said it found gasoline with methanol above national specifications in the supply chain and removed the fuel from circulation.
The regulator said that the product is being cleared as the limited quantity of the impacted product has been isolated and withdrawn from the market, including loaded trucks in transit.
“Our technical team in conjunction with NNPC Ltd and other industry stakeholders will continue to monitor and ensure quality petroleum products are adequately supplied and distributed nationwide. The source supplier has been identified and further commercial and appropriate actions shall be taken by the Authority and NNPC Ltd,” the regulator said in a statement Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the regulatory agency further said that Nigeria currently has 20 days sufficiency of petrol, and advised against panic buying. It added that it was working round the clock to address the challenge thrown up by the importation of the substandard petrol into the country.
An official of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) told PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday afternoon that the various agencies were working to ensure that the disruption caused by the substandard petrol was resolved.
The official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, said the nation has sufficient petrol in its reserves, adding that normalcy would be restored soon.
Sources had earlier told Reuters on Tuesday that the NNPC asked trading firms for emergency supplies of gasoline to replace the cargoes that were rejected because of their poor quality. One of the sources told the news agency that NNPC was seeking about 500,000 tonnes of gasoline, but NNPC officials declined to comment on the claim Wednesday.
On Wednesday, the Minister of state for petroleum, Timipre Sylva, said there will be a ‘major investigation’ into the circulation of the unsafe quantity of methanol in petrol imported into the country.
Speaking during a media briefing after the Federal Executive Council meeting in the State House in Abuja, he said the government is not in a rush to mete out any measures until the actual cause has been found out.
He however did not disclose the identities of the companies involved in the circulation of the adulterated petrol.
Amid claims of possible litigations by Nigerians whose vehicles have allegedly been damaged by the substandard fuel, the minister said the Nigerian government will do an assessment of the vehicles damaged.
The Chief Executive of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Agency (NMDPR), Farouk Ahmed, said that the sole supplier of the adulterated fuel has been identified and further commercial and appropriate actions shall be taken by the authorities and the NNPC.
Scarcity bites harder
Meanwhile, as the government and its agencies scramble to salvage the situation, there were long queues at many filling stations on Tuesday and Wednesday in some major cities across the country, including Lagos and Abuja.
A PREMIUM TIMES reporter who moved round the cities found that the situation led to chaos at fuel stations in major parts of Lagos and Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State.
PREMIUM TIMES observed that in Ojoo, Iwo Road, Total Garden and Molete areas of the Oyo state capital, motorists who bought fuel waited for long hours amid complaints and physical combats.
In Ojodu, Agege and other parts of Lagos, some motorists opted for black market sellers to fuel their vehicles.
In parts of Victoria Island and Ajah, fuel stations were besieged by motorcyclists, tricycle owners, as well as private and commercial drivers.
A PREMIUM TIMES correspondent who visited petrol stations in Abuja Wednesday afternoon found that many filling stations were shut against buyers. Most of the fuel stations visited also claimed they were without supply.
Black marketers were seen hawking the product in jerry cans at inflated prices across the Federal Capital Territory.
Many filling stations in the Wuse, Gwagwalada, Bannex, Utako areas of Abuja sold to buyers at prices ranging from N162 to N165. At one of the NNPC outlets in the Central Business District area, there was a huge crowd as motorists struggled to buy petrol.
“I am here waiting to buy fuel because I heard that NNPC imported bad fuel into the country and as I saw people queuing up I realized this particular one they are selling is legit fuel,” a commercial driver who declined to have his name in print told PREMIUM TIMES.
Obatoil filling station located in Wuse was shut Wednesday afternoon. An official told PREMIUM TIMES that they had exhausted their stock for a week now and they are not planning to restock.
Azman Oil and Gas Nig Ltd at Wuse was opened but an official said the station had no supply. The situation was the same at Total Energies filling station at Zone 2 Junction Wuse and Total Wuse 1, as the station managers claimed the station had no stock too.
When PREMIUM TIMES visited Nipco filling station, located at Bannex, our correspondent found that the station only sold to some ‘selected’ customers.
“If you want to buy fuel, just wait for the manager when he comes out, tell him you want to buy fuel and see if he will approve me to sell it to you,” an attendant told a PREMIUM TIMES’ reporter.
“I cannot sell without his approval because he only approved us to sell to some selected people, like his friends or relatives.
“l must tell you the truth, even if you meet with him now, he will tell you that there is no product, but we have the product.”
A resident, Amina Ahmad, lamented the hoarding and misconduct.
She said: “You see, I just spoke with the manager now and he told me that there is no fuel but someone just called him on phone when I was with him and he told the person to come that he has fuel.
“This means he is hoarding the product to sell to some people and this is very bad.”
Eterna filling station located opposite Austoma filling station at Bannex did not also sell the product.
In the Kubwa area of Abuja, there was panic buying also as motorists besieged filling stations. A long queue was also seen at Saddi Kamal in Lugbe airport road, while AFDIN, Shema and Dan Oil along Lugbe Airport road were under lock and key.
Some motorists who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES alleged that petrol stations were hoarding the products.
A taxi driver, Segun Oke said: “Fuel stations are now using the opportunity of this bad fuel imported to the country to hoard fuel. Soon they might increase their pump price and very soon we taxi drivers will also increase our transport fare.”
Ope Ogunlola, a cab driver said, wondered how the NNPC imported bad fuel into the country, and concluded that it means that “they are not doing their job” properly.
“See now, their mistake is causing a big problem for the country,” he said.
A Civil servant, who identified himself simply as Mathew, said: “this is too unbearable. I was at one of the stations in Lugbe to get fuel but I couldn’t get fuel, all I can tell you now is that the government is making life difficult for people.”
A barber, Salisu Ali, who also spoke with PREMIUM TIMES said he has increased his fare for hair cut because he had had to resort to the “black market” to get petrol.
Meanwhile, the NMDPR boss, Mr Ahmed, said that the NNPC has intensified efforts at increasing the supply of petroleum products in the market in order to bridge any unforeseen supply gap.
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