Every night, after the day’s work, Mansur Shehu would slide N2,500 into a small wooden box that serves as his piggy bank. He does that for seven straight days, and then brings out the money (N17,500) and hands it over to the owner of the tricycle he does business with.
“The owner of this Keke NAPEP doesn’t care whether I work for the day or not, his only concern is that I must give him N17,500 every Friday. With this fuel scarcity and the sudden increase in the price of fuel everywhere, where does a commoner seek refuge from?” Mr Shehu told this reporter.
He was inside the tricycle outside a fuel station waiting for his turn to buy fuel. The queue, he said, was stuck, because fuel attendants were “favouring rich people and black marketers.”
“Go in and see, wallahi some people are paying (extra) to get fuel,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.
Some weeks ago, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) urged Nigerians to be patient, stressing that it had distributed petroleum products nationwide, to end the scarcity that had lingered for weeks.
The NNPC said this in a statement by GarbaDeen Muhammad, the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division of the NNPC Limited.
The corporation urged Nigerians to be patient, saying it has sufficient stock of petroleum products for distribution across the country.
It said it was engaging depot operators to load products round the clock to accelerate the restoration of normal distribution.
Congested and locked stations
This reporter, over the weekend, went round Katsina metropolis and three neighboring areas of Kaita, Mani and Batagarawa local government areas to assess the situation. Most of the fuel stations were locked while those selling were congested.
On the Yahaya Madaki way to the Barhim Estate, there are more than 10 fuel stations but only three were selling fuel – Danmarna, NNPC and A.A Rano. There were double lines of vehicles on all the exits and entry routes of the fuel stations.
From Kofar Kwaya to the Natsinta Barracks roundabout, only two out of the over 15 fuel stations were selling fuel. It was the same story on the new ring road by the GRA area and on the new Internal Revenue Board and KTARDA road.
The situation was the same at almost all the stations selling petrol.
While some of the motorists and fuel users abide by the rules and stay on queues, some try jumping the queues or reaching out to some staff of the station to get help.
To authenticate some of the claims made by motorists that black marketers are using the fuel scarcity to “rob” them, this reporter visited a fuel station on the popular State Secretariat – Kano Road interchange.
As soon as this reporter stopped his car, two teenagers walked up to him and said they could get him fuel in cans but at a higher rate. This reporter bought two gallons (each five litres) at N4,500.
A gallon that was sold at N900 was now being sold at N2000 or higher because, according to the teenagers, “we have to bribe fuel pump attendants to get it in the night when everyone is asleep.”
They also said they engage in the business at the risk of being arrested by the police. Katsina State had banned selling of fuel in jerrycans in the state.
Despite the arrest, PREMIUM TIMES found black marketers in some of the fuel stations visited while some of them stayed at strategic areas of the metropolis, hiding their jerrycans in shops while they stand on the streets, waiting for prospective customers.
A driver at a private radio station in the metropolis, Abubakar Ahmad, said he had been patorinising the black marketers because he had no other option. “The funny thing is that even the black marketers are not seen everywhere, which makes it more difficult. We buy at an inflated price because we have no option.”
No fuel, no service
Ahmad Dida is the manager of VIP Barbing Salon in the layout area of the metropolis. He lamented how lack of fuel is threatening his business.
“Forget about electricity, we are even used to not having it. The fuel that we rely on is now unavailable,” he said.
“Yesterday, I sent two of the shop attendants with our generating set, it took them more than five hours to return. By the time they came back, all our customers had left in anger.”
He said the fuel scarcity is affecting their business because people now come to the shop only when there is power supply, which he said is not always.
Before the fuel scarcity, Mr Dida said he was making more than N20,000 a day but “we now open the shop and wait for God knows what. It is, honestly speaking, not good for us,” he said.
A commercial motorcyclist, who gave his name as Musa, said he would not bother hitting the road if he did not get the product.
“For two days, I have looked for fuel without success. Yesterday, I was on queue for several hours and when it was our turn to enter the station, they just said fuel had finished. I have to go out everyday to get money for what to eat. If there is no fuel, the motorcycle will not work, if it doesn’t work, my business is dead,” he said.
This reporter also found that the price of fuel per litre differs from one station to the other but mostly sold around N230 to N250.
“Even if it is N400 per liter, please let them sell it to us; we will still buy,” Balkisu Abdulkarim, a make-up artist said. She owns Billet Touches Make Up Studio and lamented that her failure to get the product would mean her losing most of her clients for the upcoming week.
“I had to lie to many of my clients yesterday (Saturday) because you can’t work in a make up studio without light. You know, this is a month of wedding, I will be very busy next week because there would be many brides and bridesmaids. Tell me, what will my situation be if this continues?”
The scarcity has also hit provision stores across the metropolis.
Abubakar Abdullahi is an attendant at a shop on Mani Road. He said with the absence of stable electricity supply and the scarcity of fuel, customers have been deserting his three refrigerators.
“People will come, open the refrigerators one after the other but because the drinks are not cold, they will just hiss and go away. I don’t blame them because even me I can’t take drinks that are not cold,” he said.
As fuel scarcity persists and the price increases, passengers are being made to pay more for services. A school teacher, Rukayya Shehu, told PREMIUM TIMES that she spent N500 to and fro from NYSC camp layout to High Court area.
“Imagine, I had to beg the tricycle operator before he even accepted N250 just to take me to High Court area. It used to be N100. You know the distance; a place that I can walk to. I paid N500 to go and come back.”
But Mrs Shehu, like several other passengers, did not blame the tricycle operators.
“The fuel scarcity that has hit this country is no longer a joke,” said Abdurrazaq Ibrahim, another passenger.
The acting coordinator of the Katsina office of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority (formerly DPR), Yahaya Ibrahim, did not respond to calls and SMS sent to him by this reporter on the scarcity.
But on a radio programme on Vision FM Katsina last week, Mr Ibrahim said the scarcity was due to several reasons that included the adulterated petrol imported into the country and marketers not buying the products in bulk in the state.
“I can say that Katsina is among the states were marketers don’t buy fuel in bulk because in Katsina, I can say on average, they hardly buy 10 to 12 fuel tanker in a day. Don’t forget that we have 34 local government areas, so the fuel supply is not appreciative,” Mr Ibrahim said.
He also said his office had been visiting fuel stations to ensure that they sell at the stipulated rate as well as ensure that there is no hoarding.
“My staff have been working round the clock, checking fuel stations to see if there is any case of hoarding and we have not found anything so far,” he added.