Fuel scarcity hit harder in Abuja and its environs Friday, as another strike embarked upon by oil workers entered the fourth day, worsening a fuel crisis that has lingered for more than a month.
Most filling stations in the capital city, including those operated by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, shut its doors to the public.
The attendants at most of the stations visited claimed their facilities were out of stock and could not say when they would get their next supply.
The fuel crisis has already impacted the transport sector of the economy, with commercial transporters already adjusting their fares.
Airline operators are also feeling the pinch of the crisis, as most of them say they were having difficulties getting sufficient supply to maintain their regular flight schedules.
For instance, Aero Contractors, one of the major airlines plying most of the
busy domestic routes in the country, sent out a message to alert their customers of possible disruptions of normal flights as a result of the scarcity of jet fuel.
“Dear Esteemed customers, due to the current scarcity of Jet A1 fuel being experienced in the country, we regret to inform you that all our flights will not operate regularly as scheduled,” the airline said in a text message on Friday.
The Spokesperson of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, Babatunde Oke, blamed the situation on the lack of importation of petroleum products by fuel marketers as a result of the non-payment of the over N234 billion subsidy and interest claims.
“There is no fuel depot across the country with a stock of products,” Mr. Oke said. “All the depots, including those by the NNPC and the independent marketers, have exhausted their stock of petroleum products.”
The Executive Secretary of DAPMA, Femi Adewole, said none of the marketers has carried out any importation of products, as a result of the non-payment of the outstanding debt to them by government.
“Since the last meeting with the Minister of Finance with the marketers, nobody is talking about the issue,” Mr. Adewole said.
The bulk of the debt, he said, was what the marketers owe the banks, whose interest keep rising as a result of the government’s inability to pay up within the agreed 45 days period.
With key issues unresolved, particularly the non-payment of their independent counterparts and the Depot & Petroleum Products Marketers Association, further importation of fuel has since ceased, the union leaders said.
The transport owners were acting over a N21 billion outstanding debts by the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, which they said accumulated since December 2013.
MOMAN is the umbrella body for the six major oil marketers, including Oando, Conoil, Forte Oil, MRS, Total and Mobil Oil, which control about 40 percent of the fuel distribution outlets in the country.
The situation worsened on Tuesday when members of the Nigerian Petroleum Development Corporation chapter of the PENGASSAN in the NNPC made good their earlier threat to withdraw their services over the government’s refusal to accede to their demands.
The workers of the NNPC upstream petroleum industry subsidiary are protesting against what they consider the irregular arrangement involving an indigenous oil and gas firm, Neconde Energy Limited, in the operations of the oil mining lease (OML) 42 vacated by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in 2011.
Until the SPDC, which jointly owns the oil lease with Total and ENI, opted to sell its 45 percent equity holding to Neconde, the oil acreage was controlled by the NPDC.
However, with the transfer of the ownership of the assets by Shell, industry
workers said the operators opted for a joint operatorship arrangement between NPDC and Neconde, an arrangement the NNPC workers faulted.
The aggrieved workers criticised the arrangement, arguing that the NPDC has the technical capacity and competence to operate the oil concession without the involvement of Neconde, which they describe as new and inexperienced in the industry.
On Wednesday, oil workers unions, under the platform of the PENGASSAN in the NNPC, joined the strike in solidarity with their colleagues in the NPDC, accusing the outgoing Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, of being insensitive to their concerns.
“The strike will remain for as long as it takes for government to resolve the issues the workers want addressed. Otherwise, we want the in-coming administration to ensure that the situation is reviewed on assumption of office,” Mr. Oke said.
The Executive Secretary, Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), Farouk Ahmed, did not pick calls to his telephone to provide the update on the stock of product at fuel depots across the country.
The spokesperson for the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Ohi Alegbe, did not also respond to calls.
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