Fuel scarcity: NNPCL, marketers disagree over supply as queues spread

There was a disagreement between oil marketers and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited on Thursday over the supply of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, as queues by motorists for the commodity in filling stations grew worse.

Dealers stated that the queues in various parts of the country for petrol might continue to linger because many independent oil marketers had not been able to access the PMS for over one month.

But this was countered by the NNPCL, as it argued that the company had 30-day PMS sufficiency, though the national oil firm admitted that it was aware of the fuel queues in Nigeria.

Many filling stations, particularly those operated by independent marketers were shut due to a lack of products to dispense in Abuja and neighbouring Nasarawa and Niger states.

The few outlets that dispensed products in these areas, mainly those of major dealers, were greeted with queues, for instance, the Conoil filling station in front of the Abuja headquarters of NNPCL had queues on Thursday.

The same scenario played out in Lagos, Port Harcourt, and many other locations, as confirmed by marketers and motorists in the various areas.

On Thursday, dealers under the aegis of the Independent Marketers Association of Nigeria stated that they had been finding it tough to access petrol from the NNPCL for more than one month.

IPMAN controls over 70 per cent of retail stations that dispense PMS nationwide. Currently, many outlets operated by IPMAN members are shut due to a lack of products to dispense.

They also told our correspondent that independent marketers had to resort to major tank farm owners for products, adding that the ex-depot price at these tank farms had been raised from about N578/litre to N605/litre.

The National Public Relations Officer, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chief Chinedu Ukadike, stated, “Many depots are dry. The NNPCL normally keeps products in its storage that are meant to be on the ground for some duration before fresh products come in. But as we speak, I think the stored products are exhausted.

“This is because for some time now, for the past month now, NNPCL has not been supplying petroleum products to independent marketers in the Port Refinery depot and some other depots across the country.

“In Warri and Lagos, marketers are finding it difficult to source products from the NNPCL. It is the few major marketers and tank farm owners that have products, which they now sell very exorbitantly.”

Asked to state the cost at which the tank farm owners sold the products to independent marketers, Ukadike replied, “They sell it exorbitantly at between N601 and N605/litre, which is against the approved price of NNPCL that is between N577 and N578/litre.

“So it is now becoming very difficult for independent marketers to be able to source products adequately from NNPCL, which is currently the sole importer of petroleum products in Nigeria. And this is because of the reintroduction of subsidy on petrol price.”

Ukadike pointed out that until Nigeria’s refineries were fixed, it would be difficult to fully deregulate the downstream oil sector, adding that the rush for dollars had further increased due to the ban that was lifted on the provision of forex for the imports of selected items.

“The government should take drastic actions to ensure that our refineries are back on track. A new modern refinery can be built with about $8bn, and modular refineries should be encouraged, as well by giving them crude oil.

“The crude swap programme and the recent payment of cash for petroleum imports have not helped matters, rather we keep on seeing galloping inflation. Our economy is going down the drain and this has to stop,” the IPMAN official stated.

Another oil marketer corroborated the position of the IPMAN PRO, as he stated that forex was currently controlling not only the downstream oil sector but the Nigerian economy at large.

“The reason for the queues is not far from what we’ve been saying. It is forex that controls our economy right now. So whatever happens in the global market affects us,” the Secretary, IPMAN, Abuja-Suleja, Mohammed Shuaibu, stated.

He added, “But the most unfortunate aspect of it is that being an oil-producing nation, we cannot refine the oil because of mismanagement. NNPCL is not importing enough. And right now, which individual has the financial strength to import the product?

“In fact, it is as if the government is even confused about the whole situation. However, if they provide us with forex, we will import it. But until then, the queues are going to persist, because the only importer is not meeting the required demand.”

Shuaibu kicked against any official increase in petrol price, stressing that this would be resisted by the masses, but noted that “they (government) should make forex or PMS available.

“The essence of governance is to remove or reduce the suffering of the people and not to inflict or increase people’s sufferings. It is an unfortunate situation that we find ourselves in right now and it requires some form of expertise on the part of the government to tackle.”

The President of the Petroleum Products Retail Outlets Owners Association of Nigeria, Billy Gillis-Harry, had earlier confirmed that there was a limited supply of products by NNPCL, stressing that this was why queues had continued to persist.

NNPCL supply

Also, another dealer with the Major Marketers Association of Nigeria stated that marketers had stopped importing petrol, adding that this had also contributed to the scarcity witnessed across the country.

The dealer, who requested to be anonymous, stated that the last private dealer, PETROCAM, that imported petrol into Nigeria recently, could not sell it due to the introduction of subsidy on PMS and the insistence of NNPCL not to raise its pump price.

“The depots are dried up. That’s a statement of fact. For more than a month now no other importer has brought in product except NNPC.

The National President of the Natural Oil and Gas Suppliers Association of Nigeria, Benneth Korie, had earlier confirmed that a lot of depots were presently dried up or out of stock.

When asked if other marketers were actually bringing in products alongside NNPCL in the past few months, the source (not Korie) replied, “Of course, yes. Emadeb started it.

“Nipco brought in products. About six to seven marketers brought in products. PETROCAM also brought products. So it wasn’t only NNPC. But these other marketers have stopped importing and we can see the effects.”

On whether NNPC has enough products since marketers have stopped PMS imports, the source replied, “NNPC also has its challenges too

“The NNPC you have now is different from the one before. If it was before, even if they bring in 10 million litres, they can give close to seven million litres to other marketers and use the rest.

“But now, even some of their retail outlets don’t have products because they are so much currently. So you cannot bring in products and be supplying third parties, leaving your own.”

The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Retail Limited, on Thursday, said it was aware of the appearance of fuel queues in some parts of Lagos and other locations across the country.

“This is due to reduced depot load-out in Apapa, Lagos over a few days, and the root cause has since been addressed.

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