*Consumers in panic as Senate summons Baru
*NNPC reassures consumers, says no plan to hike prices
*IPMAN denies plot to sabotage Buhari’s visits to Kano
Heavy and long queues have surfaced in many of the nation’s capital cities since Tuesday with a worse situation reported on Wednesday morning.
The nation’s fuel supply situation took a turn for the worse on Tuesday as queues of desperate motorists grew longer at many petrol stations selling Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) also known as petrol, in Lagos, Kaduna, Plateau, Ogun, Kwara and other states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory and its suburbs.
Fuel queues, which started emerging in some parts of the country on Monday after more than a year of relief from scarcity of petroleum products in the country, were seen spilling onto some roads in Lagos and Ogun states on Tuesday and caused gridlock.
Motorists and other consumers of petrol complained about the latest round of fuel scarcity, alleging that it might be a ploy to increase the pump price of the product. NNPC had laboured seriously for almost 72 hours denying this.
They also wondered why the latest crisis was happening at a time Nigerians were preparing for the Christmas and New Year festivities.
Reports from Lagos say that motorists spilled onto major roads like Ikorodu Road, Agege Motor Road, Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway and Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
Cause of scarcity: Last week, the Independent Petroleum Markers Association of Nigeria, Lagos State chapter, accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation of under-supplying its members with petrol.
The association alleged that the NNPC was also frustrating its members by reneging on the bulk purchase agreement it signed with them to supply the product at N133.28 per litre.
The Executive Secretary, Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association, Mr. Olufemi Adewole, said the increase in price of crude oil had led a corresponding rise in the prices of refined products.
He said, “It is only the NNPC that is bringing products in; we also noticed a supply gap in what they brought in. It wasn’t enough at a particular time and the result is what we are seeing today.
“But they have also equally assured us that they have enough stock and that they are expecting vessels to come in; our members have paid for PFI (pro-forma invoices) for PMS. So, once the NNPC cargoes come in, we will receive the product and sell to Nigerians.”
Asked why marketers were not importing, Adewole said, “Landing cost of PMS today has increased. By the time we land the product based on the international crude oil prices, petrol should be selling for about N165-N170 per litre. But the government is saying we should sell at N145. So, if there is no subsidy, we have to depend on the NNPC to give us the product.”
A top official at one of the depots in Lagos, who spoke on condition of anonymity told journalists that, the supply dislocations would take days to disappear. At midday on Wednesday, many of the motorists spoken to said, the queues is subsiding gradually.
He said, “we are still doing skeletal loading; no depot wants to be out of stock completely because it is not good for business. As of Tuesday at 6:00pm, there is no vessel dispending PMS from the Apapa jetty, except the one in Oando SPM.
Petroleum marketers are owed subsidy claims: “Marketers are still being owed 2016 subsidy claims. No sane marketer can put his money down now to import petrol. Nobody is talking about when the subsidy arrears would be paid; so everybody has to rely on the NNPC. Also, the landing cost of petrol has increased.”
In Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, the fuel scarcity has yet to be felt in the metropolis as majority of the filling stations petroleum products to buyers at the government regulated prices.
There was panic-buying of petrol in Ado Ekiti as motorists were seeing rushing to filling stations to stock up the product.
As of 4pm on Tuesday, the situation was normal at filling stations along Bank Road in Ado Ekiti, including a franchise station of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
In Abuja and Nasarawa State, motorists waited in queues for many hours to buy petrol.
Along the Kubwa-Zuba Expressway in Abuja, many motorists formed queues in front of the NNPC mega station and the Nipco filling station located on the road.
Queues were also observed in front of the few petrol stations that dispensed petrol along the Abuja-Keffi road in Nasarawa State. The NNPC filling station in the Central Business District area has a long queue.
NNPC claims enough fuel: Despite the development, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation described the situation as panic buying, insisting that it had enough product to keep the country wet.
The Group Managing Director, Maikanti Baru, stated that the situation was due to panic buying, adding that the corporation was doing everything within its reach to address the matter.
He was quoted in a statement issued on Tuesday by the corporation’s spokesperson, Ndu Ughamadu, as saying, “For the umpteenth time, I wish to call on all Nigerians to stop panic buying. We have said times without number that the NNPC has sufficient products to cater for the needs of all consumers.”
Senate summons NNPC GMD: Worried by the development, the Senate on Tuesday summoned the NNPC GMD to appear before its Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream) on Thursday over the rising scarcity of PMS across the country.
Baru failed to appear before the committee on Tuesday, leading to the rescheduling of the meeting during which he would be expected to explain the reasons for the scarcity.
The Chairman of committee, Senator Kabiru Marafa, while briefing journalists in Abuja, said plans had also been concluded to commence nationwide inspection of filling stations over the looming fuel crisis.
Marafa stated the Senate would not allow some unpatriotic persons to cause Nigerians any hardships, especially during the Yuletide, stressing that though the lawmakers had adjourned plenary to conduct budget defence sessions for Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the government, members of the committee would embark on the oversight visits to the filling stations.
He said members of the committee would be regrouped into sub-committees to make it possible for them to visit all the states.
Nigerians have been thrown into panic following the re-emergence of long queues at fuel stations in parts of the country.
The situation, amid rumour of hike in pump price of petrol, sparked fear that the festive season could be marred by scarcity of the product.
In Abuja, many motorists who closed from work yesterday were unable to buy fuel, as many stations were shut.
At about 8 p.m., there was a long queue at the NNPC retail station along Kubwa Expressway that kept motorists waiting for hours.
One buyer, Alabi Ajibola, said: “Most fuel stations have closed. I have been on the queue for about two hours. This should not be at this Christmas period.”
Haruna Bashir, a commercial driver, said his side mirror was destroyed as he jostled to buy fuel. He disclosed that he had visited more than five stations before trying his luck at the NNPC retail station.