By BIMBOLA OYESOLA
Respite seems not to be in sight for Nigerians on the current fuel scarcity that has crippled economic activities in Lagos and other parts of the country. For the past two weeks, residents of Lagos, Ogun and Oyo states have suffered the pains of fuel shortage, which purportedly occurred due to vandalisation of a 2B pipeline and the murder of three staffers of the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in Arepo, Ogun State.
A couple of weeks ago, petroleum pipelines in Arepo were destroyed by some vandals, who harassed journalists and killed three PPMC officials who went to repair the damaged pipeline. The fuel shortage has taken a heavy toll on the citizenry across the country, particularly in the northern and western parts, leading to long queues at few stations with petrol to sell.
Transport have increased cost of public transportation, while price of petrol in the black marketers have increased to N200 per litre. However, the masses are bearing the brunt of the scarcity with calm, for now. The damaged NNPC system 2B, pumps about 11 million litres of fuel per day, which is about one-third of the national daily consumption from Atlas Cove offshore depot in Lagos, to Satellite depot in Ejigbo, Lagos; Mosimi, Ogun State; Ibadan, Oyo State; Ore in Ondo State, Ilorin in Kwara State and some parts of the North.
The crisis, which started in Abuja last month, has spread like wildfire to other parts of the country and major cities, especially Lagos, where fuel queues have now led to traffic gridlocks all over the nation’s commercial nerve centre. Only very few filling stations in Lagos and neighbouring states have petrol and most sell only diesel, while a few also sell kerosene. The few that have fuel now sell at N120 per litre against the official price of N97. Investigation showed that marketers and depot owners, who load trucks on 24-hour basis, now barely work for 10 hours a day.
According to the marketers, the trend will continue unless there is adequate fuel to match the demand. NNPC Acting Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Fidel Pepple, said last week that the shortage in Lagos and other parts of the country was due to vandalisation of Arepo pipelines, adding that the NNPC had taken measures to end the current scarcity. He further said the NNPC had stepped up distribution through tankers.
“As I speak, we have raised daily supply of fuel from Folawiyo tank farm from 150 to 250 tankers, MRS from 100 to 200, Capital Oil to 300 tankers, NIPCO to 70 and AITEO to 100 tankers,” Mr. Pepple said, adding that fuel supply to Port Harcourt, Aba, and Calabar has also been increased. Though Mr. Pepple said the NNPC had 32 days sufficiency and is currently collaborating with security agencies to fix the pipeline and restore normal supply to affected areas, organized labour in the petroleum sector said government was not sincere to Nigerians on the magnitude of the problem. According to National President of Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Gas workers (NUPENG), Comrade Igwe Achese, the crisis may linger until government addressed major challenges in the downstream sector.
“The trend will continue until government shows responsibility and act in the interest of the people,” he said. The NUPENG boss said the problem was beyond damaged pipelines, adding that, “The pipeline in question is NNPC pipeline for product coming in through NNPC. Product coming in from there cannot sustain the country; it is only one channel to Mosimi, Ejigbo and not for the marketers, who are no more importing, and those doing so are selling at exorbitant prices.”
He said the solution is for government to call stakeholders’ meeting of all marketers to address the issue, noting that government should not hesitate to prosecute fraudulent marketers. Achese lamented that Nigerians would have been spared this hardship had the Federal Government listened to NUPENG. “We are happy that Nigerians are now seeing and experiencing this. It started in Abuja, and now is all over the country, and NUPENG is not on strike.
“The real problem is that we completely depend on importation, as none of our refineries is producing anything now. But such can be corrected if the government can make our refineries work. The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria ((PENGASSAN) likewise confirmed that the fuel crisis goes beyond pipeline vandalisation in Arepo or anywhere in the country. “The inability of government to provide security for the pipelines and failure to pay marketers, have snowballed into this crisis shrouded in uncertainty.
“Though we are not saying government should condone corruption, neither are we in support of corruption, but we believe government should settle genuine marketers,” the union said. PENGASSAN charged government to speed up work on the refineries as such would boost fuel supply in the country.