From Uche Usim, Abuja

Motorists and commuters in Abuja woke up to a rude shock on Sunday morning to find most private filling stations shut and the few ones operational swamped with scores of vehicles in long queues waiting to get refilled.

When Daily Sun drove round Abuja metropolis, it was petrol stations belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) that mostly dispensed the product at N162/litre. Few others belonging to independent marketers sold at N163/litre, but the common denominator was the long queues in all places that operated.

From Kubwa to Wuse, most stations along the expressway were shut.

A motorist, Charles Akachi, said he was perplexed when he discovered many filling stations were shut on Sunday morning.

‘I went to refill my has cylinder but I discovered that most petrol stations were closed. I thought we’ve gone past this stage of petrol scarcity. Now, I’m on queue,’ he said.

‘It’s a traumatic experience.’

A senior Petroleum Ministry official attributed the scarcity to hoarding by independent oil marketers who anticipate an increase in pump price in days ahead, as crude oil price hits $67/barrel at the international market.

‘It’s just an anticipation of price increase by marketers. But this will be over by tomorrow,’ he stated.

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However, sources at the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), said that the scarcity of petrol sprang from the NNPC and private depots that are gradually running out of stock.

They note that petrol tanker drivers now wait longer than necessary to load products even after making payments.

They said the accusation of hoarding was wrong as petrol is scarce in reality.

For days running, anxious marketers have expected a pump price increase of petrol to reflect current pricing as crude price soars.

Private oil marketers are currently selling petrol for between N165 to N168 per litre instead of N158 per litre contained in the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Authority (PPPRA) template.

Last week, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Mr Chris Ngige, after a bipartite meeting of the Federal Government and the organised labour at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa Abuja, noted that the federal government would meet with Governors to decide on petrol price matters.

‘The NNPC has explained that what they are doing is import-dependent. Deregulation is import-dependent but they are doing bulk purchasing. So, they can get discounts. They are also using a foreign exchange that is discounted for them. They are not buying from the parallel market. So, all these things will be put in a basket and a price will emerge from it,’ he said.

The NNPC Group Managing Director, Mr Mele Kyari, has repeatedly stated that petrol pump price will be determined by market forces as the government has discarded the subsidy regime, which experts describe as injurious to a developing economy like Nigeria.

More so, no provision was made for subsidy payment in the 2021 budget.