Barely a week after the fuel scarcity across Nigeria subsided in major cities, long queues of motorists have resurfaced at filling stations in Abuja, Lagos and other parts of the country.
The fuel scarcity lasted through the Christmas and New Year celebrations forcing thousands of motorists to spend hours queuing for petrol. Although things appeared to return to normal in Lagos and Abuja after the celebrations, motorists in many other states have been forced to buy petrol at prices far above the official N145 per litre.
On Thursday, officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, made frantic efforts to assure Nigerians all was well.
“As far as NNPC is concerned, there is a robust stock of fuel for Abuja, Lagos and other parts of the country, sufficient to serve for more than 30 days,” NNPC spokesperson, Ndu Ughamadu, told PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone interview.
“Our plea is for motorists not to engage in panic buying of any petroleum products. We are just watching out to see what is going on.
“All I can say is that there is enough stock of petrol in all our depots. More truck-outs from our depots are coming into Abuja,” Mr. Ughamadu added.
However, he said the NNPC was suspicious that the bulk of products sent out for distribution across the country were being diverted to states where they are being sold above the approved retail pump price of N145 per litre.
During the last fuel crisis, the NNPC Group General Manager, Maikanti Baru, alleged that over 4,500 trucks of petroleum products were diverted to unknown destinations by unnamed marketers.
Mr. Baru made the allegation when he appeared before the joint Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) of the National Assembly.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, also told the same committee that internal and external diversion of petroleum products was a cause of the scarcity.
He explained that the external diversion involved fuel being smuggled to neighbouring countries, while the internal involved products taken to the hinterlands and sold at almost double the approve pump price, despite ex-depot price remaining at N133.25 per litre.
One of the independent marketing firms, MATRIX Energy, also told our correspondent that the reason for the current scarcity defied explanation.
“There is sufficient fuel everywhere. Nobody knows what is causing it. There is massive loading from the depots. Even in our depot, about eight million litres of products was loaded Wednesday. Today, we have about 31 million litres. We are doing 24 hours loading of products,” Aliu Adisa, Chief Executive of the company said in a telephone interview late Thursday night.
Although the NNPC advised motorists to report to the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, any marketer found either hoarding petrol or selling above the official price, PREMIUM TIMES reporters in many states of the federation found the price of the commodity remains high, just as the scarcity persists.