The cost of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, has risen to as high as N200/litre at depots, which means that motorists should brace up to buy PMS above N200/litre at filling stations.
It was learnt on Monday that PMS cost, which was about N178 to N185/litre recently, had been jerked up by private depot owners due to the drop in supply by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, among other operational concerns.
This came as both the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria and the Petroleum Retail Outlet Owners Association of Nigeria told our correspondent that tankers were now spending more than one week on queues for petrol at depots.
This, they said, had led to empty filling stations nationwide, a development creating chaos among motorists at some of the few outlets dispensing petrol in Abuja, Nasarawa, Niger and neighbouring states on Monday.
The National Vice President, IPMAN, Abubakar Maigandi, confirmed the reduction in supply by NNPC and the hike in the ex-depot price of petrol at depots in Lagos and Warri, Delta State.
NNPC has remained the sole importer of petrol into Nigeria for several years running. Other marketers halted petrol imports due to their inability to access foreign exchange without hassles.
“Firstly, due to that flooded road issue, the products at most filling stations became exhausted. Then, we noticed that there is not enough availability of products because most of our trucks are stuck in various depots,” Maigandi said.
He added, “This is due to the fact that there is not enough supply of products from the NNPC. These are the challenges we have been facing. Your truck will go there and queue for more than one week.
“And you know that when a truck spends one week on a queue without loading, it will cause a serious issue in terms of availability. Again, because independent marketers rely on private depot owners to get products, when we go there to purchase, they sell at almost N200/litre to us.
“They now sell between N190 to N200/litre in Lagos and Warri depots. You can now imagine the cost at filling stations. People should definitely be ready to buy above N200/litre if this situation continues.”
On whether the NNPC was providing any explanation, Maigandi stated that the national oil firm now described itself as a player in the business following its transition to a limited liability company in July.
“Since their transition to a limited liability company, when we raise some of our concerns to them, they will tell us that they are just marketers like us,” he stated.
The IPMAN vice chairman said the situation had increased the sufferings of the masses and the oil marketers, stressing that the way out was not just to deregulate the downstream oil sector but to get Nigeria’s refineries working.
“Deregulation alone will not solve the problem because we don’t have the refined commodity in excess. And if they deregulate, the price of petrol may exceed N500/litre,” Maigandi stated.
He added, “This is because the dollar is now about N900 at the parallel market. So, if they deregulate, marketers will have to go to the parallel market to source dollars for petrol imports.
“So, if the dollar is N900, when you import PMS, you can only imagine the cost. Therefore, I’ll say the way forward is basically to put our refineries in order. That is the only major way. You cannot deregulate what you don’t have. If you do that, you will be causing a lot of hardship.”
The President, PETROAN, Billy Gillis-Harry, confirmed that his team had moved round the country and figured out that most depots had limited products to dispense.
“The reality is that there are no products,” he stated.
The oil marketers president added, “There are no products to lift in many states and once there are no products to lift, then you’ll have scarcity. So, the NNPC, being the only supplier, should act fast.”
Gillis-Harry also called for the prompt rehabilitation of Nigeria’s refineries, stressing that marketers had consistently asked the government to involve PETROAN in getting the refineries running.
“We have repeatedly stated that we cannot continue importing petrol. It is not sustainable and not healthy to the slim funds at our disposal. We must get our refineries working and marketers are ever willing to support the government in this,” he stated.
On his part, the Executive Secretary, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, Clement Isong, earlier stated that MOMAN had been calling for the deregulation of the downstream oil sector and the rehabilitation of refineries.
He said, “Of course, we want our refineries to come back on stream. It is important to make sure that people have fuel to buy at filling stations. This is why we keep saying, ‘deregulate and make life easier for everybody.’
“This is because it is not that simple to get petrol to customers on the street. It is difficult and people don’t know and may not appreciate this.”
Also speaking, the Secretary, Abuja-Suleja IPMAN, Mohammed Shuaibu, stated that the current challenges of poor distribution and supply shortage of petrol might lead to widespread queues for PMS during the festive period in December.
“Our worry as marketers is that the festive month is at hand and if nothing is done quickly to address the current concerns around supply, I am afraid that it would escalate during the festivities, because it has started,” he stated.
Shuaibu described the situation as very precarious, stressing that it was the government that had capacity to address it, through NNPC.
He said, “We are in a very precarious situation and we pray it does not escalate beyond this. But then the government has to wake up to its duties, because as you know, none of the four refineries are productive. They are more or less obsolete.
“We also have 21 depots across the country, nine in the North and 12 in the South. But these depots, which are supposed to be storage facilities, are not productive because the pipelines that supply products to them are old or are vandalised.
“So, the only way to get petroleum products into Nigeria today is through imports. That is only done by NNPC and when it imports the product, it dumps it in private depots. Who now takes charge of the products?”
Shuaibu added, “But right now the private depots have raised the price of products. This is making everyone apprehensive. Those who have paid at the government-approved price would wake up to find out that they can no longer buy products.
“We also have a shortfall in supply. So, the government has to wake up and do the right thing, because they are the sole importer of the product. If the refineries were working, it wouldn’t be like this.”
The IPMAN official further said the supply chain was poor, adding that the floods posed a challenge recently because roads were covered with water between Lokoja and Abuja.
He, however, stated that the water had receded “and still we have scarcity.”
Shuaibu said, “As it is now, all the Northern parts of Nigeria have been affected and the depots that are supposed to be the storage facilities do not have products. Everybody now relies on going down South to bring in products.