Hard times await motorists and other users of fuel as there are indications that the scarcity will last beyond the New Year.
Investigation on Thursday showed that loading of petrol at private depots and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s depots in Lagos, Oyo, Ondo, Ogun and Kwara states had virtually come to a halt.
The scarcity of petrol had started with the Yuletide, but assurances by the authorities had raised hopes of a quick solution. However, marketers say the scarcity will worsen.
The National Assembly, about two weeks ago, approved N161bn as supplementary budget to sustain the fuel subsidy regime, in an attempt to avert the scarcity of petroleum products during the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
However, fuel scarcity, which has been a recurring decimal in the country’s downstream petroleum industry, has resurfaced.
Spokesman for the Pipeline and Products Marketing Company Limited, Mr. Nasir Imodagbe, said that the scarcity in Lagos was caused by the fire incident at Ije-ododo, Ojo Local Government Area of the state.
The explosion, which occurred last Monday, was said to have been caused by activities of fuel vandals.
He said though repair work had started on the pipeline, it would not be completed till next week.
He said, “We have started the repair of the pipeline. It is likely going to be completed next week. As soon as it is completed, we will release products through the pipelines.
“We have pipelines all over the country. We should not be having problems with distribution of products. It is important that Nigerians treat the petroleum pipeline as critical national infrastructure. Those that vandalise these pipelines live among us.”
Imodagbe said since the pipeline was vandalised, PPMC had been bridging products to the FCT with trucks.
He said, “Abuja is adequately supplied with products but there was no loading on Christmas Day. This is the reason for the hiccups you have been seeing, coupled with the fact people bought products massively before the Christmas Day.
“Now, people are returning and some are still travelling. That is why there are pressures. We expect that in the next one or two days, the situation will return to normal.”
However, marketers, who spoke to one of our correspondents on the telephone on Thursday, said government was being economical with the truth. He added that loading at private depots in Apapa, Lagos and other NNPC depots in the state as well as Oyo, Ondo, Ogun and Kwara states was almost impossible due to the unavailability of petrol.
The Chairman, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, South-West branch, Alhaji Tokunbo Korodo, who spoke to one of our correspondents on the telephone on Thursday evening, said loading at Apapa Depot as well as the Ejigbo, Mosimi, Ilorin and Ore had almost been paralysed.
He said, “I can’t lie to you, much is not happening at Apapa Depot and other depots.
“The problem is just that there is no product to go round. Nigerians should, therefore, endure the situation.”
A former Chairman, Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association, Chief Sylvester Okoli, said petrol was being sold for N120 in Anambra State, though the scarcity was not very pronounced.
The scarcity became evident in Lagos last Friday but worsened on Sunday as many of the filling stations ran out of stock. Those with the product had long queues of desperate motorists.
As a result of the scarcity, most filling stations in Lagos and Ogun states started selling above the regulated price of N97 per litre.
This was aside from others that had fraudulently adjusted their pumps.
Abuja was not better, as the few filling stations with petrol had very long queues of motorists.
A top official of one of the oil marketing companies in Apapa said that almost all the depots in the area had not received product since last week Thursday.
“In fact, since Saturday, we have not done much,” the source said.
Meanwhile, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mr. Andrew Yakubu, had last week raised the alarm that the activities of pipeline vandals, if left on unchecked, could cripple the smooth operation of the downstream sector of the industry.
He said in less than five months, the pipelines of the NNPC had been broken in 774 places.
According to him, less than one week after the vital system 2B was restored through extensive repair work on the ruptured Arepo point, the corporation was compelled to shut the line owing to the attack on the Ije-Ododo point.
He lamented the unending wave of pipeline hacking and product theft which had been posing a great danger to the efficient distribution and supply of petroleum products in some parts of the country.
The NNPC helmsman had said, “We had over 774 break points since August 2012 from Atlas Cove to Ilorin depot. Between Atlas Cove and Mosimi depot, we recorded 181 break points, from Mosimi to Ibadan, we had 421 raptured points and from Mosimi to Ore, we recorded 50 vandalized points. Also between Ibadan and Ilorin we had a total of 122 break points.
Records indicate that with the incessant attacks on the nation’s vast artery of pipelines about 70 per cent products distribution is through trucking or what is known in the industry parlance as bridging into the hinterlands.
This requires massive fleets of petroleum product trucks of up to 1,212 trucks load out from the depots every day to meet the daily estimated national consumption.
At an average vehicle turnaround of about 8-10 days from the South to the North and re-turn, a minimum of 10,000 trucks are required to ply the roads daily.