By our reporters
Fuel queues which returned to major cities across the country last Sunday as a result of massive panic buying by consumers who had anticipated a hike in fuel prices appears to have disappeared as at yesterday.
Finding by Saturday Sun across some major cities revealed a calm situation as most of the retail outlets which hitherto had long queues of motorists had thinned out. It will be recalled that Nigerians had last Sunday woken up to the rude shock of fuel scarcity and a rise in the pump price of petrol from the official price of N162 per litre to N200 per litre in some parts of the country.
But the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) while reacting to the development ruled out speculations of an imminent increase in the price of petrol in the country. Despite the assurances, however, the shortage continued unabated for days until yesterday when normalcy returned. In Abuja, the hellish queues at petrol stations in the thinned out as at yesterday, with residents heaving a sigh of relief.
In Enugu as at 7am yesterday, petrol stations were still on selling their products and there were no queues except for very few stations that usually have short queues in the mornings and evenings daily. The only issue is the pump prices that have gone up, selling between N169 and N175, depending on the petrol station. The hike in the pump price has however, reflected in the transport fare and bus drivers are having tough time with commuters.
Drops that used to be N30 is now N50, while those of N50 are now N70, N100 and so on. While the petrol dealers refused to speak on the increase, one of them casually said, “Oga, you should be happy that we are still selling here, go to Abuja, Lagos and other place and see what is happening.”
One of the bus drivers who gave his name as Chike said: “This country don tire us. How many times will this government increase fuel price even in this bad period, what do they want the poor people to do? They do not spend money to buy fuel or food, all their expenses is government, our money. See now, I bought fuel N175 per litre, when you go out there police and other groups will collect money from you, how can you pay for this motor which was bought on hire purchase and also feed your family?”
Mrs. Ejike, a commuter and civil servant said: “Government must not continue to do things to punish its citizens. How can they continue to increase prices of petroleum products, the only thing we have in this country? They must revert to normal price and stop this madness.”
But what is not clear in the Abuja experience, however, which the Enugu-based petroleum dealer referred our reporter to, is whether the soothing development is as a result of weekend travels that usually shrink human population in the FCT or an improvement in petrol supply by oil marketers.
When Saturday Sun drove round the Abuja metropolis, vehicular queues did not stretch beyond 15 metres, as against the half a kilometre scenario witnessed during the week. More so, more independent marketers appeared to have restocked to remain operational. In most petrol stations, the pump attendants appear to have been sternly warned not to sell in jerry cans to black market dealers.
A resident, Monday Abah, expressed joy that the scarcity nightmare was coming to an end. “I’m a taxi driver. Every evening, I’ll be looking for where to refuel my car for the next day. At times, my car will sleep at a filling station,” he stated. “But today (Friday), I spent less than 40 minutes and I bought petrol. On Monday, I spent four hours in the queue and still did not buy petrol. So, I’m hoping that this improvement will be sustained.”
The situation was also the same in Lagos as most filling stations had supplies even when the situation was tense in Abuja and other parts of the country. In Imo, Saturday Sun observed that there are no long queues, despite the scarcity of the petroleum product. However, the product is sold higher above the pump price, some of them sell between N175 to N180 per litre. This has also given the racketeers an opportunity to sell at N250 per litre. As a matter of fact, they have helped in reducing long queues as most of them who are in a hurry prefer to buy from them.
A commercial bus driver who simply identified his name as Ugonna told our correspondent that “there is no need going to waste your time at the NNPC filling station because of N20 or N25 difference, I can just go into any of the filling stations and buy the product or better still buy a small quantity you need from the black market and leave.”
In Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, though residents from Sunday to Tuesday, this week had grueling experiences over scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), long queues at the filling stations began to disappear from Wednesday and peace is gradually return the city.
A drive round Ibadan revealed that fuel black market also blossomed during the three days in Ibadan. People selling the commodity in gallons were sighted at Sabo area of Mokola on Monday. Majority of major and independent marketers of PMS had their gates closed against the public. Some fuel stations dispensed the commodity at N162 per litre, while it went for between N165 and 200 in some other stations. It went for about N250 and N300 in the black market. \But residents of Port Harcourt and its environs in Rivers State, are currently enjoying fuel supplies. River’s development is quite unusual, especially as long queues have started building up at filling stations in some states. At other times, Rivers particularly the capital, Port Harcourt, used to be among the early states to witness long queues at filling stations.