•Abuja residents at mercy of fuel hawkers
By Isaac Anumihe, Dennis Mernyi and Gilbert Ejembi
Moved by ravaging poverty across the country occasioned by a crumbling economy, many Nigerians have devised different means of survival.
In Abuja, many residents, especially the youth, have found a new way out of the suffocating demands of city life by hawking fuel, which has become a thriving business, no, thanks to the persistent fuel scarcity in the country
It has become commonplace to see young men and women with jerry cans of the highly inflammable product on the highways and busy streets. Ironically, the illegal business booms amid biting scarcity of the product at fuel stations in the capital city.
Checks by Abuja Metro revealed that majority of them work for either fuel attendants or other unofficial middlemen, including taxi drivers, who buy the product at the official price of N86 per litre and sell to motorists at between N200 and N350 per litre.
The hawkers confirmed that they make between N5,000 and N10,000 daily, thus lending credence to the saying that one person’s loss is another’s gain. Virtually all residents who were interviewed complained that while they grapple with the heavy yoke of fuel scarcity, a handful of Nigerians are making fortunes from the suffering of others. Not a few of the sulking residents wondered how the black market operators source the fuel they sell while many stations that are the legal operators remain closed due to lack or inadequate supply.
When Abuja Metro spoke to some of the petrol hawkers, many of them prayed that the scarcity continues to enable them make more money and establish other businesses. Some even said they would veer into other ventures with the money they have made from the illegal business.
I usually buy fuel from some taxi drivers that go to the filling station to buy the product at the rate of N150 per litre.
These drivers, in return sell it to us for N200 per litre (depending on the relationship with the driver) and I will sell it to consumers or other drivers at the cost of N350 per litre or N3,500 for 10 litres. The gain varies. Just like yesterday, I made N8,000 as my profit because I sold eight jerry cans. I started this week, so I have not made much gain. I believe before the scarcity would be over, I will make something reasonable.
As I told you earlier, I have not made much gain yet. So, I will like the scarcity to continue for a while.
I also get mine (fuel) from taxi drivers because I do not have enough money to buy direct from the filling stations. They often sell it to me at the rate of N2, 000 or N2, 500 (10 litres) depending on how scarce the fuel is and I often sell mine for N2,800 or N300 per jerry can in order to make profit.
The market price is not always constant. Sometimes, I do not make any sale while on other days, I go home with a least N3,000. This is my third day in this business. I used to hawk ‘pure water’ before the scarcity started. Now, I cannot tell how much I have made from black market business. Sometimes, I send some of my profit to my family in Kano State. I don’t want the fuel scarcity to stop because I usually make small profit from the ‘pure water’ I sell on the streets too.
I am one week into the black market business. Since the fuel scarcity started, I usually buy my fuel for N2,000 per 10litres and sell it for N2,500. So, I normally make a profit of N500 from every jerry can I sell. At times, I sell three to four jerry cans a day. I have made between N7,000 and N8,000 but I also depend on the gain for my daily needs. At least, I was able to send some money to my family for their upkeep. I will be very selfish if I say I want the scarcity to continue because Nigerians are seriously suffering.
I get my fuel from the drivers too at the rate of N2,000 for 10 litres and sell for N2,500 to N3,000 depending on the bargain. The prices are usually not constant. Sometimes, I make N500 or N800 as my profit from each jerry can.
I have not made much gain since the scarcity began because I started selling fuel yesterday. But I have been able to sell three jerry cans and I made N1,800. I hope to make good use of the profit I will make before the scarcity is over. I will want the scarcity to continue at least for sometime because I wish to start a better trade instead of hawking ‘pure water’.
I get my fuel at the rate of N1,500 from filling stations along Abuja-Keffi Expressway and sell it for N2,000 per 10 litres or N2,500 depending on the consumer. At times, I make between N5,000 and N10,000 daily. I would say from N25,000 to N30,000 a week because I often spend most of my gains on transportation and feeding. I intend to use the gain to buy motorcycle and send it home. The money is not yet complete, so I am still looking for more profit. But, in spite of that, I will like the scarcity to end.
As long as the scarcity lasts, motorists in the FCT would remain subjected to the whims and caprices of the fuel hawkers as they determine the price in the black market.
Most residents who spoke to Abuja Metro attributed the desperation of the hawkers and their suppliers to high rate of unemployment in the country. They described unemployment as one of the intractable problems of successive governments in the country, pointing out that in spite of efforts by each administration to tackle it, the problem has remained.
The last administration initiated a number of programmes to tame joblessness but it would not go partly because of the number of students churned out yearly by various institutions coupled with the acute lack of infrastructure to engineer productive and manufacturing ventures.
Recall that the Jonathan administration initiated YouWin (Youth with Innovative Ideas in Nigeria) programme, under which youths with special entrepreneurial skills were granted loans to develop their enterprises and employ other youths. Also, the administration started the Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS) whereby graduates were sent to firms to acquire experience. They were paid N18,000 monthly stipend and the firms were also encouraged to absolve the good students among them.
Again, the administration introduced SURE-P programme where government agencies accommodated the youths on auxiliary basis and at the end of the month, the students were paid N10,000.
Another initiative was the National Power Apprenticeship Scheme (NAPSAS) which allowed youths to learn skills on power and later be on their own on graduation.
In a report by National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the economically active population or working age population (persons within ages 15 and 64) have increased from 102.8 million in Q1 2015 to 103.5 million in Q2 2015.
The also said in Q2 2015, the labour force population (ie those within the working age population willing, able and actively looking for work) increased to 74.0 million from 73.4 million in Q1 2015, representing an increase in the labour force by 0.81 per cent. This means 574,498 economically active persons within 15 and 64 years entered the labour force ( i.e. were able and willing and actively looking for work) between April 1 and June 30 2015. Within the same period, the total number in full employment (did something for at least 40 hours) decreased by 1,317,700 or 2.37 per cent.
A drop in the number of full employment i.e those working less than 40 hours despite a rise in the labour force can be attributed more to job losses or previously fully employed persons choosing or being forced to work part time or in underemployment.