By Dennis Mernyi
Months after long queues of motorists disappeared from fuel stations and hawkers of the product from the streets and the highways, operators of filling stations in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are still counting their losses induced by pump price hike.
This time, however, the bad business is not because of inadequate fuel supply, but due to poor patronage by motorists.
Checks revealed that due to the N145 new pump price of fuel introduced by the government in April, many filling stations now record fewer consumers. The few that record average sales also lament occasional drastic fall of patronage by motorists.
There is exchange of role as petrol attendants now wait for long before motorists drive in to be served, unlike in the recent past when the latter were at the mercy of the former due to biting scarcity of fuel and the attendant long queues. In most filling stations now, the product is often available, with motorists spending barely few minutes before they are attended to.
However, due to the new selling price of fuel and spiraling cost of living, especially in the capital city, many motorists buy less petrol. Random checks revealed that the majority of motorists now regard full tank purchases as avoidable luxury.
An attendant in one of the filling stations said, “many people usually buy between N2,000 and N3,000 fuel and this is usually below half tank.” It was gathered that product sales in may stations have reduced by between 30 and 40 per cent.
Indeed, chairman of Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) and Group Chief Executive Officer of Forte Oil Plc, Mr. Akin Akinfemiwa, confirmed the trend in a recent report.
Some motorists who spoke to Abuja Metro said with the high cost of fuel and the current economic hardship in the country, they could no longer afford to spend so much on fuel at once.
One of them, Mr.Jeff Otta, said before the price hike, he spent less than N6,500 to fill his tank but now, N10,000 was inadequate. He said there was no wisdom in spending such amount on fueling a car alone, when there are other pressing demands competing for the same money.
“Before, I used to spend less than N6,500 to fill up my tank, but these days, I spend N10,000 and it is still far from filling my car tank. Mind you, there is no money anywhere in the country like before. If you have N10, 000 for instance, there are other pressing demands waiting to be attended to; so, you cannot just spend the money on fuel alone. For this reason, I think it is only wise to let the money go round, so that you are not stranded”, he stated.
Confirming the new trend, a fuel attendant at a filling station in Asokoro area of Abuja, who did not want her name in print, said: “It is a surprise to us that most of our ‘big’ customers who used to be regular here (this filling station) have not been regular anymore since the fuel price increase.
“Even when they come, they no longer pay to fill their tanks of between 90 and 120 litres of fuel; they now buy fuel of N5,000 They would tell us, “serve me N5,000 fuel, even when we ask them whether we should fill the tanks”
Also, some filling stations no longer enjoy impressive patronage because of alleged sharp practices, including under-dispensing and meter adjustment.
Checks revealed, however, that major filling stations like NNPC Mega stations, Forte Oil and a few other major marketers record higher sales due to regular high patronage. Most of the motorists, said they patronise the mega stations because they sell slightly cheaper and faster than the other stations and are not involved in sharp practices.
Commenting on the development, Forte Oil boss, Akinfemiwa, revealed that though Nigerians love driving and, with so much dependence on petrol for passenger and commercial vehicles, there are strong indications that motorists have devised various means of using less petrol because of the high cost.
In a statement recently, he said as a foremost indigenous energy solutions provider, his company’s customer surveys showed that motorists had resorted to various journey-planning initiatives to reduce fuel usage.Some of the initiatives, according to him, are “car-pooling, use of government mass transit buses and even cutting down on unnecessary movements and visits.” He said: “There has been a light flow of traffic in the Lagos, Abuja and other big cities across the country in very recent times. We however, deem this to be the initial reaction and thus, believe that the demand will improve over time.”