From Uche Usim, Abuja
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has foreclosed any increment in the ex-depot price of petrol in March.
The announcement, contained in a press release signed by its Spokesman, Dr Kennie Obateru, puts to bed speculations of an imminent increase in the pump price of petrol in the country.
Obateru noted that the Corporation ruled out petrol price hike in March in order not to jeopardize ongoing engagements with organized labour and other stakeholders on an acceptable framework that will not expose the ordinary Nigerian to any hardship.
NNPC also cautioned petroleum products marketers to abstain from creating arbitrary price increase by hoarding the product and creating artificial scarcity in the process.
The NNPC said it would resist such moves in order not to inflict unnecessary hardship for Nigerians by profiteering marketers.
The Corporation assured that it has enough stock of petrol to keep the nation well supplied for over 40 days and urged motorists to avoid panic buying.
It further called on relevant regulatory authorities to step up monitoring of the activities of marketers with a view to sanctioning those involved in products hoarding or arbitrary increase of pump price.
Motorists and commuters in Abuja woke up to a rude shock on Sunday morning to find most private filling stations shut and the few ones operational swamped with scores of vehicles in long queues waiting to get refilled.
In the metropolis, it was petrol stations belonging to the NNPC that mostly dispensed the product at N162/litre. Few others belonging to independent marketers sold at N163/litre, but the common denominator was the long queues in all places that operated.
From Kubwa to Wuse, most stations along the expressway were shut.
While the government attributed the scarcity to hoarding by independent oil marketers who anticipate an increase in pump price in days ahead, as crude oil price hits $67/barrel at the international market, the dealers on their part insist that the NNPC and private depots are gradually running out of stock.
They note that petrol tanker drivers now wait longer than necessary to load products even after making payments.
They said the accusation of hoarding was wrong as petrol is scarce in reality.
For days running, anxious marketers have expected a pump price increase of petrol to reflect current pricing as crude price soars.
Private oil marketers are currently selling petrol for between N165 to N168 per litre instead of N158 per litre contained in the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Authority (PPPRA) template.