By Chris Nomjov
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has described the current shortage of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly known as petrol, as “artificially induced,” warning Nigerians against panic buying.
The agency on Friday said it had injected an additional 688 million litres of the product into the system, but did not state while the addition was necessary.
Few weeks after the reduction of the pump price of petrol, by the Federal Government, following the global oil price crash; motorists have been decrying the inconsistent nature of product sale. This has been viewed by many, as a deliberate ploy by marketers, to hoard petrol, and create ‘artificial scarcity’, so they can sell at high price, when the demand is relatively higher.
Hundreds of motorists on Friday were left stranded at filling stations in Abuja as they spent hours on long queues waiting to buy fuel.
The queues were largely pronounced in the city centre as most of the filling stations in satellite towns refused to sell the product without giving customers any reason why they decided not to sell.
At the Total and Conoil petrol stations opposite the headquarters of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation in the city centre, the long queues for fuel led to serious vehicular gridlock.
The NNPC mega station on the Kubwa Expressway was besieged by motorists despite the fact that the outlet was not dispensing product at the time our correspondent visited on Friday afternoon.
Although a senior official at the NNPC stated that there was enough fuel to keep the country wet, it was gathered that the partial scarcity was as a result of panic buying and hoarding by some marketers.
On Wednesday, it was reported that long queue of desperate motorists searching for petrol resurfaced in Ilorin and other parts of Kwara State as well as Owerri and its environs in Imo State.
The Federal Government, in a bid to avert fuel scarcity, agreed to pay petroleum marketers a total of N264bn as subsidy arrears from 2014.
The settlement, it was learnt, will be between February and March and a payment timetable had been drawn for the purpose.
The Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonji-Iweala, was said to have given the assurance of payment to the marketers at a meeting in Lagos on Monday evening.
The Executive Secretary, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Obafemi Olawore, had told journalists that the actual subsidy arrears for the period under focus was N164bn, while N100bn was the interest accrued and the foreign exchange differential.
Olawore said, “The minister has given a schedule of payment, which is between now and March, and this has been agreed to by us. We expect that all parties will keep their own sides of the agreement.
“There was a drop in fuel supply in the country, but the good news is that we met with the Minister of Finance and we have been promised and assured that our money will be ready between now and the end of March.
“We have agreed with the payment schedule. We believe her; the fuel supply situation, which was low before, will pick up. If any tightness in the purchase of fuel was experienced before now, it was just temporal. Products will be made available and we are going to play our part.”