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How fuel crisis nearly marred Yuletide season

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By O’star Eze

Not many Nigeria anticipated that 2017 Yuletide season will be rocked by acute fuel crisis that would unleash untold hardship on the masses. But, as the reality set in and it became obvious that the 2017 Christmas, Boxing Day and other festivities lined up during the season would feel the impact of the fuel crisis which forced many motorists and fuel consumers to buy Premium Motor Spirits (PMS) at prices as high as N300 per litre, families quickly adjusted or abandoned their plans, according to the dictates of their financial power and commitments.

Orient Daily gathered that so many families who had scheduled to travel to their ancestral towns for the Yuletide season, eventually made a U-turn following the inability of government to quickly arrest the situation and restore normalcy across the country.

Blame Game

The federal government, amidst the ongoing name-calling typical of Nigerian officials, is shouting herself hoarse insisting it is the petroleum marketers who are to blame as “there is enough petrol for the consumption needs of Nigerians this season and, therefore, there is no need for price hike.”

It is alleged that the petroleum retailers hoarded petrol in order to create artificial scarcity and the price of petroleum went up from 140 – 150 to 200 and then 250 and 300 at a point. This was before, in the case of Anambra state, it stabilised at 250. This is a 20 per cent increase between December 22 and December 27.

This development elicited the increase in prices of goods and services, especially transport fare within the country, by 50 per cent or more. In Anambra state for instance, the fare for Awka to Ekwulobia went from N200 to N250; Awka to Agulu, from N100 to N150 and so on.

And so the story went for longer distance trips like Lagos to Onitsha which went up from N3,500 to N12,000.

There is no doubt that artificial inflation allegedly initiated by petroleum marketers has devalued the currency. An economic expert, Dr. Uzo Amakom commenting on the situation said, that “The hike in price is removing more money from pockets and is, therefore, not good for the economy.”

However, business owners are of a contrary view. Samuel Eboh, a beer parlour entrepreneur, told our reporter that he was having his best season this time.

In his words: “I have been expecting this hike in price and therefore stocked up drinks since May, meant for Christmas and that was a wise decision as I am selling at an amazing price.

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“We are almost exhausting our old stock but I am sure that before we have need for a new supply, I must have made a good amount of money that would enable me expand my business next year.”

Eboh was thankful to the petroleum marketers and “whoever is behind the fuel hike as it turned out to be a blessing in disguise for business owners.”

A hair dresser, Nkoli Obiokoli, said that she had to employ two extra hands to enable her cope with the high rate of patronage her beauty shop is experiencing.

“I agree that the fuel scarcity and price hike are blamed for the inflation this season, but I think it is a normal thing given that there is increased consumption rate and

you know what they say about increase in demand leading to increase in price.”

It would be recalled that the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association, DAPPMA, recently expressed concern over the inability of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to send petrol to its members’ depots, attributing to why there is scarcity and fuel price hike.

DAPPMA’s executive secretary, Olufemi Adewole, in a statement in Lagos, urged NNPC to help the association so as to alleviate the suffering of Nigerians.

“Our members’ depots are presently empty. However, if the PPMC/NNPC can provide us with petrol, we are ready to do 24-hour loading to alleviate the sufferings of Nigerians and for the fuel queues to be totally eliminated.

“We, petroleum products marketers, do empathise with all Nigerians who are going through difficulties at this time by spending hours on fuel queues because of the current fuel scarcity due to no fault of theirs.

“DAPPMA members import about 65 per cent of the nation’s total fuel consumption, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) imports about 15 per cent and PPMC/NNPC import the balance of 20 per cent.

“However this scenario changed drastically due to several challenges faced by marketers,’’ he said.

Sadly, some people have blamed marketers for hoarding products. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth.

“Hoarding is regarded as economic sabotage and we assure all Nigerians that our members are not involved in such illicit act.

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“While all kinds of allegations have been made in the media, it is important to set the records straight, as Nigerians first, and as responsible business men and women who employ Nigerians.

“As it stands today, NNPC has been the sole importer of PMS into the country since October,’’ Adewole said.

He said the current import price of petrol is about N170 per litre, with NNPC, which absorbs the attendant subsidy on behalf of the federal government, as the importer of last resort.

“The international price of petrol went up during the period of Hurricane Katrina and it has not dropped below USD$600/ MT since then.

Mr. Adewole said the exchange rate of the dollar to the Naira is N306 for petrol imports and the interest rate Nigerian banks charge is above 25 per cent.

“Landing cost of PMS in Nigeria is above N145 per litre which means any of our members that imports will have to resort to subsidy claims, a policy already jettisoned by the government.

“It is on record that any time NNPC assumes the role of sole importer; there are issues of distribution, because it is marketers who own 80 per cent of the functional receptive facilities and retail outlets in Nigeria.

“While we cannot confirm or dispute NNPC’s claim of having sufficient product stock, we can confirm that the products are not in our tanks and as such cannot be distributed.

If the products are offshore, then surely it cannot be considered to be available to Nigerians,’’ he said.

Adewole, however, assured that fuel marketers remain committed to the progress of the nation and its citizenry as therein lies their own profitability and fulfilment.

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