Oil marketers have said that the reason behind the long queues at petrol filling stations in Abuja and neighbouring Nasarawa and Niger States is the insufficient supply of Premium Motor Spirit by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited.
The NNPCL, which is the sole importer of the product, refuted the oil marketers’ claim, attributing the queues in the affected areas, particularly Abuja, to “price war”.
The queues for petrol at filling stations in Abuja and its neighbouring states in particular, as well as some South-East and South-South states, have persisted in the past few weeks.
“The queues have continued because there is an insufficient supply of products. If we have enough products, it will bring down these acts of profiteering among marketers,” the National Public Relations Officer, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chief Ukadike Chinedu, told our correspondent on Thursday.
He added, “It is when the products become very difficult to access that is when you start to see cases of profiteering. But if everywhere is littered with products, you won’t experience what we are seeing now.
“In Port Harcourt, for instance, our tickets have been tied down. For the past three weeks, we have not been able to load products, leading to queues at the few stations that have products. But the government, which is actually represented in this business by NNPCL, keeps saying that it is expecting stock.”
Ukadike noted that though NNPCL had promised to discharge some vessels of PMS at Warri, Lagos and Calabar soon, the products had yet to arrive.
This, according to the IPMAN official, was among the reasons private depot owners had raised the cost of their products, leading to the hike in the pump prices of petrol at retail outlets.
“We heard that there is a vessel that is coming to Calabar to discharge, so Port Harcourt and other states in the region are still expecting it. Also, we heard that another vessel is going to discharge in Lagos. Warri is also expecting a vessel.
“So, with the few depots that have petroleum products now, you will know that there will be serious profiteering and scrambling for PMS. It is, therefore, important for NNPCL vessels to come in with products, particularly as we approach the Yuletide.
“But they (NNPCL) have assured us that there will be enough products during the Christmas period,” Ukadike stated, but stressed that the fuel importer did not inform marketers when the expected PMS vessels would arrive.
The oil marketer further stated that the cost of PMS in most states outside Lagos and the South-West was about N650/litre, describing the average price of N640/litre in Abuja is cheap.
“The N640/litre price in Abuja is cheap when compared to the N660/litre average price in the South-East. In fact, in Owerri, Imo State, it is N670 and in Anambra it is N700/litre. So, those of you in Abuja are lucky.
“Do you know that it is getting close to N800/litre in remote areas in the far North? This is based on reports we receive from our members. That is the situation. There is insufficient supply of products and this often leads to profiteering.”
Also speaking on the issue, the Secretary of IPMAN, Abuja-Suleja, Mohammed Shuaibu, stated that though the queues being experienced in some states were due to low supply volumes from NNPCL, it could also be attributed to the forthcoming festive season.
“Yes, products are not as readily available as before, which is why many retail stations are not dispensing nowadays. However, you should know that during the festive period towards the end of the year, we always experience queues.
“This is why the government should intervene now by flooding the country with products so that those who want to catch-in on the season to profiteer would not be able to do so,” Shuaibu stated.
However, the Chief Corporate Communications Officer of NNPCL, Olufemi Soneye, told our correspondent that the position of oil marketers as regards the re-emergence of fuel queues was not true.
“That is not true. The recent tightness in Abuja is essentially a price war, which is typical of any competitive market. Motorists would rather queue at filling stations that offer lower prices than others.
“While NNPC retail is selling at N613/litre in Abuja, other marketers’ prices range from N625-N650/litre,” Soneye stated.
Meanwhile, it was observed that while the queues at NNPCL stations were longer, similar scenarios played out in Conoil and Total filling stations opposite the Abuja headquarters of NNPCL, and other outlets across the capital city and its neighbouring states.