Empty Petrol Storage Tanks Have Forced Queues Back To Stations With Bleak Outlook For The Days Ahead

Sopuruchi Onwuka

More petrol retail stations in Lagos, and environs, have run dry of stock just as government agencies battle private players in the domestic fuel market over worsening supply situation and associated breaking of price ceiling.

The situation poses threat to business and social activities in the country which is still recovering from the shocks of recent supply glitch which grounded flow of goods and services, disrupted local and international flights and triggered cost escalation on businesses.

A survey of the public and private filling stations in Lagos for availability of the highly demanded premium motor spirit (pms) showed that most of them, including the outlets of NNPC Retail, the only public enterprise in the system, were out of stock.

Vice Chairman of the Western Zone of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Mr. Kunle Bamigboye, expressed fears that the situation could grow out of hand if not urgently arrested, pointing at fast declining stock level at the public and private depots in Lagos.

He explained that the NNPC mega-stations were out of fuel because the corporation’s storage depots in the Southwest zone of the country had dried out. He said four out of the five NNPC depots in the zone under his purview
Empty were completely without products for the past week.

The NNPC depots without fuel, according to him, include Ejigbo, Ibadan, Ilorin and Ore. Load-outs from the only functioning 70 trucks per day Mosimi depot, he lamented, had been limited to just 10 trucks per day in the past week.

At Atlas Cove Jetty which forms the supply source to the depots, he said no vessel was on ground to provide hopes of immediate return of the inland depots. Spokesman of NNPC, Mr. Ohi Alegbe, could not be reached to comment on the market supply situation, as he was said to be in a meeting at the time of our enquiry.

Depots holding stocks for NNPC, our findings show, have piles of loading tickets lying unattended as at yesterday while private marketers with cash receive better attention but at higher prices.

A credible source at one of the private depots in Apapa told our reporters that “we don’t have much of NNPC’s stock now because their supply is no longer regular. So we are doing more of cashand-carry but those with NNPC tickets would have to wait until their products arrive.”

Our enquiries yielded that all the marketers holding stock for NNPC including Nipco Plc and Aiteo give preference to cash customers and delay those with tickets from the corporation following their low stock of NNPC products.

However, spokesman of Aiteo, Ms Aiki Adiawa, said the company’s depot was loading yesterday because it was receiving products from import vessels, adding that truck load-outs would resume this morning. She said Aiteo has enough capacity to load out as much as five million litres a day, explaining that the company had no reason to delay any marketer with ticket from NNPC which, according to her, remains a strategic partner in the market.

She restated that Aiteo gives equal treatment to both its customers and those with tickets from NNPC. Most retail stations operated by major marketers, including those at prime locations, were shut to customers yesterday, indicating low stock level among the group which controls private fuel imports into the country.

Spokesman of the group, Mr. Thomas Olawore, declined comments when contacted on his cell phone, saying he was in a meeting. At the private depots localized in Apapa area of Lagos, Mr. Bamigboye also painted a gloomy stock level, saying that over 70 percent of the depots were without petrol.

The low stock level at the depots operated by the members of the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketing Association of Nigeria (DAPPMAN), he added, has compelled demand driven exdepot prices which has directly translated to price spikes at filling stations operated by IPMAN members.

The breaking of the N87 per litre price ceiling placed by government on the subsidized PMS has angered the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) which issued a threat of penal measures against any depot selling above the approved exdepot prices. Acting Director of DPR, Mr. Mordecai Ladan, accused the marketers of doubledipping, saying they collect subsidy refunds on petrol sold at their depots and also deprive the citizens of the benefits of the government sponsored subsidy.

Mr. Bamigboye also pointed at DPR for failing to enforce price compliance at the depots where, according to him, field officials of the agency condone price violations. He said DPR should start market correction from its own employees.

He also took a swipe at the DAPPMAN members that sell the product at high prices, saying that the practice amounted to fraud. In pointing at the dispute between government and fuel importers as one of the possible causes of import glitches in the market, Mr. Bamigboye said the debts form part of exigencies of cost

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