Relief seems to be on the way for motorists and commuters across the country, especially at the country’s capital, Abuja, and commercial hub, Lagos, as the biting scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), popularly called petrol, appears to be easing off, with more filling stations dispensing the product yesterday.
But even that is coming at a cost, as apart from the major marketers, who were selling at the official prices of N86 and N86.50 per litre, almost all the independent marketers were selling at between N100 and N150 per litre without qualms.
For motorists who have been patronising the black market, whose products are not only more expensive, but also the quality doubtful, or have been queuing endlessly at filling stations for some weeks, buying above stipulated prices means less headache.
This was made worse by the hot weather and irregular or in some cases, near zero electricity supply in most parts of the country for the usual sundry reasons that Nigerians have become all too familiar with over the years.
Although availability largely depended on location, most filling stations resumed sale of the product yesterday.
Most of the stations that had either completely closed shop or restricted sale to the night were seen dispensing petrol to motorists throughout the day, even as the queues appear to be closing up in length.
This was observed in places like Ikorodu Road, Lagos-Abeokuta expressway, Agege Motor Road and most parts of the Island, where all the major marketers sold at the official rate.
But it was a different story with other marketers, who sold at prices ranging from N100 to N150, particularly around the Mainland corridors.
Several Lagosians were, however, relieved to buy the product without much difficulty.
Contrary to the pronouncement by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, that queues in Abuja would abate by this weekend, the queues have become even longer.
The restriction of movement from 7:00am to 4:00pm today, announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the conduct of the Area Council elections in all the six councils in Abuja, also aggravated the situation.
As a result of the failing knee-jerk actions of the government to ensure steady supply, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) posited that Nigerians should brace themselves for long queues as part of their regular day-to-day activities.
NLC president, Wabba Ayuba, said: “Regular scarcity might as well be a familiar feature and we would do well to brace ourselves for long spells, except government does the needful.”
“We must, however, make the point that spells of scarcity will not be acceptable to Labour and other Nigerians, because the human and economic costs are unimaginable.
“While we appreciate government’s effort to make fuel available on an uninterruptible basis, such effort must be seen to be result-yielding and immediate.”
Considering that availability of petrol is the epicenter of Nigerians’ daily activities, Wabba declared that the government is fast losing its credibility amongst Nigerians.
He argued that the root of the last government losing the election was sown in January 2012 when Nigerians rejected the deregulation policy, warning the present government to learn from history.
“We dare say one of the fastest ways for government to lose its credibility before the ordinary citizenry is scarcity of petroleum products because the combined effects of scarcity and low power supply create misery for the people and have a damning impact on travel, jobs, productivity and the economy as a whole.”
“We are concerned and we must similarly find a way forward,” he explained, while blaming corruption, existence of a cabal, national and international politics around production, sale and consumption of oil, sabotage in the management of the refineries, award of contracts for Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) without regard to the companies that built the refineries and smuggling, for the disruption of supply.
Wabba further observed that government institutions in the sector, such as the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), which are expected to function independently, as well as regulate the system, have either been sidelined, weakened and brought under the control of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
Labour urged government to do the needful by demonstrating the will and capacity to restore sanity, discipline and transparency to the downstream sector of the industry.