Three weeks on, there does not seem to be as yet any light at the end of the fuel scarcity tunnel.
Queues remain long at filling stations and the hardship continues with a litre of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) selling at an average of N120 to N150 at filling stations and about N200-N250 at the black market.
This is in spite of efforts by the Federal Government and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to ameliorate the hardship just as President Muhammadu Buhari had promised to pay subsidy arrears of N413 billion to marketers.
As the scarcity continues, former Group Executive Director (Exploration and Production) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC), Dr Chris Ogiemwonyi, has suggested the deregulation of the petroleum industry as a way out of the perennial fuel scarcity.
According to him, the Nigerian government is subsiding Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) for Nigerians and neighbouring countries like Chad, Niger, Ghana and others as large quantities of the product get to neighbouring countries through the very many porous borders in trucks.
In Lagos at the weekend, a litre of PMS was sold for N200 and above by black marketers as virtually all the fillings stations were under lock and key.
In Delta and Edo states, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), at the weekend wielded the big stick sealing off seven filing stations as they battled petroleum products marketers to ensure they sold products at approved pump price.
The operation was, however, hindered by long queues of vehicles at filling stations in both states where marketers sold fuel between N140 and N150 a litre to desperate motorists
Our correspondent who visited some major filling stations on Ikorodu Road, Ojelegba, Oshodi, Lagos Apapa Expressway axis, and other parts of the Lagos metropolis yesterday, noticed that many stations did not open for business.
Some seasonal illegal fuel hawkers besieging the streets are smiling to the bank, following a boom in the ‘black marketing’ of the product.
The DPR Warri Zonal Controller, Mr. Gbenga Koku, who gave the directive for the monitoring of petrol stations in both states, said the operation was to ensure that stations were not hoarding products they ought to sell to the public and were not involved in sharp practices.
He said many of the stations were spared because they did not want to worsen the already bad fuel situation in the states.
Several of the stations were sealed off for selling petrol above government-approved price despite buying at a normal price, and hoarding and manipulating their dispensing pumps to cheat motorists.
The DPR sealed off four stations in Sapele and three in Benin city.
Many more would have been sealed off but the DPR officials said they didn’t want to worsen the situation for members of the public.
Some of the marketers whose stations were sealed off pleaded with the DPR officials to unseal them, saying they bought products from private depots at high price which explained why they could not sell at N87 per litre.
Speaking to journalists in Benin City yesterday, Ogiemwonyi called for the total review of landing cost of petroleum products at the ports, saying he believed there were some irregularities about the actual landing cost of PMS in the country.
“I will advise the president to take a serious look at that price. My question is what really constitutes that landing price of the PMS? I want a proper check on this.
“During my period at the NNPC, we tried to look into the issue, the structure in the supply chain. I must tell you that until Nigerians are prepared to do things courageously, we may never see an end to this,” he said.