MOTORISTS and commuters in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have continued to groan over scarcity of fuel despite the increase in the price of premium motor spirit, widely known as petrol.
The increase has inevitably been attended by high transport fares.
As confirmed by Transport Fare Watch, a monthly report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) for June 2022, intra-city transport increased by, at least, 100 per cent between January and June 2022 in some major cities across Nigeria.
Long queues of vehicles were a permanent feature at filling stations in February, especially in Lagos and Abuja, when an import of adulterated petrol from Europe created dislocations in fuel supply and marketing in Nigeria, and, consequently, in fuel scarcity.
Even after the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC Ltd.) addressed the issue of the adulterated petrol and normal supply resumed, marketers, especially the independent ones, have maintained they would no longer sell the product at the pump price of N165 per litre.
The immediate past president of the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) and Managing Director of 11 Plc, Adetunji Oyebanji, had told TheICIR last month that Nigerians must be prepared to pay higher for petrol.
“At the point we are now, it is whether Nigerians want fuel or not. Nobody is willing to sell the fuel at a loss at the current rate,” Oyebanji had declared, adding, “Marketers are looking at selling at areas that will help them recover their cost. Many of them are moving their products to the southeast and southsouth, where they don’t have problems selling at flexible prices rather than selling at the N165 per litre price band.”
Corroborating, the president, Petroleum Products Retail Outlets Owners Association of Nigeria (PPROOAN), Billy Gillis-Harry, said he did not see any way the pump price of petrol would sell realistically at N165 per litre.
“We as retail outlet owners are ready to sell petroleum products to the teeming Nigerian public. But we must sell at reasonable prices to remain in business,” Gills-Harry said in an interview with The ICIR.
Even the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) once asked Nigerians to prepare for the worst fuel crisis ever unless the federal government prevailed on the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Agency (NMDPRA) to pay its members their outstanding bridging claims, which was put at over N500 billion.
The marketers have eventually adjusted prices upward, presently selling at varying sums in the different geo-political zones, a departure from the old order when the NNPC strove to maintain a uniform price band, until two weeks ago when it became a limited liability company and started operating as a commercial entity.
By the running price regime, the cost of petrol at the pump in the southwest has been adjusted from N165 per litre to N179, depending on the selling marketer; in the northwest from N165 to N184; and in the northeast from N165 to N189.
In the southsouth, the price has been adjusted from N165 per litre to N179; in the northcentral from N165 to N179; and in the southeast from N165 to N174.
Marketers in Lagos State and Abuja have also jacked up the price from N165 per litre to between N169 and N195, depending on the whim of the marketer. The lowest pump price of petrol at N169 per litre would seem to be available at NNPC filling stations, as well as at some owned by major marketers like TotalEnergie, in Lagos.
TheICIR checks, however, revealed that although these figures may seem the prevailing official prices, some marketers in some zones where the products are always scarce are selling for as high as N190-N200 per litre.
But while fuel scarcity and queues at filling stations have thawed in Lagos since price went up, the situation has persisted in the FCT.
Scarcity of petrol remains a feature in Abuja, as was evident in the sight of long queues at many filling stations; many stations were shut and not even selling at all. Black marketers were observed making brisk sales in front of the stations with long queues, while at the pumps, motorists could be seen struggling to buy petrol.
“Many of them are still not selling, despite having increased the price beyond the N165 per litre price band. I don’t know why we keep suffering in this country. Look at the long queues at the NNPC in Wuse Zone 3,” a commercial bus driver, Chima Nwankwo, told TheICIR.
As the fuel problem in Abuja bites harder, commercial vehicle operators have increased fares by between 50 per cent and 100 per cent. For instance, the fare of a trip from Iyanyan to Wuse, which attracted a fare of N100-N150 per passenger before petrol price went up, has doubled, to N250 to N300.
A bus driver plying the route, Adewunmi Ebenezer, told TheICIR that for him to remain in business, he had to increase the fare. Sympathising with commuters, Ebenezer said the fare hike was, indeed, taking its toll on passengers as they had been complaining bitterly in his bus when compelled to pay the new fares. He added that he had observed that more and more commuters had resorted to trekking long distances because they could not afford the charge.
Another commercial bus driver, Ayomide Ganikale, said some commuters had devised a way to cut transportation cost by trekking half of their destinations and then board vehicles that would not necessarily charge the full fare.