The ICIR reporter thought he was headed, this morning, for a smooth ride in the commercial tricycle, called keke Marwa in the local parlance, which he had boarded from Ojodu-Berger to Ojota bus stop after some pushing and shoving to get a seat.
The bus stop had been heavily populated with commuters, even as one could count the number of commercial buses and tricycles that would convey them to their various destinations on one’s fingernails. Just as there has been been scarcity of petrol in Lagos State since Sunday, June 19, 2022, there has been scarcity of commercial vehicles in the metropolis since yesterday, Monday, when the working week started.
Some metres to the Ojota bus stop, the tricycle wobbled to a stop. The passengers were still wondering what was amiss when the keke rider, Mudashiru Ibrahim, hopped down from the machine, stretched his long arm to somewhere under his seat and brought out a La Casera plastic bottle filled with petrol.
Before his passengers realised what was happening, Ibrahim had poured the fuel into the keke tank.
Done, he took his seat, restarted the machine and the journey continued. He would use the remaining few minutes to get to the Ojota terminus regaling his passengers the story of how hectic it had been for him to get petrol for his business for the day.
“I bought a fuel of N1,000, but the queue was so long. The easiest way to get fuel is to go with a keg. The petrol attendants sell more to jerry can holders than to cars and buses because they collect N200 on each jerry can customer. I saw some motorists bribe them with N500 before they sold petrol to them,” Ibrahim told his audience of three.
The situation at MRS Oil in Ojota was just as Ibrahim described it. The gates were locked and cars were no longer allowed inside as the battle of jerry cans raged. It was sheer chaos.
The same chaotic picture was rife at all filling stations in the city, where vehicles formed long queues to fill their tanks.
Ernest Orji, who camped outside Total filling station at Ojota said he
had been on the queue for five hours but remained optimistic he would buy fuel.
Orji said, “I have been here since 7am but I haven’t bought it. They are selling in kegs more than for vehicles. If they are selling in vehicles, the queue would have been moving. Thankfully, the price is still N165.”
Another motorist, Ope Alabi, on the other side of the road also at Total, said, “I have been here for over an hour unattended to. They are meant to sell for vehicles but it is because of money they are selling to jerry cans more. It should not be so. The government should be working as a regulator. Is it by force they should collect money for jerrycans?
“Everyone blames the government, but the failure of the government to react is not helping. We will not be able to buy goods to sell or eat if they increase fuel prices. It can be worse.”
Another woman at MRS filling station told our correspondent, “I paid N5,500 for 32 litres. The extra N500 was for keg.”
She immediately drove out of the station as the crowd gathered, prompting the manager to discontinue the sale of fuel due to a growing number of people with jerry cans.
There doesn’t seem to be an end to the fuel scarcity anytime soon. The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) said at a press conference yesterday that members can no longer continue to sell petrol at the regulated price of N165 per litre, saying that the business environment was unfavourable.
The chairman of the Lagos satellite depot, Akin Akinrinade, said the situation was not a strike; it was just a means of conveying the demands of petroleum marketers.
Akinrinmade said, “The business environment has been unfriendly to us. We are adding transport cost to the price of petrol. We have not added running and handling costs yet. We also run generators at our stations at N800 per litre of diesel. We can not sell below N180 per litre.”
A business analyst at Arise TV, Chika Mbonu, urged the government to remove fuel subsidy as a solution to the problem.
In April 2022, President Muhammadu Buhari had written to the Senate asking it to approve adjustments to the 2022 fiscal framework, which would raise petrol subsidy to N4 trillion. This was due to the spikes in the market price of crude oil, which were a fallout of the Russia-Ukraine war.
Mbonu argued that Nigeria cannot continue to subsidise petrol.
He said, “We cannot continue to carry subsidy. It is showing everywhere, how much we spend, even in debt servicing. The private sector has no emotions, they are only concerned with running a business. Imagine a person buys PMS (petrol) from the depot at a high price and he transports it. If he adds that cost (handling, transportation) to selling the fuel, it could be nearing N200 a litre pump price. They are here to make a profit and not subsidize for government.”
Mbonu said the problem was compounded by the fact that foreign exchange was being used in importing the fuel and the supply chain was affected by the Russia-Ukraine war.
He added that some marketers were even selling above N165 per litre in places outside Lagos in the evening when petrol regulators would not be there to watch them.
Orji asked Buhari to come to the aid of motorists, adding that he depended on their support (votes) to become the president of the nation.
Meanwhile, the World Bank has stated that surging oil prices, being the highest in nine years, provided the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) an opportunity to adjust the exchange rate reflective of market dynamics.
This was disclosed by the Bank in a document titled ‘Nigeria Development Update (June 2022): The Continuing Urgency of Business Unusual.’
It stated that despite the CBN’s claim of unifying the official exchange rate, it actually was still supplying foreign currencies to, at least, four windows.
The Bank listed the windows as (i) the I&E (investors and exporters) forex window; (ii) the secondary market intervention sales retail window; (iii) the small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) window; and (iv) the window for invisibles.