Abuja, Lagos witness unprecedented fuel queues
How Kachikwu’s Policy Inconsistencies Is Driving Petrol Scarcity
Between Tuesday and Wednesday last week, the queues at most filling stations were thinning out, which excited most Nigerians.
But that has changed, due largely to the pronouncements of the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, after leading members of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) to a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, that the queues at filling stations would linger till May, this year.
Out of the possible excitement of the reduction in the queues, the minister, speaking to reporters at the Presidential Villa, dropped what appeared to be a new twist to the supply of petrol when he put a timeline of May for the queues to disappear.
The minister’s candour is in keeping with the administration’s policy to be open and sincere with Nigerians at all times.It was no surprise to see the queues resurfacing on Thursday morning after a spirited effort by the Group Public Affairs Division of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to put out a belated statement Wednesday night saying he did put a timeline to the supply of petrol.
In his comments, Kachikwu had said: “Of course, you are aware the DSAP programme begins in April, so over the next two months, we should see quite frankly a complete elimination of this.”
“Our strategy is that whatever is produced in the refineries will not go for sale; we are going to keep them in strategic reserve, because the key problem here is that there is no reserve and anytime there is gap in supply it goes off.”
“So, we are going to dedicate the next couple of months to moving all the products that we produce to strategic reserve, so that we can pile up reserves in the nation and that will push up the reserves in the nation.”
But few hours after Kachikwu granted the interview at the Villa, the NNPC issued a statement around 9: 00 pm accusing the media of “misinterpretation.”
However, the corporation was quick to stress that all efforts were in full gear to eliminate all extraneous factors that have so far impeded the free flow of petrol across the country, especially the issue of foreign exchange for oil marketers, which the minister is working with the Central Bank of Nigeria to resolve.
Again, the NNPC said the queues would disappear in “in the weeks ahead,” but declined to say how many weeks precisely. From Kubwa to Nyanyan, from Jikwoyi to Karu and from Kaduna Road to Gwagwalada, all in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), and in most parts of Lagos, especially the outskirts, the scarcity was silently loud, as most families were on the road in search of the elusive product.
Most residents of Abuja suburbs converged on Wuse, Maitama and Garki few petrol stations that had petrol to dispense and formed centres of fights and struggles for fuel.
The scarcity has restricted the movement of many people in Lagos during the Easter period. As at yesterday many of them still queued for hours wanting to buy fuel at the few filling stations dispensing fuel.
Many people that queued up to buy petrol at Forte Oil, Ikeja along Airport Road were disgusted by the statement credited to Kachikwu.
One of them, Emeka Eze, regretted that he has been on the queue since 5.30 a.m., but the queue was barely moving.
“I live in Ikeja and was thinking that Conoil will also sell, that was why I am here. But unfortunately, they are not selling and only Forte oil is selling.
That is why the queue is so long. We do not know the cause of the scarcity.” Soji Ogunyinka said the situation was beyond what the motorists could help.“If it is possible for me to do anything to solve the lingering fuel scarcity, I would have loved to. Unfortunately, I cannot do anything about it.”
Richard Uzo also regretted the man hours lost in the endless queue to buy petrol at filling stations. “I have been here since 5:30 a.m., all the way from Mafoluku. I came here around 5:30 am last Saturday and I got fuel within two hours.”
“So, I thought it was going to be the same thing. This is 9:00am and it is yet to get to my turn.”He said that it was unfortunate that the minister was asking Nigerians to wait till May for the queues to disappear.
“I don’t really know what the government is doing about it. They should just try and provide fuel. They know what the problem is and should just try and fix it.” “It is already hard living in Nigeria; they should not make it harder.”
Philips Oshigbo lamented that the queue was moving at snail’s speed, adding: “I have been on the queue for the past four hours. I live in Oshodi, but the filling stations there are not selling. The ones selling are selling at N150 per litre.”
He regretted that Nigeria is producing oil, yet the people are suffering from oil shortages. “Why is the minister saying that we should wait till May? It is not justifiable at all. The problem is that the government is focusing on corruption, not looking at the suffering of the masses,” he stated.Saheed Balogun came all the way from Mafoluku, where he said all the filling stations were selling between N120 and N150 per litre.
“Let government find solution to the fuel scarcity. It has lingered for five to six months now. I am not sure that the May deadline is okay. Why should we be suffering for fuel?”
Another motorist, Mrs. Ifeoma, equally complained that she has been on the queue since 6:30 am and the queue was not moving. She lamented that she lost her auntie with her daughter last week in a motor accident at Ore on her way to the East, because “the driver of the vehicle was carrying a keg loaded with fuel in his car, hoping to refill the tank of his vehicle on the way.”
“But at Ore, the vehicle collided with another vehicle and it exploded.” For most Nigerians, these are certainly not the best of times, considering the numerous challenges and difficulties they are passing through, hanging to the hope that tomorrow would be better, even as they travel long distances in search of the ‘Black Gold.’