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Fuel scarcity looms as forex crisis deepens •Dollar scarcity threatens fuel importation •Ex-depot price jumps to N135 from N133:78

Except the Federal Government acts swiftly to address the forex crisis as it relates to the importation of refined petroleum products, the country may be thrown into another round of fuel scarcity, Saturday Tribune investigation has revealed.

Already, the ex-depot price which is the price at which marketers load fuel from tank farms in Lagos State, has increased from the regulated N133.78 kobo to between N134 and N135.

Of the private tank farms in Lagos, Saturday Tribune investigation revealed that only NIPCO is selling petrol to marketers at the regulated price of N133.78.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), which is the industry regulator, is also dispensing fuel at N133.78.

By the close of work on Friday (yesterday), a dollar exchanged for N351 at the interbank market while it was at almost N400 at the parallel market.

A prominent player in the industry told Saturday Tribune that most of the private tank farm owners are finding it difficult to import fuel because of the continuous fall of the naira against the dollar.

Fuel importation business is denominated in dollar and scarcity of the currency has hit the country since the price of crude oil began to plummet in the international market.

“Unless the Federal Government intervenes and makes forex available to the private tank farm owners at affordable rate, prices of petroleum products may go up any moment from now.

“The Federal Government still regulates the price which is pegged at between N135 and N145 per litre, the range within which petrol currently sells across the country.

“But by the time people [fuel importers] reach their limit, most of them will stop importing the products because it is not going to be profitable again for them.

“Do you know what that means? That is another round of scarcity and pains for Nigerians. That is just the reality on  the ground now.

“Since the liberalisation of the downstream sector, the NNPC has been telling the independent marketers not to rely on supply from the corporation. They have always asked the marketers to go and import,” the source said.

It was gathered that a last-ditch effort by the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) to bring the first cargo of fuel for its members failed on account of forex crisis.

IPMAN members own more than 70 per cent of the retail outlets (filling stations) across the country.

Saturday Tribune reliably gathered from another industry player that IPMAN’s consignment of fuel, which was due to arrive in the country last week, had to be shipped back to its country of origin when the marketers could not defray the costs because of dollar scarcity.

IPMAN, hitherto a two-faction body and only recently harmonised into one, is said to be exploring other options to overcome the problem of forex scarcity.

“We just pray that the dollar-to-naira rate will not get to the level that will make it impossible for anyone to bring in fuel into the country,” the source said.

Investigation by Saturday Tribune further revealed that the NNPC has refused to pump fuel through the System 2B network owned by the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC), an NNPC subsidiary, because of the activities of pipeline vandals.

System 2B network is the pipeline channel through which fuel is pumped to all the depots in the South-West and other adjoining states for onward trucking to filling stations.

“The NNPC is claiming thart it can’t be pumping fuel through the pipelines only for vandals to continue to damage same and steal the fuel.

“NNPC says it can’t be losing money like that. No depot in the System 2B network run by the PPMC is loading fuel as we speak,” another source said.