A S news reports indicated this week, this is a terrible period for Nigerians as Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise known as petrol, now sells for between N220 and N350 per litre as against the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited’s (NNPCL) approved price of N185 per litre nationwide. The unofficial increment has subjected motorists and commuters to untold hardship as intra-state and inter-state transport fares have increased geometrically. Across the country, most filling stations have been shut, and long queues at stations where fuel is available at all are impeding traffic flow even as desperate fuel seekers get into fisticuffs. With fuel selling for N300-N320 per litre in Kogi, N400 (black market) in Imo, where diesel and kerosene are sold at N800 per litre, and above N250 per litre in Lagos and Ogun states, many Nigerians have been left utterly depressed. The few major marketers like Mobil, Total and the NNPCL filling stations which are selling at between N175 and N180 per litre,- are hosting extremely long queues.
In Oyo, Benue, Delta and Bauchi states, the price is said to hover between N270 and N300 per litre, while in Sokoto, Imo, Taraba and Kaduna states, hardly any filling station is selling at the NNPC official rate, and motorists are being compelled to buy fuel at N285-N310 per litre. The situation is not better in Katsina, Edo, Ondo, Rivers, Cross River, Anambra Kano, Ekiti and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), where PMS is sold at around N300 per litre. Largely because December fuel crisis has not often extended to the last days of January, the situation across the country right now is one of agony, if not chaos.
Commenting on the situation, the president of the Independent Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Ondo State, Chinedu Okonkwo, blamed the situation on the NNPCL. He said: “NNPC says it has not increased price. We are still waiting for instruction so that we can have the right information.” On its part, in view of the lingering fuel scarcity, the Federal Government has constituted a 14-man Steering Committee on Petroleum Products Supply and Distribution Management chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari himself. The committee which has the Minister of State for Petroleum Resource, Chief Timipre Sylva, as alternate chairman is expected to, among other things, ensure transparent and efficient supply and distribution of petroleum products across the country. It is also tasked with ensuring national strategic stock management, visibility on the NNPCL refineries rehabilitation programme and end-to-end tracking of petroleum products, especially PMS, to ascertain daily national consumption and eliminate smuggling. To further ensure sanity in the supply and distribution across the value chain, the minister also directed the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) to ensure strict compliance with the government-approved ex-depot and retail prices for PMS. He also directed the authority to ensure that the NNPCL, the supplier of last resort, meets the domestic supply obligation of PMS and other petroleum products in the country, saying that the interests of the ordinary Nigerian should be protected from price exploitation on other deregulated products such as AGO, DPK and LPG.
The belated setting up of a “steering committee” notwithstanding, there is no shred of evidence that the government really cares about Nigerians. That is the conclusion that must be made in the face of the agonising trials of Nigerians in obtaining fuel even at prices far beyond the official rates. If anything, the government seems to have run out of ideas as Nigerians welcome an election year with pain and distress. It is quite disappointing and regrettable that the fuel crisis that the country has been experiencing months before the end of 2022 is still biting today, well into the new year. Rather than abating, the crisis has been intensifying, with fuel now basically selling for N270 and above per litre as the least available price as against the official price of N185 per litre. Nigerians are in pains, having to bear the agonies of a fuel crisis alongside pervasive insecurity and a fast deteriorating economy.
It is difficult to understand what is going on in the country; nothing is working and nobody seems to be in charge of anything. For the umpteenth time, we remind the government that its duty is to attend to the life concerns and living conditions of Nigerians and not act as if whatever happens to Nigerians does not bother it. Since the current crisis started, agencies of government, including the Department of State, have made futile efforts to contain it. But so long as it remains in office, the Buhari government has the responsibility to alleviate the agonies of Nigerians. There is no visible sign that it has been doing this at any level and it would be important for it to resume its governing responsibilities by ending the persisiting fuel crisis. The dark spectre of Nigerians scrambling for the new naira notes and for PMs has to end forthwith.