The lingering scarcity of the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).
otherwise known as petrol in parts of the country bites harder Tuesday as Nigerians now pay between N600 and N700 for a litre of fuel.
Worst hit are residents of Abuja, the nation’s capital city and Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital.
The Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority had last week, said it found gasoline with methanol above national specifications in the supply chain and withdrew the fuel from circulation.
According to the regulator, the product was being cleared as the limited quantity of the impacted product has been isolated and withdrawn from the market, including loaded trucks in transit.
Consequent upon this, President Muhammdu Buhari directed appropriate authorities to sanction all those involved in the importation of the adulterated product.
Although there had been assurances from the Nigeria National Petroleum Company(NNPC) that the situation would subside, but there was nothing to suggest this would be ending so soon.
Effect on commuters
The development has left some commuters, especially workers in both public and private sectors stranded, with some paying huge transport in over 100 percent to get to their destinations.
While the black marketers lined up major roads selling the commodity undisturbed, commercial drivers also took turns to taunt and heap heavy transport fares on helpless commuters.
A visit to airport road, Lugbe, revealed that the hawkers, some of whom were teenagers, brazenly displayed 10-litre gallon of fuel with a high price tag ranging from between N5, 000 and N7000.
Also, it was gathered that some filling stations sell between N190 and N195 per litre.
One of them who interacted with our reporters in Hausa language under anonymity said: “We are selling what we buy and there is nothing we can do about it. This (10 litres) is N6,000, but you can give me N5,000.”
While our reporter considered the amount high, he drove further towards the City Gate where the sellers gave N7,000 and N7,500 as the price for same quantity.
A female university teacher who simply gave her name as Sandra lamented the plight of Nigerians since the fuel scarcity returned.
She said: “I just asked them and they gave me a price that really scared me. Buying a 10-litre worth of fuel at between N6, 000 and N7,000 to do what? Where are we really headed? We must not continue this way till weekend, otherwise there would be crisis. I just hope this is not a design by some people to further make a case for an increase in the price of the commodity.
“I would rather go and park the vehicle home and go to work at an exorbitant price. This calls for serious emergency, especially at this critical time in the life of the nation. If you ask me, I will simply say workers, in both the private and public sectors, should be allowed to work from home. I hope government is aware this development can further aggravate the already bad security situation in the country.”
Charityreporters also observed long queues of over two kilometres along a few filling stations dispensing fuel at the time of this report.
A commercial motorist who gave his name as Michael at Conoil along the airport road lamented the situation, saying he had spent virtually all the day on queue waiting to take his turn at the filling station.
“Help us talk to the government; this is just the least service we can ask of them. Why should getting fuel to buy with your money be a major problem again? I have been on this queue for over 5 hours and there is no hope of me getting fuel. We can’t continue this way as a nation aspiring to prosper. Is it not even disturbing that Buhari (President Muhammadu) is off to Ethiopia at a time we are suffering here?
Also, at the phase 2 junction in Jikwoyi, a suburb of the FCT, it was total chaos as hundreds of commuters struggled to board the few vehicles available to pick them at a huge fare.
For instance, some of the drivers were seen shouting on top of their voices, asking those they can’t afford it to step out without taking any plea.
At Shafa filling station at CBN junction in Karu, the only filling station that had fuel in Jikwoyi, it was a ‘warfront’ of sort as motorists, Okada (commercial motorcycle operators) riders and black market operators battled to buy fuel.
In an interview, Ejike, one of the Okada riders, said he was at the filling station as early as 6am, and was still there as at 11.00am when our reporters visited.
Ejike, who spoke in Pidgin English, said the 5 hours lost at the filling station would have yielded some dividends for him.
Also, a motorist who carved anonymity said: “I have been roaming about since past 6am, and now (2:15pm), I have finally gotten fuel at a very exorbitant price.”
He told this reporter that he had to finally resort to patronising black market operators after going from one filling station to another without success.
And just beside the filling station, ‘black marketers’ were having a field day as they were swarmed by willing motorists who opted to buy at a very high price.
In an interview, a black market operator, Ameh, said the situation was not easy for both the black market operators and people buying from the filling stations.
According to him, he bought the fuel at very high price and he is left with no choice than to sell at a price that he could make some profits.
When asked why the price per litre suddenly went from N500 to N700 in just 3 hours, Ameh explained that, “this morning I sold N500 per litre and later when I went to buy, the filling station sold to me at N300 per litre and before they agreed to sell for me in my 25 litres gallon, I had to bribe them with N1, 500. So you see why we now sell for N700?
For many, it was a harrowing experience as John Musa recounts: “I paid N500 for Okada from Jikwoyi to Nyanya and N400 to Berger. I didn’t have a choice because there were so many people and there were no vehicles.”
Before the fuel scarcity, commuters paid N200 from Jikwoyi to Nyanya for Okada while N200 was spent to get to Berger from Nyanya.
An attendant at Mobil filling station opposite Living Faith Church in Jikwoyi, told charityreporters that they were expecting two trucks of petrol tomorrow (Wednesday).
When pressed further for the particular time, he simply said, “anytime we see the tanker, we will start selling after offloading.”
Calls to the GSM lines of NNPC spokesman, Garba Deen Mohammed, did not yield result as the numbers were said to be switched off.
And from Lagos, commuters accused commercial drivers of being wicked for hiking transport fares.
One of them, Oluwole Kadiri, a civil servant, said, “more than any other thing, these drivers have further aggravated the crisis occasioned by the fuel scarcity. They are so much obsessed with making a fortune of an already bad situation. They lack human face in all they are doing, their major concern is increasing their daily take home. This is not the best way to treat ourselves in moment of crisis. we don’t have to be heartless to make it in life.”
At the Victoria Island, Lagos Island as well as some parts of Mailnland, it was observed that some filling stations chose to select whom they wanted to dispense fuel to.
The huge presence of commercial motorbike operators and Keke Marwa would not bother them.
Consequently, the development led to a heavy gridlock which further led to sharp increase in transport fare.
And like Abuja, it was time for ‘cool business’ for the black marketers who delightedly put a heavy price tag on the commodity.
In a reaction to the development, a private sector worker, Saeed Sulaiman, said government should direct that “workers in both the private and public sectors should work from home pending when the self-imposed scarcity will be over. I am just beginning to imagine why it has become difficult for the government to fix the situation. It is high time we sat back as a nation to ask ourselves if we really want to progress. It is just pathetic that we like making life unbearable for ourselves whenever anything such as fuel scarcity happens.”
N2.557trn subsidy fund
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has lashed at the federal lawmakers for inserting N887.99billion worth of projects into the N17.126trillion 2022 budget.
He consequently ordered them to remove the inserted projects for usage of the N887.99billion as originally proposed.
Buhari who made the request Tuesday through separate letters written to the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives , Hon Femi Gbajabiamila , proposed N2.557trillion as additional fund for fuel subsidy in the 2022 fiscal year.
The letter reads in part : “As I indicated at the signing of the 2022 Appropriation Act, I forward herewith the Proposals for amendment of the 2022 Appropriation Act (as detailed in Schedules I-V), for the kind consideration and approval by the Senate.
“You will agree with me that the inclusion of National Assembly’s expenditures in the Executive Budget negates the principles of separation of Powers and financial autonomy of the Legislature. It is therefore necessary to transfer the National Assembly’s expenditures totaling N16.59 billion in the Service Wide Vote to National Assembly Statutory Transfer provision (see Schedule l).
“I urge you to roll back some of the N887.99 billion of projects earlier inserted in the budget by the National Assembly to accommodate these amendments.
“It is equally important to reinstate the N25.81 billion cut from the provision for the Power Sector Reform Programme in order to meet the Federal Government’s commitment under the financing plan agreed with the World Bank.
“In addition, it is necessary to reinstate the four (4) capital projects totaling N1.42 billion in the Executive Proposal for the Federal Ministry of Water Resources that were removed in the 2022 Appropriation Act.
“The Appropriation Amendment request is for a total sum of N106,161,499,052 (One hundred and six billion, one hundred and sixty-one million, four hundred and ninety-nine thousand, and fifty-two Naira only) for Capital Expenditures and N43,870,592,044 (Forty-three billion, eight hundred and seventy million, five hundred and ninety-two thousand, and forty-four Naira only) for Recurrent Expenditures. I therefore request the National Assembly to make the above amendments without increasing the budget deficit.
“However, following the suspension of the PMS subsidy removal, the 2022 Budget Framework has been revised to fully provide for PMS subsidy (see Schedule V). An additional provision of N2.557 trillion will be required to fund the petrol subsidy in 2022. Consequently, the Federation ACCOunt (Main Pool) revenue for the three tiers of government is projected to decline by N2.00 trillion, while FGN’s share from the Account is projected to reduce by N1.05 trillion. Therefore, the amount available to fund the FGN Budget is projected to decline by N969.09 billion.
“Aggregate expenditure is projected to increase by N45.85 billion, due to additional domestic debt service provision of N102.5 billion net of the reductions in Statutory Transfers by N56.67 billion, as follows: NDDC, by N12.61 billion from N102.78 billion to N90.18 billion; NEDC, by N5.90 bilion from N48.08 billion to N42.18 billion; UBEC, by N19.08 billion from N112.29 billion to N93.21 billion; Basic Health Care Fund, byN 9.54 billion from N56.14 billion to N46.60 billion; and NASENI, by N9.54 billion from N56.14 billion to N46.60 billion.
“Total budget deficit is projected to increase by N1.01 trillion to N7.40 trillion, representing 4.01% of GDP. The incremental deficit will be financed by new borrowings from the domestic market.
“Furthermore, there is critical and urgent need to restore the N3 billion cut from the provision made for payment of mostly long outstanding Local Contractors’ Debts and Other Liabilities as part of our strategy to reflate the economy and spur growth (see Schedule I).
“It is also imperative to reinstate the N22.0 billion cut from the provision for Sinking Fund to Retire Mature Loans to ensure that government can meet its obligations under already issued bonds as and when they mature.
“The cuts made from provisions for the recurrent spending of Nigeria’s Foreign Missions, which are already constrained, are capable of causing serious embarrassment to the country as they mostly relate to office and residential rentals.
“Similarly, the reductions in provisions for allowances payable to personnel of the Nigerian Navy and Police Formations and Commands could create serious issues for government. It is therefore imperative that these provisions be restored as proposed (see Schedule II).
“It is also absolutely necessary to remove all capital project replicated in the 2022 Appropriation Act; 139 out of the 254 such projects totaling N13.24 billion have been identified to be deleted from the budget”.
Being a letter read before the start of plenary , there was no room for comments from any of the senators.