While fuel scarcity bites harder in Abuja, black marketers have increased in number and smiling to the banks. In the days gone by, only male adults slug it out in the streets running around to sell the product, but today, women have joined the league. Women, dressed in wrapper and young ladies in trousers pace up and down the streets and armed with the hoses and jerry cans are common sights in Abuja and that has been the new trend in over three months the city has been grappling with the pains of fuel scarcity.
At the genesis, it used to be young men, especially from the north of the country that dominated the ad-hoc business.
Right now, it is quiet sad, that as it worsens, apart from women now in the picture, little boys of 11-15 who should be in school are out on the streets, even on the highways hawking a commodity that the country is supposed to have in abundance.
The question among Abuja residents is why fuel scarcity in the filling stations while supply never dries up among the hawkers in the black market. They express concern that they can’t situate where the hawkers get their supply from because the picture of dire scarcity painted by petroleum markers should also cause a dry-up in the supply that keeps the markets thriving.
Abuja Metro found that some black marketers travel to nearby states to get the fuel. But others say that they actually get it in Abuja as most filling stations prefer to sell to black marketers to customers with cars as the stations make massive profit from them.
From the security men at the filling stations who collect money to let cars that are not in the queue have access to the station, to the policemen who patrol around to seize fuel from hawker, sometimes collect bribe from the black marketers, so many odd businesses have been spawned by the man-made scarcity that has become part of the city’s life.
While people see the boys at the expressways and streets with gallons of fuel, there is always a nook around from where the main black marketers sell to the young men and now women, who the people refer to as the black marketers. Apparently, the boys on the street are not even the real ones but just the visible outlets out to get food or a little luxury in their life.
The hustllng of these black marketers is now part of the city as they hang around the major vroads. However, in their struggle, they are always on the look out for patrol vans of the police that seize their gallons of fuel
Abuja Metro spoke to a woman who is not only a visible black marketer but also the invisible as she sells to the boys. She said the reason there are more black marketers started from the top and boils down to the bottom with multiplier effects. She narrated that: “The problem is from the top because the filling stations also buy from the black market, so they sell it costly like they buy. They also complain and there is no good profit, because getting the fuel has become very hard task. We get it at very high rate also. For every 25-litre sale, we make a profit of between N300 and N400. But if we get direct supply from Abuja, we can get it cheaper, but there is no reasonable profit.
Speaking on why there are women thriving too in the business, she said it is because of the economic situation in the country which is even worse with the fuel scarcity as cost of commodities and services also went high.
“When we come into the business, one will go home and tell the other woman the profit she made in the sales and by the next day, the woman who was told of the profit possibility also starts hawking. For instance, you tell her, I bought fuel at N3000 and sold it at N4000, making N1000 gain, the woman listening gets excited about such profit margin that also comes fast. Tomorrow she will eventually give it a try. That is why everyday you see more females on the streets hawking fuel.”
Still speaking on the struggle to make the best of the bad situation and how and where they get their fuel, she said, “we travel to the nearby states like Kaduna, Niger or Nasarawa or the outskirts of Abuja to get the fuel. I go there with two or three people. There, we buy at N130 for a litre but their liters are tampered with and the queues at the filling stations not so long that we save time buying unlike in Abuja where buyers can wait for an entire day to buy fuel.”
On the other hand, an engineer, Stanley Mbah, who works near a filling station along the Kubwa expressway said, “they get fuel here in filling stations in Abuja, I see them everyday, the filling stations prefer to sell to them than they to car because they make more profit from them. The question is, what is the Petroleum Task Force doing? Why can’t the government monitor where the fuel supplied filling stations go to? What is the media doing about exposing this wrong thing going on? When Nigerians talk of corruption at the top I say, it is around us, patrolling.”
“I have not seen anything done by the government, we see people hawking petroleum like groundnut and government officials that should enforce the stoppage pass like they don’t see them.
“Now women are in it, because of poverty, you see women and girls in the everywhere in Abuja hawking fuel, all out to look for food for the hungry mouths at home.”