This may not be the best of times for residents of Lagos. Like many others across the country, they have continued to experience the harrowing effects of the fuel crisis in the country. In recent times, the scarcity has bitten harder.
The ongoing fuel crisis in the country is no longer news. For weeks now, the fuel stations have been getting irregular supplies, and the people have been at the receiving end. Outrageous pump prices are slammed on motorists and other users of the product, even as the official price tag of N87 per litre is left displayed on the machine.
At the weekend in Lagos, long queues of motorists and other fuel consumers continued within and around fuel stations. Many fuel consumers abandoned the pleasure of the weekend, choosing to keep a vigil at the fuel stations.
Around Shagari Estate, Ipaja Road, Lagos, tens of jerry cans and other containers as well as vehicles had lined up around a fuel dispenser pump in a filling station with the hope that the attendants would soon sell to the waiting consumers. But the attendants were as unfriendly as possible.
“How much are you selling petrol per litre here,” a customer enquired.
“How much are you buying it,” the attendant retorted.
Eventually, the first buyer discovered that the product would be sold for N120 per litre, and every prospective buyer started making fresh calculations.
A customer, Uchendu Ugo, described as irritating his experience in searching for fuel. He said: “It is unfortunate that we have to pass through this hardship to get fuel. You would not believe that I have been around here for some four hours, because we know they have fuel here, and that they only sell whenever they feel like. So, we needed to queue up and wait, believing that they would eventually sell for us. It is terrible to have to waste precious time for something that is available in their stock but they would not sell, and nobody would ask them any questions.”
According to Omololu Ogunleye, a businessman who was visibly angry with himself for wasting productive hours looking for fuel, there was no way a country could move forward if its source of power was so terribly compromised. To him, the scarcity of fuel would further worsen the epileptic power supply in the country. Even the majority of the people that rely on generating power through the generating sets have been unable to get fuel to power the generators.
“There is no light at home, and there is no fuel in the filling stations. That is double tragedy. I cannot understand why things are not working in this country. We are not asking the government to go to the moon or do something that is impossible. We are simply asking them to do things the way things are done in other climes where power or fuel is no longer an issue. So, they have people to copy from, if only they are sincere and not just there to milk the system dry. Now we have a very terrible government that won’t give us power, and would not also give us fuel to power our generators.
“The irony of it all is that the electricity power supply became totally terrible at about the time fuel scarcity began this year. So, how do you explain that? How do we cope with our businesses? How do we cope with moving from one spot to another? I am sure some people are out there to punish the masses. This is not ordinary,” he stated.
A slight argument had erupted among the customers in the filling station as to the probable cause of the current irregular supply of PMS. While some people hinged their position on what they called government’s unconcerned attitude as a result of the outcome of the last presidential elections, some others vehemently disagreed, hammering on untold corruption in the petroleum industry.
Mr. Andrew, a Lagos resident and stockbroker stated: “The ongoing fuel crisis is a way of getting back at the citizens by the ruling government for being voted out of power in the last elections. Let me ask you, shortly before the elections, when this ugly trend dared to raise its ugly head, did government not quickly move against it? Did they not succeed in stopping the scarcity within few days? So, what has changed now? Let us stop deceiving ourselves in this country. The people in government know themselves and they know those they pay the so-called subsidy to. We are just being made to suffer as they like.
“I can’t understand why fuel is always scarce. Is it a sin to be a Nigerian or is it a sin to vote a government out of office? According to the news, government said they have paid what is owed to the marketers, but of course it is all gimmick. It is a shame that an oil producing nation would subject her citizens to all sorts of untold hardship such as this.”
Frank Eze, another customer at the filling station, who held a different view, faulted Andrew’s position as it related to government’s deliberate attempt to punish the citizens because of the elections’ results. He said: “In as much as I may not have an answer to why petrol is scarce, it is not fair to equate it to the outcome of the elections. Although nobody enjoys this fuel problem, we are just hoping it gets better. I have been here since 12 noon, praying that they sell to us. This is 5.00pm. Is it fair for them to have and refuse to sell?”
The fuel station, like many others across the state, were literally invaded by some illegal petrol vendors who had come with jerry cans and plastic kegs of all sizes with which they bought fuel to resell at outrageously high prices to desperate motorists on the highways who could not stand the rigour of queuing up for hours at filling stations.
The petrol vendors and touts, backed by some attendants, also manned the filling station’s gate extorting motorists as they drive in. “If you don’t settle them they won’t even open the gate for you. And being a woman, I can’t argue with them. I just gave them N200 at the gate, despite buying the fuel for N120 per litre. This is uncalled for. People are suffering in this country. Help us beg the government to have mercy on us. You need to see my baby here, the kind of rashes she has on her back as a result of heat is scary. They won’t give us light, and they won’t give us fuel. This is wickedness,” Mrs Adetayo, a nursing mother living around Ipaja noted.
A commercial bus driver who identified himself as Saheed claimed that once he and his fellow bus drivers could not find any filling station selling fuel with no long queue, they patronise the black market operators, buying a 10 litre-keg for between N2, 500 and N3, 000.
The strike embarked upon by the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) and the Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD) has been one of the main causes of the current PMS scarcity in the country in the last few weeks. The strike was a pointer to the failed meeting between the Federal Government and the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) who had threatened to stop the importation of petroleum products over outstanding subsidy claims that run into hundreds of billion of naira from the Federal Government.
Executive Secretary of the organisation, Mr. Femi Olawore had announced in the first week of May that the marketers were ready to cooperate with the government, as long as the outstanding payment was made in two weeks after receiving the initial sum of N154 billion from the Federal Government.
Nigeria is the l2th largest oil producer in the world and the eighth largest exporter. Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Alison Madueke is the current president of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
In spite of the profile, however, the country, from time to time, experiences embarrassing shortages in fuel supply, a situation that leads to unmitigated hardship for the people.