Oil marketers, on Friday, said the distribution of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, was still problematic, but expressed confidence that queues for the product at filling stations would soon disappear.
Also, dealers under the aegis of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, threatened to shut down operations if the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited continues to deny them direct access to it in terms of payment for products.
This, they said, was because the ex-depot price of PMS for marketers moving their products out of Lagos had jumped to N246 per litre.
Reacting to the order given to the NNPC and marketers on Thursday by the Department of State Services, the oil merchants stated that they had now decided to coordinate themselves in order to clear the queues.
On Thursday, the DSS gave the NNPC and other stakeholders in the downstream sector 48 hours to end the lingering fuel scarcity across the country.
The DSS spokesperson, Peter Afunanya, told journalists in Abuja that the agency held a closed door meeting with stakeholders, who agreed to end the scarcity.
He said all the DSS commands had been placed on red alert and would commence operations to bring defaulters to justice, after the department issued the ultimatum based on its mandate of detecting and preventing threats against the internal security of the country.
Providing explanation on what the security risks could entail, the Executive Secretary, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, Clement Isong, who attended the meeting, told our correspondent on Friday that the anger about fuel scarcity could trigger unpalatable security crises across the country.
“People are unhappy about the fuel supply situation and this on its own can lead to security issues,” he stated.
On whether marketers would be able to clear the queues at filling stations within the stipulated 48 hours given by the DSS, Isong replied in the affirmative, but noted that there was still a problem with the distribution of products.
He said, “Presently, there are no more queues in Lagos. The queues in Lagos have cleared already. The problem we face right now is just operational in terms of distribution.
“Once we get our acts together and coordinate better, the concerns shall be over. We are coordinating among ourselves. Normally, we compete and we don’t coordinate, but now, we are coordinating just to make sure that the queues reduce.
“So, in the next few days, there will be no queues in Abuja. The product is there. I can confirm that to you. The product is there, but the distribution, getting it into the stations and pumped into your cars, that’s where the problem is.”
The NNPC, Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, alongside the DSS had met with the key stakeholders in the midstream and downstream oil sector on Thursday.
At the meeting, all participants agreed to work together to clear the persistent queues by motorists at filling stations nationwide within the next 48 hours.
The meeting had in attendance MOMAN, IPMAN, Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria, National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers and the National Association of Road Transport Owners, among others.
Speaking on why independent marketers must purchase directly from the NNPC, instead of going through third parties, the IPMAN Chairman, Ibadan Depot, in-charge of Oyo and Osun states, Bukola Butiu, said some private depot owners were profiteering from the current situation.
“If the NNPC fails to give us the link to pay directly to its coffers, we will shut down our stations. We are tired of buying from third parties at exorbitant rates and this is our stand as marketers,” he stated.
On the possible security risks posed by fuel scarcity as highlighted by the DSS, he said, “They (DSS) are security personnel; maybe they are reacting from their intelligence reports.
“But the truth is that we are being denied of paying directly to the NNPC purse for us to get the product at the normal rate, whereas all imports into this country are done by the NNPC. Nobody can claim it. We are tired of buying from third parties, that’s our stand.”
Butiu added, “Currently, the product is not available as expected and it is still on the high side. As of yesterday (Thursday), we were having it at between N216 and N218 from the depots. The lowest is N215 per litre without trucks.”
“If we use Ibadan as an example, to move fuel from Lagos to Ibadan has increased to N30 per litre. So if you are buying at N216, it means you will add N30 to it; that is N246 per litre.
“The masses and the government should hear our cry; if you buy at N246 per litre, and you are selling at N250 per litre, at the end you cannot make N100,000 as profit. But we will pay salaries and bear other expenses.
“That’s why we are shouting now that we are tired of buying from third parties. The product given to private depots is meant to be given to us as marketers, who are registered under the NNPC, and we have means of paying directly to the NNPC, but it was blocked. If you make requests on the portal, it will be showing pending.”