By G9ija

For nearly two months Maiduguri has been off the national grid after Boko Haram bombed some power stations and transmission lines outside the city.

When repairs commenced, the insurgents laid land mines, which injured officials of the Transmission Company of Nigeria.

While repairs have progressed under heavy military escort, residents and business owners now have to rely on their power generating sets for electricity.

But after reports emerged last week that the price of Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) was set to increase, demand spiked across the Borno State capital.

Although the federal government has denied that prices will increase, at least till the end of March, fuel marketers, defying the Department for Petroleum Resources, have resorted to hoarding petroleum products, triggering a price inflation.

Residents desperate for power have turned to the black market.

“A litre was N200 when fuel was available, but when it became very scarce fuel was sold for N450 to N500,” one black marketer, Mohammed Abdulrahman, told Channels Television.

“But to be honest when the product is scarce, that’s when we make more profit. But when the fuel was available sometimes you’ll be here the whole day and maybe only five or six cars would stop to buy from you.”

The marketers’ profit is, however, a loss to consumers, especially businesses.

“Every blessed day you spend N5,000 on fuel and there is no power everything is now expensive,” a business owner, Abdulmumini Bello, said.

“The government should consider and help us out of this difficulty. We are facing the problem of power outage and petrol, and there is poverty.”

A motorist, Maikudi Kwajaffa, said filling stations have perfected the art of deception.

“If you go to the filling station you’ll see the display on their dashboard saying N162 but actually if you say you want to buy N2,000 fuel, they’ll just carry their calculator and begin to calculate,” Kwajaffa said.

“If you go to another place they’ll say it’s N190 or N180. I don’t know if they are waiting for the government to increase the price, but hoarding the fuel makes it so scarce and you know in Maiduguri it’s about two months now we don’t have light so most people want to take in jerrycan or gallon.”

DPR Comptroller, Abubakar Ciroma, said there are no fuel queues in Maiduguri but admitted that the agency is battling the marketers over pricing.

He blamed the long distance between Maiduguri and major petrol hubs such as Lagos and Port Harcourt for the shortfall in supply that has spooked the marketers.

“Also the insecurity challenges along the road,” he said. “You know we have had so many cases of blockage on the road and so on.

“Some of the vehicles break down because they are old and they are coming all the way from Lagos with the bad roads here and there.”

Maiduguri’s fuel worries are compounded by the fact that the NNPC depot in the city, which has a storage capacity of at least 20 million litres, has been non-functional for over 15 years, making it impossible to stockpile products for the rainy day.

Until such a time when it is refurbished and put back into work, Maiduguri will continue to experience the harsh effects of fuel scarcity when unexpected shortfalls occur.