**Say depots are empty; Independents sell at N255/l, black marketers at N350/l

By Obas Esiedesa, Abuja

Seven days after the Federal Government directed the petroleum marketers to increase the number tankers bringing petrol into Abuja, the ongoing scarcity of the product has shown no sign of abating with marketers saying the product was not available in the country.

Checks by Vanguard in Abuja yesterday showed fewer petrol stations were opened to customers, with most independent marketers selling between N230 to N255 per litre.

Hawkers who sold the product in jerrycans close to NNPC towers hiked their price to N350 per litre from N300 per litre it was sold last week.

The Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, NMDPRA, had last week directed petrol marketers including NNPC Retails to increase the number of fuel trucks into the nation’s capital to 180 per day in a bid to end the queues.

The Executive Director, Distribution Systems, Storage & Retailing Infrastructure, NMDPRA, Ogbugo Ukoha had explained that while the flood in Lokoja was responsible for the queues, petrol was being moved to Abuja through Ogoja and Benue route from the Calabar port.

According to him, “The flood in Lokoja has put a lot of pressure on Abuja. Ordinarily, Abuja requires 70 trucks to ensure the city is wet. But in the last few weeks, this has been very difficult. We have now decided to increase the number of 180 and 200 trucks daily to supply Abuja and its environs.

“The NNPC is also discharging PMS into barges in Calabar so that trucks can take the Benue route. There are additional but we are optimistic that the new measures will ease the queues very soon”.

Speaking to Vanguard on the supply situation, the Public Relations Officer of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, Chief Chinedu Ukadike said it was impossible for marketers to increase trucking to Abuja because the coastal depots were dry.

Chief Ukadike explained that marketers who ordered and paid for the products at NNPC depots were yet to receive July allocations.

He said: “There is slack in the distribution chain. These vessels that are supposed to beef up NNPC’s sufficiency period are not coming in because of dollar constraints. Marketers that have paid NNPC since June and July have not received their cargoes from the mother vessels. They are all lining up.

“So if there is a queue for June, July, August and September then you know there is a big challenge. They have just started giving to those who paid in July because of some of the mother vessels that came in. Most of the private depots do not have products and the few that have, have also increased the ex-depot price”.

He disclosed that marketers are currently compelled to purchase the product at N185 per litre from N170/litre it cost two months ago increasing the possible pump price by almost N20/litre.

He noted that Port Harcourt has only 12 million litres, saying it was impossible for the local marketers to move extra trucks to Abuja and other northern states due to the huge cost of transportation.

“They are saying marketers should load to Abuja but the marketers are resisting it because their tickets have not been met. In Calabar and Warri, the situation is the same as there is no sufficient product. What is happening in Lagos should indicate to you the true situation of things.

“If Lagos does not have the product, how do you expect Abuja to have supply, ” he queried.

Chief Ukadike also blamed the rising cost of dollars for the problem, saying most of the charges the marketers face are denominated in the American currency.

“The higher the cost of dollars, the higher the cost of petrol and the solution is to refine locally and have the product piped to Abuja and other northern states”, he added.