Why fuel scarcity persists in Abuja — Marketers

Petrol queues have refused to disappear in the federal capital and officials have given different reasons for the problem.

Fuel scarcity has persisted in Nigeria’s capital Abuja as a result of the high cost of transporting the product from the ports, marketers have told PREMIUM TIMES.

The transport cost rose following an increase in the price of diesel, a product that is not covered by government subsidies.

Although the crisis in Abuja began in 2021 after the government announced plans to remove fuel subsidy, a major shortage hit major cities including Lagos in February, causing queues at filling stations and leaving millions unable to power their cars and generators they rely on for electricity.

The government said the discovery of high amounts of methanol in imported fuel caused the shortage as authorities tried to replace the off-spec product across the country. The crisis lingered for months despite the federal government saying it had sufficient stock of petroleum products for distribution.

When the queues reappeared in May, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited said it was due to low loadouts at depots, which usually happen during long public holidays.

The scarcity has continued in Abuja nonetheless and black market sales have thrived with hawkers lining busy roads with jerry cans filled with petrol. While filling stations sell a litre for N165, the so-called black market vendors sell between N300 and N400.

The NNPC has not explained what is behind the continued shortages. A spokesperson did not respond to calls and a text message seeking clarifications. But the president of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, or IPMAN, Chinedu Okoronkwo, told PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday that the problem was caused by the high cost of diesel, used by petrol tankers.

“The huge amount spent on running the diesel trucks to transport fuel to Abuja is the reason for the ongoing fuel queue,” he said. “Well, you will agree that currently there is no fuel queue in areas like Lagos and Port Harcourt where the proximity of getting the products are not far.

You see there is no scarcity in those areas. The issue is diesel, the truck used in bringing it, the cost is very high now. The current N165 per litre pump price for petrol cannot fit into the present realities without the pricing template being reviewed.

“And I think that is why NNPC is doing everything now to see how they can cushion the effect,” Mr Okoronkwo said.

He said the authorities were trying to resolve the problem.

“Hope you know that the product has been deregulated since?. For petroleum, it’s available but the resultant effect of the cost of all these products which have impacted negatively on the issue of diesel, that’s the problem but never to worry because they are doing something to ameliorate. Very soon all those things will be over,” he said.

An official at one of the NNPC outlets in the Central Business District along Wuse Road, gave the same reason.

“The major problem for this scarcity on and off Abuja is because all the trucks that transport the fuel use diesel and the price of the diesel has gone up,” the official, who refused to give his name, said.

He said the amount paid to transporters had not increased.

Because if they reduce the price of the diesel most of the trucks that stop transporting the product will resume,” he said.

“When the diesel is N180 – N300 they are given it to them at the rate of N150 per litre to bring the product down to Abuja but now, diesel is N700 – N750 and the same diesel they are consuming when is N300 is the same they consume now N750.

“If they can reduce the price of diesel the product will be available or they should increase the price of fuel.

“When they increase the price of the fuel they increase the margin of the transport that is the only solution,” he said.

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