NNPCL, Marketers Disagree over Queues at Fuel Stations

*Supplies dry up as NNPCL rations fuel to depot owners, marketers allege

*NNPCL allays fears, insists it has addressed cause of scarcity

As long queues appear in fuel stations in Abuja and Lagos, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) and oil marketers have disagreed over the cause of the fuel scarcity.

NNPCL had Thursday acknowledged the fuel queues in some states of the federation, but assured that things would soon return to normal. Marketers are however insisting that supply is drying up as NNPCl rations fuel to depot owners

In a brief statement on its X/Twitter page, the national oil company stated that the root cause had been addressed, even though it failed to list the challenges it was facing.

In recent days, fuel scarcity had resurfaced across Nigeria as many oil marketers shut their outlets against motorists, citing unfavourable market conditions.

Although the problem was mostly around Abuja and environs in recent weeks, however, it got to Lagos in the last few days, causing long queues and traffic jams in Nigeria’s commercial centre.

But in the statement released by the retail arm of NNPC, it urged motorists to desist from panic-buying, noting that it has enough product in stock.

A number of privately-owned filling stations had also used the opportunity of the scarcity to raise fuel prices from about N615 to N625 in the Abuja axis, even though the NNPCL reduced its own price to N612.

“NNPC Retail Limited notes the appearance of fuel queues in some parts of Lagos and a few other locations around the country. This is due to reduced depot load-out in Apapa, Lagos over a few days, and the root cause has since been addressed.

“We assure all Nigerians that there is ample supply with sufficiency of at least 30 days. Motorists are advised to desist from panic buying as distribution will normalise over the next couple of days,” the NNPCL statement said.

Oil marketers who were recently licensed by the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA), over 90 of them, had also complained of lack of access to foreign exchange to import products.

Industry players fear that the noticeable emerging queues in many fuel stations may soon spread throughout the country and may become even more intense as oil marketers can no longer replenish their fast depleting stocks. 

NNPC Limited, now the sole importer of petrol, sources revealed, has drastically reduced fuel supply to Depot owners, thereby leaving independent marketers who rely on the Depot owners for their supplies stranded.

According to highly reliable downstream industry sources, NNPCL, for reasons that are not yet clear, has now adopted a policy of supplying product to only depot owners with at least 50 fuel stations.

Although weeks back, NNPC Group Chief Executive Officer, Mele Kyari, assured that there was no need to panic as there was enough stock, in excess of 1bn litres, industry players are today troubled by the fact that NNPCL now focuses its full attention on supplying  products to only its retail outlets.

There are fears that most retail stations in the country may run out of fuel supply in the days ahead as only about 60 per cent of the Depot owners have up to 50 retail stations, which is claimed to be the NNPC new criterion for being eligible to be supplied product. 

Said a source: “What we face now is an imminent collapse of the sector and a return to an era of acute fuel shortage with the attendant disruption to socio-economic life.

“With Depot owners not able to import product owing to shortage of dollar and now NNPC  which earlier claimed to have enough stock not supplying to most marketers, you can imagine what the supply situation will be in the days ahead.”

Hardest hit by this latest development are the independent oil marketers who have filling stations scattered all over the country, but rely on Depot owners for their supplies.

“If the independent marketer with two or three stations in some strategic remote areas of the country cannot get supply and the big players can also not receive supplies from NNPC and with NNPC not having enough retail outlets to meet the fuel needs of Nigerians, it is obvious that we are returning to the era of serious fuel crisis”, the source added.

“If indeed there is enough stock as NNPCL claimed weeks back, and realising that the Depot owners are now handicapped and unable to import because of the challenges of forex, what then will inform its decision to be rationing fuel at this critical point in time? NNPCL needs to come clean on this serious issue,” an oil marketers executive noted. 

From all indications, the federal government will have to move fast by either fast tracking its strategies of easing the forex crunch to enable Depot owners resume fuel importation or compel NNPC to flood the market with the product, or both.

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