Nigeria is on the verge of total shutdown due to worsening scarcity of petroleum products across the country.
The scarcity, a result of strikes by Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) and National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), has intensified in the last two weeks as black market prices across the country have skyrocketed past the Federal Government-approved N87 per litre price.
Many petrol stations have now run out of both petrol and diesel, both for vehicles and the generators on which most people and businesses rely because of the woeful public electricity supply.
Transport prices have doubled, flights are being cancelled daily, vital services are shutting down and there seems to be no end in sight to the predicament.
Nigerians are now forced to queue at petrol stations for hours on end to buy fuel at three times the normal pump price for a litre. The few ones that had petrol in stock were capitalising on the scarcity to make excessive profits at the expense of consumers.
Black market prices for fuel have now risen to between 500-1000 per litre.
Hallmark learnt that while a litre of petrol goes for 500 in Ikoyi and environs in filling stations, while black market prices goes as high as N800.
In Isheri, a Lagos suburb, 30 litres goes for between N14, 000 and N18,000.
The unending fuel scarcity in the country has consequently led to increase in transport fares as commercial bus drivers have capitalised on the situation to exploit several commuters some of whom were stranded at several bus stops in Lagos, yesterday.
A trip from Ijaiye Bus Stop to Iyana Ipaja, which used to cost N100 now goes for N250 while it is now N350 to board a bus from the area to Oshodi as against the ususal N200. The situation was noticed in other areas, where the fares have been increased by N50 or N100.
Some commercial drivers while defending the increase, lamented that they found it difficult to get fuel and as such resort to black market and that many filling stations even sell the products far above the normal price of N87 per litre.
Many passengers who could not afford the exorbitant fares charged by commercial bus drivers, trekked to their destinations after waiting endlessly at the bus stops.
A production staff of Hallmark, Mr. Mike Arijeniwa, trekked from Berger Bus Stop on the Lagos Ibadan Expressway to Fagbems Bus Stop after waiting endlessly for buses.
“After waiting for over 30 minutes at the bus stop, a bus finally stopped and demanded N350 for a trip to Fagbems which normally goes for N50. When I challenged the driver, he said that he was going to Mowe in Ogun State, and insisted on collecting N350 even if I would be alighting at the next bus stop.
“I thought he was joking. But after waiting for another 20 minutes without even seeing another bus to convey me at that fee, I had to trek to Fagbems from where I took a bike to my office for N100, instead of the normal N50 fee”, he said.
In Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, the persistent fuel scarcity has continued to take its toll on the residents.
Over 95% of the filling stations in the metropolis had no supply of fuel yesterday, while there were long queues where the product was available.
There were fewer vehicles on the road with many residents coming back from church were stranded at bus stops across the state capital, leaving the people desperate and frustrated.
Scarcity of petrol has also hit Benin and major cities in Edo State as motorists have continued to experience difficulties in purchasing the product.
Investigations yesterday in Benin indicated that many of the filling stations within the metropolis were out of service.
While some of the attendants claimed to have exhausted their stock, others said that they were awaiting instructions on the price to sell to consumers.
In few filing stations where the product was sold, motorists were made to part with as much as N300 to N350 per litre, as against the official pump price of N87, a situation which has also led to an increase in the cost of transportation in the city.
One of the attendants at Total Filling Station on Akpakpava Road, said that the uncertainty about distribution of the products by oil marketers was partly responsible for scarcity.
“We cannot sell to anyone because there is no petrol. Fuel is like gold now. Maybe the situation it will improve soon. But for now, no petrol,” he said.
As the scarcity lingered, black marketers cashed in on the development, with most of them selling 10 litres of petrol for N3, 000 to N3, 500, depending on the bargaining power of the buyer.
Some motorists bemoaned the situation and called for urgent intervention by the federal government.
The situation is the same all over the country, with Nigerians groaning while businesses are daily shutting down
Last Friday, the Ministry of Power said electricity production was at an all-time low of 1,327 megawatts, due to gas shortage.
The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry had last week warned that the crisis could force firms to lay off staff.