METRO

Subsidy Removal: Marketers Halt Fuel Imports, Stations Run Dry, Queues Return

Seven oil marketers, who imported Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, about a month ago, have stopped bringing in the commodity into the market, leading to pockets of scarcity in some parts of the country.

It was gathered on Friday that the only importer of PMS at the moment was the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, as many depots and filling stations now lack petrol, leading to queues in outlets that dispensed fuel.

The last private dealer, Petrocam, that imported petrol into Nigeria recently, cannot sell it due to the return of subsidy on the product and the insistence of the NNPCL not to raise the pump price.

Oil marketers told our correspondent that before last month, whenever they brought in the product, they would convince the NNPCL to raise the price in line with the landing cost.

This was due to the fact that President Bola Tinubu had announced the stoppage of subsidy payment on petrol. The cost of the commodity was raised twice to reflect the real pump price, as marketers resumed its importation at the time.

But following the harsh economic realities in the country and threats by labour unions to ground the economy should petrol price increase again, the government, through NNPCL, stopped raising the cost of the product.

This made the marketers to halt its importation, leaving only the NNPCL to continue importing it.

But the marketers explained that the NNPCL currently had so many retail outlets and was struggling to meet their demands, not to talk of supplying to third parties.

“The depots are dried up. That’s a statement of fact. For more than a month now, no other importer has brought in product except the NNPC,” a marketer, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to lack of authorisation, stated.

The National President, Natural Oil and Gas Suppliers Association of Nigeria, Benneth Korie, had earlier confirmed that a lot of depots were presently out of stock.

When asked if other marketers were actually bringing in the product alongside the NNPCL, the source (not Korie) replied, “Of course, yes. Emadeb started it.

“Nipco brought in products. About six to seven marketers brought in products. Petrocam also brought products. So, it wasn’t only NNPC.”

On whether marketers were breaking even considering the fact that subsidy had been reintroduced on petrol, the dealer said, “We were not breaking even. Rather, what the NNPC was doing was that they were able to help in price adjustments. First of all, when the situation started, each time marketers brought in products, they influenced the NNPC to change its price, and the moment NNPC changed its price, other marketers would follow.

“But for over a month now, I don’t think marketers have been able to influence the NNPC to change its price. So, that is why you hear that the landing cost currently is about N720/litre, but the NNPC is still selling at between N580 and N617, depending on your location.” The source explained that the current price of petrol had been sustained because the government was subsidising the commodity.

“It (government) has said the price should not be more than that amount. So, for over a month now, no marketer has brought in the product due to the reintroduction of subsidy,” the source stated.

On whether NNPC has enough products to keep the country wet, since marketers have stopped PMS imports, the source replied, “The NNPC also has its challenges too. The NNPC you have now is different from the one before. If it was before, even if they bring in 10 million litres, they can give close to seven million litres to other marketers and utilise the rest.

“But now, even some of their retail outlets don’t have products because they are so many now. So, you cannot bring in products, you can’t be supplying third parties.”

When told that a continuation of the current situation could lead to the return of massive queues in a few weeks, the marketer said, “In Lagos, we already have queues. I was driving home (Friday evening) in Okota, the queues at the NNPC station were as long as you can imagine.

“The issue is that the President did not understand the situation before he said subsidy was gone. If he understood the sector, he wouldn’t have made that announcement.

“He should have sat down with stakeholders and he would have understood the intricacies in the sector. However, all of us are in it now.”

Asked to state the way forward, the oil marketer said, “The government cannot announce that subsidy is back, but it has to plan right now.

“Everybody knows that subsidy has been back for over a month, so it is not for the government to say it is bringing back subsidy. Rather it must look for measures.”

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