16 July 2011

Nigeria: Kerosene - Going, Going, Gone!

After months of acute kerosene scarcity and black market racketeering, the situation seems to have no end in sight. Weekly Trust check within the week reveals that Nigerians, particularly in the FCT are still groaning over the near absence of the commodity.

Issues of diversion, hoarding and poor distribution network have been linked to the current scarcity and hike in price of kerosene. However, authorities in charge seem to be aware of all the factors linked to the scarcity but it still persists.

Series of blames and counter blames on the scarcity have been flying in the camps of the marketers as well as dealers. From their end, the Independent Petroleum Marketers' Association of Nigeria blamed the scarcity on distribution hitches but said that it was determined to correct them.

According to some retailers of the product, the Independent marketers have larger number of retail outlets than the major marketers, who only operate in the cities; hence the (Independent marketers) should be supplied sufficient products to be able to reach the public.

Simon Ikada, an oil and gas dealer said the situation would have been better if attention was given to proper supply to the right channel. He said that the government ought to include all stakeholders in its distribution chain if it wanted better results.

He categorically said the Independent marketers should have been given more of the product because they have better capacity to reach the ordinary folks. "They are spread everywhere, even in the villages, you find Independent marketers' stations."

Meanwhile, as the debate takes center stage with little or no solution in sight, Nigerians are facing more hardship accessing the product more than it was a few weeks/months ago.

Mercy Bulus, a housewife who uses kerosene said she had given up on accessing the product since a forth night ago. She claimed that since she spent the night at a filling station which caused her a serious ailment and also a serious squabble with her husband, she had given up on accessing the product.

"My husband advised me to seek an alternative to kerosene but I kept insisting that the product would be made available, especially after the president promised but the whole thing seems irredeemable. I thought after the promise by government some weeks ago, the situation would be brought under control but it seems nothing is happening positively. Now, we have bought a minicamp gas cooker and have bought a gas cylinder. We'll try it and see which one is more economical."

On his part, the National Secretary, IPMAN, Mr. Mike Osatuyi, said that bottlenecks were responsible for the slow pace of distribution of the product.

He said that finding a permanent solution to the lingering scarcity of kerosene would take some time because demand had exceeded supply.

Osatuyi said that the current scarcity was caused by the 'long dry period' in all the retail outlets.

"To flood the market with kerosene is a gradual process. But I assure you that once the NNPC intensifies supply to the marketers, it will meet the needs of the people," he said.

Consequent upon the scarcity, a large quantity of adulterated kerosene has found its way into the market.

However, considering the fact that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation is in charge of the product, almost all of the Corporation's filling stations visited hadn't the product available for people to purchase.

A worker at one of the stations who did not want to be named said just like the other regular stations are not getting regular supplies, the NNPC mega stations are also in the same crisis.

"Sincerely, I don't really know what is happening. But I believe the product would be available if the NNPC pumps and supplies all categories of marketers and stakeholders with other functional mechanisms to check the issue of diversion and sabotage amongst others."

It could be recalled that kerosene scarcity has rocked the nation for some months now and even before the recent near outright scarcity; the product was hardly found across the nation's filling stations.

A litre of kerosene which sold for about N70 last year now costs about N180.

Due to scarcity of kerosene fuel as well as the hike in the price of the commodity, prices of foodstuff have shot up. Business activities are groaning under the burden of the scarcity.

Being one of the major cooking fuels, when kerosene is scarce, people resort to felling down trees for firewood. This, in turn, aggravates deforestation and environmental despoliation.

But even in the face of these hardships and expectant consequences, the government is slow in rising to the occasion.

However, Nigerians are tired of such excuses and demand to see adequate kerosene at filling stations by whatever means or strategy the government intends to adopt.

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