Fear of petrol scarcity loomed at the weekend as most of the six major oil-marketing companies and NIPCO Plc have exhausted their stock of the product.
THISDAY learnt that the shortage has led to an increase in the depot price of petrol.
Investigations revealed that some depot owners have capitalised on the tight supply situation to sell at ex-depot price of between N93 and N100, as against the official price of N89 per litre.
However, sources said while the pump price of petrol would still be maintained at N97 per litre in Lagos and its environs, the marketers could capitalise on the increase in depot price to jack up the price in the hinterland where there is less supervision from regulatory agencies' officials.
The drop in fuel supply, it was learnt, was worsened by the refusal of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to allow fuel cargo imported by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to discharge its products for the marketers at Apapa Port, since last Tuesday over unresolved financial issues.
Deputy Director and spokesperson of the DPR, Mrs. Belema Osibodu, however, told THISDAY that the vessel was allowed to discharge yesterday after all the relevant documents requested by the agency were presented.
"They had issues with the bill of lading, regarding the mother vessel but the issues have been resolved. The product is of good quality and they have been allowed to discharge," she said.
A spokesperson of the NNPC, Dr. Omar Farouk Ibrahim, told THISDAY that the vessel was prevented from discharging because it had "a financial lien."
"It has nothing to do with the quality of the product. It is essentially a financial matter. It was supposed to make some payment and I believe they are going to pay or they must have paid by now," he said.
Sources within the six companies that constitute the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) and NIPCO Plc, whose depots are located in Apapa, Lagos, told THISDAY that the seven companies had a two-day stock level as at last Wednesday, which was largely exhausted by Friday.
THISDAY gathered that Conoil, for instance, had 159 metric tonnes of petrol as at Wednesday; while Forte Oil had 5,486 metric tonnes.
The stock levels of other five companies as at last Wednesday included, MRS Oil and Gas, 1,276 metric tonnes; Mobil Oil Nigeria Plc, 743 metric tonnes; NIPCO Plc, 3,100 metric tonnes; Oando Plc, 1,000 metric tonnes; and Total Nigeria Plc, 2,000 metric tonnes.
This product, which amounted to 13,764 metric tonnes or 18,237,600 litres, represented only two-day load out, as Apapa accounts for 60 per cent of the country's fuel supply.
It was learnt that the six major marketers and NIPCO have stopped importation of products due to the accumulated unpaid subsidy claims and interest charges on loans.
The marketers rely on the NNPC, which has been rationing its imported products to the marketers, to keep their supply chain active.
The marketers' woes worsened last week after the NNPC vessel was prevented from discharging products at the Apapa Jetty.
One of the marketers, who spoke to THISDAY, blamed their inability to import products on the delay in the payment of their subsidy claims and the interest charges on loans by the banks.
"When you owe N200 billion and you have only been able to pay out less than N50 billion, it is not enough. Our position is that those with major infractions in the Aig-Imoukhuede report should be isolated, while others should be paid immediately. But the payment has been too slow and even the money being paid goes straight to our bankers because a huge amount of interest has accumulated," he said.