Long queues in some parts of the country almost marred Eid-el-Kabir celebration as most people commuting for the festive period groaned under scarcity of fuel and exorbitant fares while others lamented high cost of rams and other food items in the market.
Saturday Vanguard visited filling stations along Ikorodu road, Oshodi-Apapa road and other parts of Lagos, as well as ram markets in the area, Thursday to examine the situation.
Most filling stations in and around the city were under lock and key with a few of them opening to skeletal services, attending to motorists on long queues stretching over two kilometres away. Most of them operated with one dispensing pump and few attendants. In some of the filling stations that opened shop to customers Thursday, a litre of petrol was sold above the recommended pump price of N97 per litre between the ranges of N110 to N120.
The few ones who sold at the recommended price raked additional N500 on every 10 litre of petrol depending on the negotiation. At the NNPC Mega filling station in Majidun, Ikorodu, queues stretched as long as two kilometers, disrupting traffic in the area. At Total filling station in Poston-Barracks area along Oshodi road, only one pump was at work and few attendants were seen dispensing fuel to motorists at the recommended price but not without some tips.
At MRS filling station at Cele-Igbe, in Ikotun area, Lagos, the situation was even worse. Motorists were made to pay as much as additional N500 to N1000 as bribe to fill vehicle tanks, while those who bought in jerry-cans were made to pay much more depending on the negotiation.
A buyer who does not want his name in print told Saturday Vanguard how he angrily left the filling station after he was asked to pay N1,500 before his 25 litre jerrycan could be filled. "I walked in there to buy fuel in my 25litre jerry-can because there was no queue.
In fact nobody was there, but I noticed they were selling fuel. The attendant said I have to pay the sum of N1,500 before my can could be filled and I asked what then was the cost of the real fuel of 25 litres if I had to pay that much as bribe? He later told me that he was sorry that there was no fuel."
Against the backdrop of the statement signed by the acting Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division of NNPC, Mr. Fidel Pepple, recently that "there is no threat of fuel scarcity," most filling stations are under lock and key and a few ones that opened to customers complained that there was no supply of the products.
The development affected movements of people who desired to transit from one point to the other for the celebration of Eid-il-Kabir.
At the popular Ojota Motor Park, Lagos, fares to most parts of the South West states and villages had gone up astronomically. A journey to Ijebu-Ode, Ibadan which usually cost about N700 and N800 respectively now cost about N2000 and N2500 respectively.
Speaking to Saturday Vanguard, some of the commuters expressed worry that they were forced to pay such exorbitant fares because of their resolve to go home for the Sallah celebration. One of them who lamented the situation to the reporter said:
"It has never been this worse. We know that usually during festive period, transporters increase the fares but this is outrageous. The fuel shortage has also adversely affected fares."
At the ram market in Owode-elede, in Ikorodu road, ram sellers bemoan the low turnout of buyers less than twenty hours to the Muslim feast of ram sacrifice. Abubakar who barely speaks English told the reporter that the minimum price for a matured ram for Ileya ranged between 40,000 to 100,000 per ram depending on the size.
He added that the high cost of ram in the market was due largely to insecurity in most parts of the north which according to him had left many herdsmen losing their rams, sheep and cows to several attacks as they had to flee for safety. He added that the bulk of ram supply comes from Borno and Niger states adding that Maiduguri had since become a no-go-area.
A Muslim, Alhaji Abdulazeez Amao, who could not buy a ram at the market noted that it was not a do-or-die affair, indicating that the sacrifice solely depends on affordability.
At the Mile 12 market, Lagos, shoppers were seen making last minute rush for sallah shopping. Some of them who spoke to the reporter grumbled over the high cost of tomatoes and vegetables including onions.
Tolulope, a housewife, said: "I thought it would be better on Thursday when people might have travelled home for Sallah. It was not any better; they sold a small basket of tomatoes at N4,500 but now they are selling it at N5,200 at the same market. I don't know what is going on in this country," she lamented.
Beside the fact that the current situation might be a prelude to what the end of the year has to offer in terms of prices of food and security, the cheer, fervour and enthusiasms of the Ileya festive period may not have fully come to life. But even when the meat is limited, the sharing remains unlimited.