Indications have emerged that the current fuel scarcity across the country will not come to an end soon, following the Federal Government's N151 billion indebtedness to oil marketers.
While the Independent Petroleum Marketers' Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, said that the Federal Government still owes oil marketers N151 billion outstanding fuel subsidy claims, the executive secretary of the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency, PPRA, Mr. Ahmed Faruk, who did not specify the amount owed, admitted that the non-payment to marketers is partly responsible for the fuel crisis being experienced in some parts of the country.
Faruk, however, said that over nine vessels were discharging about 200 million litres of premium motor spirit, PMS, otherwise known as petrol, across the country.
He said: "From our report, we have over nine vessels currently engaged in discharging products in various depots across the country. From Calabar to Oghara, we have Lister Depot; it is supposed to be discharging for Oando.
"We have Atlas Cove vessels discharging for Pipeline and Products Marketing Company, PPMC. We have vessels discharging in Apapa. All in all we have over 200 million litres being discharged by various vessels.
'No need to panic'
"There is no need for any panic because we have the product. And I can advise the general public just to calm down and go about their normal businesses; not to panic as the product is available."
Reacting to the money being owed to marketers, Faruk explained, "Before then, some of the marketers were finding it difficult to secure credit lines to open letters of credit to bring their impor-tation. But I understand that payments were being made."
Also, Faruk said that rumours of alleged moves by the Federal Government to increase the pump price of PMS led to the scarcity of fuel as some marketers began to hoard the product.
However, IPMAN said that sequel to the last fuel scarcity experienced nationwide, government made frantic efforts and released N41 billion for part-payment of what it owed marketers to enable them continue product supply.
According to IPMAN, before then government had not paid marketers since September 2013.
Notwithstanding the position of PPPRA, scarcity of fuel is being experienced in various parts of the country except Lagos.
Though the long queues witnessed at filling stations in the thick of the fuel crisis some weeks ago are no longer there, fuel prices have hovered between N120 and N140 in different parts of the country.
In Aba, the Abia State commercial nerve centre, residents have been buying a litre of fuel for between N120 and N125 in the last nine months.
Kalu Ogbuka, a resident, told Vanguard that though he has been buying above the official price, his concern has been the availability of the product.
He said: "Aba is a commercial city and people do not want to be distracted from their businesses due to lack of fuel. In some filling stations, you can buy at N120, while some sell at N125.
"In the last nine months, we have become used to the situation that people hardly complain."
The story is similar in Owerri, the Imo State capital, where the residents have had to contend with the exorbitant price of between N115 and N125.
According to Angus Ike, a civil servant, residents of the state have resigned themselves to fate as the only places fuel is sold at the official price are the few NNPC stations in Owerri, which are not enough.
In Abuja, the nation's capital, Vanguard learnt that outside the major filling stations, fuel is sold for between N100 and N110, while roadside vendors have been making brisk businesses selling 10 litres of fuel are sold between N1,500 and N2,000.
The Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, attributed the situation in Abuja to pressure from motorists in the neighbouring states.
According to the Abuja Zonal Controller of DPR, Mr. Aliyu Halidu, most motorists in the neighbouring states come to Abuja to buy fuel because of the availability of the product.
He said: "The supply to Abuja fluctuates between 80 and 120 trucks per day. Why we have queues, even if we have 120 trucks in Abuja, is because the environs are not being served and they are dried.
"If anybody comes to Abuja, the tendency is for the person to fuel his car before going back. Those coming from Niger, Nasarawa and Kogi congregate here to take fuel.
"There are commercial vehicles that come with dry tank and they fill their tanks here before they go back."
The Zonal Controller explained that DPR also tried to make sure that stations sold with maximum number of pumps, in addition to ensuring that the product is sold at the official pump price.