Despite assurances given by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC against any impending fuel crisis, most filling stations, particularly in the South-west part of the country, are still without the product.
But, petrol stations in Abuja and environs are having normal operations, while stations in other parts of the country are having mixed experiences, as government regulatory agencies scramble to resolve the current crisis with fuel marketers before the expiration of Monday deadline.
Most of the filling stations in Lagos and environs have not been attending to motorists who remained on Tuesday in long queues for hours.
NNPC spokesperson, Ndu Ughamadu, told PREMIUM TIMES that the queues at some filling stations were as a result of panic buying by consumers.
He said the corporation not only has adequate stock of fuel in its depots across the country, also supplied the marketers enough to meet consumers' demand throughout the Yuletide season and beyond.
"The fuel queues witnessed in some parts of the country is due to panic buying by motorists. We have assured the people that the NNPC has sufficient stock of petroleum products to last throughout the coming festive season and beyond.
"Besides, before the GMD (Group Managing Director) traveled out of the country last week, he ordered that more cargoes be supplied to both Lagos and Abuja areas. On his return, he repeated the directive, to ensure that the situation is brought under control as soon as possible," Mr. Ughamadu said.
Regardless, our reporters in Lagos and environs said the situation worsened since Monday following the declaration by the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, at the weekend about plans to withdraw services come Monday, December 11, 2017.
Our reporters observed that none of the three filling stations visited in Ikeja, namely Total, Conoil and NNPC Mega station along Kudirat Abiola Way, was dispensing fuel to the public.
At Total and Conoil stations, service attendants, who said they had no stock of products to sell to their customers, blamed the situation on the activities of fuel hoarders.
However, outside the NNPC station, there was a long queue of motorists, with only few cars being attended to inside, despite claims by its officials that they were out of stock.
"I hope this situation does not get out of hand in the days ahead," a tricycle operator on the queue, who identified himself simply as Sylvester lamented. "The government should sort out whatever issue there is with the marketers to make fuel available."
On the mainland and island parts of Lagos, several filling stations remained shut, with the impact already reflecting on the transport fares in the area.
Our correspondent, who moved around Abule-Egba axis reports that many independent marketers' retail outlets were shut for business.
In Falomo area of Ikoyi, although the NNPC filling station was opened for business, there was a long queue of vehicles waiting to be served.
Some of those who spoke with our correspondent said many other stations in the area had either hiked their prices, or refused to open their facilities to the public.
"They are still selling at N143 per litre at NNPC," a commercial bus driver, who identified himself simply as "Super", told our reporter.
"Others have already raised the price to N150 per litre, while others are not even selling," another resident who declined to disclose his name said.
At Obalende, officials of the NNPC fuel depot, declined to talk with our correspondent on the situation.
The situation in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom state capital and environs, was chaotic, as most filling stations have since raised the fuel pump price to N150 per litre, against the usual N145.
At Petrosen, an independent marketer's filling station, along Oron Road, a notice to customers said the increase was due to alleged hike in the ex-depot price of fuel to marketers at the Port Harcourt products storage facility.
A salesman at the filling station informed PREMIUM TIMES that the new rate came into effect five days ago.
However, another filling station belonging to one of the major marketers in the city, was still selling to customers at N145, with minimal queues outside, while the NNPC mega station around Itam flyover was selling fuel at N143 per litre.
In Port Harcourt, a petrol dealer told PREMIUM TIMES that there was scarcity at the NNPC fuel depot in Eleme.
"But you can easily see people trading on black market around the depot, especially those lifting products to Akwa Ibom State," the dealer said. "They buy it at about N148 in the black market."
Petrol is currently selling at N145 at filling stations around Port Harcourt, while at the outskirts of the city, it is slightly higher, at N146 per litre.
Meanwhile, in Ogun State, most filling stations visited in Abeokuta and environs, including the NNPC mega station, were selling fuel to customers normally.
In Ondo and Osun states, our reporter said there was panic in Akure, as a result of poor fuel supply to fuel stations in the area.
Long queues of motorists were found outside Mobil filling stations at Fiwayase Junction; Conoil and Oando along Ondo Road.
At Oda Road, nearly all the stations, which sold fuel on Monday, had shut down by Tuesday afternoon when our reporter visited.
An official at Sieve Petrol said service would restart, after they received a tanker of fresh products the station was expecting at 6 p.m.
"We don't know what is causing the problem," the official who gave his name as Kunle, said. "It is only in Akure we have this problem. We learnt there is fuel in other places," he said.
In Osogbo, PREMIUM TIMES learnt there was rush by residents to stock fuel following reports of imminent scarcity of the product, although a number of filling stations were still selling.
Bovas Petrol, a popular filling station in the city centre, was shut, giving credence to the theory of an imminent fuel scarcity in the area.
In Ekiti State, there were no signs of scarcity, as most filling stations along Adebayo Road and other places in Ado Ekiti were operating normally.
In Abuja, most filling stations were operating normally, with no signs of fuel scarcity.
At Conoil filling station, along Nnamdi Azikiwe Express Way, Area 1, only few vehicles were waiting to be served.
Other filling stations along Olusegun Obasanjo way, namely Oando, Forte Oil, and Advance Link were also selling fuel with little or no queues.
The situation outside the NNPC Mega Filling station along Olusegun Obasanjo way, Central Business District, was different, with a lengthy queue of motorists stretching about 300 metres long.
One of the motorists on the queue, who said he came all the way from Kubwa to buy fuel, said the queue began building up since last Saturday apparently following reports of an impending nationwide strike by marketers.
"The situation has been bad since Saturday. I could not get fuel to buy from the filling stations in my area, except from the black marketers", he said.
The NNPC station along Kubwa Expressway and the one by Gwarimpa gates had long queues, while NIPCO and Conoil filling stations along Airport expressway were closed for business at about 7 p.m.
Only those already inside the station were being attended to, contrary to their usually practice on other days where customers would be attended to till 9 p.m.
Independent marketers' ultimatum
The confusion about the return of fuel scarcity became rife at the weekend, forcing the NNPC to issue a statement on Monday to douse tension, and reassure Nigerians that government had no plans to adjust neither retail nor wholesale price of petroleum products in the country.
The ex-depot price is paid marketers before lifting products at the depot, while pump price is the retail price by consumers per litre of the fuel at the filling stations.
Last week, the IPMAN in Lagos State threatened to withdraw its services from next Monday, December 11, 2017 over alleged breach of agreement by the NNPC over prices.
IPMAN Chairman, Alanamu Balogun, had accused the NNPC of defaulting in the bulk purchase agreement they reached to sell fuel to them at N133.28 per litre.
He said, in the last eight months, IPMAN members had been running their filling stations at a loss due to the refusal of the NNPC to honour the agreement.
Mr. Balogun said products were being sold at ex-depot price of N141 per litre to IPMAN members by Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association, DAPMAN, in addition to the normal running costs, bank charges and other operational expenses.
The development, he pointed out, had made it practically impossible for IPMAN members to dispense fuel at the N145 per litre approved retail price.
He said the only way to break even was for its members to sell fuel at N146 per litre, because of NNPC's alleged "diversion of IPMAN supplies to DAPMAN at about N117 per litre, while DAPMAN in turn have been selling to IPMAN members at N141 per litre."
Consequently, the marketers threatened to withdraw their services throughout Lagos and environs if the NNPC refused to honour its agreement with them.
The bulk of petroleum products distributed in Nigeria is consumed in the Lagos area and environs.
Meanwhile, Mr. Ughamadu said the issue has nothing to do with the NNPC.
He noted that the corporation sells products to marketers according to the prices arrived at by the two industry regulatory agencies, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, and Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR.
He said the two agencies have waded into the issue with the marketers, to pave the way for uninterrupted fuel supply in the country, particularly at the coming Christmas season.
"The ex-depot petrol price of N133.38 per litre and the pump price of N143/N145 per litre have not changed," Mr. Ughamadu said.
While he said the corporation has enough stock of petroleum products to guarantee uninterrupted supply and distribution of products across the country, the NNPC spokesperson reiterated the call on consumers to avoid panic buying and hoarding.