Many filling stations in Abuja, Lagos, and other cities did not open for business.
Nigerians were at the weekend thrown into confusion as fuel scarcity hit Lagos, Abuja, and many other cities across the country.
PREMIUM TIMES' reporters who monitored the situation observed that residents besieged fuel stations in Nigeria's commercial nerve centre, Lagos, in anticipation of yet another season of fuel scarcity.
The situation was not different in Abuja, the nation's seat of power, as motorists were seen scrambling to fill their tanks, amid long queues formed across the city centre.
The anxiety over scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), also known as petrol, is coming in the wake of assurance given by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) that there would be no increase in the pump price of petrol in February.
On Sunday, PREMIUM TIMES' found that a number of petrol stations in Ojodu and Ikeja areas were under lock and key. At Ojodu-Berger area, the NNPC retail outlet was shut against motorists Sunday afternoon.
However, motorists besieged the few other petrol stations that were open for business around the area.
At Omole Estate Gate, a privately owned petrol station sold fuel for N162, but there was a long queue at the entrance of the petrol station when PREMIUM TIMES' reporter visited the area.
A random survey of petrol stations within the Ojodu-Ikeja axis showed that the prices ranged between N162 and N165 Sunday afternoon.
"The price is not high but most of them are not even selling," said Banji Kazeem, a commercial bus driver.
"In Agege, many of them have shut down and they claim they do not have fuel."
Another motorist who identified himself simply as Chidi said he bought fuel for N170 in Yaba area of Lagos Sunday evening, adding that he would transfer the costs to passengers.
In Abuja, there were queues at major fuel stations visited across the city.
On Sunday, a long queue of both motorists and motorcyclists was observed at the NNPC filling station along Airport Road, Lugbe, Abuja. While a litre of petrol was sold at N162, the fuel station attendants refused to sell to individuals with gallons.
An attendant who identified himself as Mudassir said they have been experiencing long queues at their station since last week. This, he said, was caused by a short supply of petroleum products.
"Only one truck was able to deliver to us, (and) before you know it, fuel will finish now (sic)," he said.
"This is what we have been facing since last week. That's why most of the stands that are supposed to be dispensing are not able to do so. There's no fuel."
In other parts of the city, motorists were seen navigating their ways in the middle of queues in order to access the dispensing points for fuel.
Mr Yusuf, a fuel station supervisor, said he is surprised with the large crowd queuing up for fuel. He said he does not know what is happening, but that they have observed that other fuel stations around are under lock and key.
"All our dispensing units are working, but we're about to close now, I don't know what we will do," he said in the middle of the melee.
PREMIUM TIMES also noticed that the Conoil filling station located beside the NNPC fuel station in Lugbe did not open for business.
At about some minutes past eight Sunday night, one of the NNPC outlets visited in Lugbe stopped dispensing to customers, but some of the motorists refused to leave the petrol station.
"I'll wait until these guys close everywhere in this station today, only God knows what is happening," a taxi driver who declined to have his name in print murmured in frustration.
Meanwhile, PREMIUM TIMES gathered that the Total fuel station at Berger sold PMS to motorists at N162 Sunday evening, while the Oando outlet at Wuse Zone 4 and A.A Rano at Nyanya were also open to customers. But the Total fuel station in Wuse 2 was under lock and keys.
Along the Dutse-Bwari expressway, petrol stations like AYM Shafa and Mobil fuel station were also locked against motorists Sunday evening.
In Sango, Ogun State, the situation was no different as many petrol stations were locked against motorists.
A fuel attendant told PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone interview that there was no supply of fuel to their petrol station. "We don't have fuel, that's why we are not selling," she said.
In Nasarawa state, there were queues in major petrol stations as motorists struggled to fill their tanks in preparation for work on Monday.
A motorist told a PREMIUM TIMES' reporter that although there are queues, he would get fuel at Keffi.
In the Total Garden area of Ibadan, the Oyo state capital, fuel stations were largely open to motorists at the weekend, and petrol sold for N162. A commercial bus driver told this newspaper, however, that there is palpable fear Sunday night that there may be scarcity on Monday.
"We don't know what's going but we are hearing of queues everywhere," he said. "The panic buying may result in scarcity in Ibadan tomorrow."
In a separate interview with PREMIUM TIMES, similar concerns were raised by another resident of Ilorin, the Kwara state capital.
The immediate cause of the looming scarcity remains unclear as of press time Monday morning. Efforts to speak to the spokesperson of the NNPC Sunday night proved abortive.
But the new development comes against the background of an earlier move by petrol marketers to disrupt loading of petroleum products at private depots in Lagos and other parts of the country, in protest against a new payment method.
Earlier in the month, some marketers had disrupted Apapa, Ibadan, Ejigbo and Mosimi depots belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
Speaking to PUNCH newspaper about the development at the time, Shina Amoo, the Chairman of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Ore Depot, explained that with the new arrangement, major marketers and very few independent marketers with huge funds could pay for 200 trucks and load them while those who had paid for one or two trucks would be on queue for many months unattended to.
Mr Amoo said the new payment method was introduced by the PPMC, and had prevented independent marketers from loading petroleum products from depots.
There are also concerns that the scarcity may not be unconnected to the expected rise in the ex-depot price of petrol, due to the increase recorded in the price of crude oil in the international market in recent weeks.
The ex-depot price is the price at which depot owners buy the product from the NNPC which is virtually the sole importer of petrol into the country. It is fixed by the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of the NNPC.
Meanwhile, the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) on Sunday advised Nigerians to stop panic buying and stocking of petrol.
Suleiman Yakubu, the National Public Relations Officer of IPMAN, decried the panic purchases and long queues witnessed in various filling stations across the nation's federal capital on Sunday.
Mr Yakubu however said that normal supply of petrol would soon be restored since loading had commenced at various depots.
"We want to assure the buyers that government and marketers are doing everything possible to ensure that the products are available in every filling station within a few days starting from today," the IPMAN spokesman said on Sunday.