Gbenro Adeoye and Okechukwu Nnodim
The scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly known as petrol, is mainly because of its hoarding and diversion by oil marketers who are pushing for an increase in the price of the commodity, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria has said.
It specifically stated that dealers under the aegis of the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association, as well as the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria were all involved in the hoarding and diversion of the product, a development that further worsened the scarcity of the product across the country on Friday.
In an exclusive interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja, the National President, PENGASSAN, Francis Johnson, stated that it was wrong to attribute the scarcity being witnessed in most parts of the country to the recent threat by the association to embark on a strike.
He argued that petrol scarcity was mainly because of the push by oil marketers for an increase in the pump price of the commodity, but stressed that the association would not support such a move.
He said, “And let me say it here that the oil marketers are complaining, they’ve been looking for ways to increase fuel price. But the labour unions, Trade Union Congress, Nigeria Labour Congress, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers and PENGASSAN are the ones who still fight and say to the marketers that they can’t do that. All of the marketers, IPMAN, DAPPMA, MOMAN, etc, have been agitating for petrol price increase.
“They give you so many reasons, they say dollar is not accessible, they say this, they say that, but we tell them ‘no’, you can’t do that. And so subtle hoarding begins to take place, they start looking for ways to force the government to increase price. That is the game.”
Stressing that PENGASSAN had nothing to do with the fuel scarcity, Johnson said, “Like I told you earlier, left to the marketers, PMS will be selling at N500 per litre because they are there to make profits.
“They say they don’t have access to crude oil, they lack access to dollars and that it is only the NNPC that is importing. We said go and import, but they said if they must do that, fuel should be increased to N170 per litre.”
Meanwhile, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation also confirmed that there had been an alarming rate of products’ hoarding and diversion in the past three weeks, but refused to state the group of marketers involved in the act.
But in a swift reaction to the allegations against marketers, MOMAN stated that it would be tough to hoard products at the moment because the supply of PMS by the NNPC was grossly inadequate. DAPPMA also denied the allegations.
This is coming as thousands of commuters were on Friday stranded at various locations in Abuja, Lagos, Ibadan, Kaduna and other cities across the country due to the unavailability of petrol.
When contacted on the matter, the Executive Secretary, MOMAN, Obafemi Olawore, refuted the claims of products’ diversion and hoarding by marketers, adding that it was not true that marketers were pushing for an increase in the pump price of PMS.
He argued that there was a serious supply gap, as the NNPC was not importing enough products to go round the country.
Olawore said, “Nobody is hoarding. The truth is that you cannot hoard what you don’t have. There is shortage in supply and NNPC knows that. So, who is increasing the price? Nobody is talking of price increase. The truth is that the quantity of the product is not enough for the country.”
When told that the NNPC also complained about hoarding and that the corporation said it had started supplying about 80 million litres of PMS daily in order to halt the scarcity, Olawore replied, “Tell them (NNPC management) it is not true; tell them that that figure is not correct. They don’t have that figure. They should tell us where the product is.
“They don’t have it. They should stop telling the public what is not true. The product is not available. The product is in short supply. They are the only ones importing. We are not importing.”
Similarly, the Executive Secretary of DAPPMA, Olufemi Adewole, denied the allegations, saying, “I disagree with that because that is not true.”
He, however, noted that government owed its members over N800bn, which he said was affecting their business.
When asked if his organisation was against any increase in fuel price, he said, “Government is the sole importer because we cannot import and we cannot import because the landing cost is higher than the selling price. The government is telling us to bring in a product that its landing cost is about N160/N170 and sell at N145, and we can’t do it, so we are buying from the government because it can do that.
“That is different from asking the government to deregulate the sector and let the forces of demand and supply take effect. That is what we are after that; it will determine the price. That means that there are times that the price will rise and there are times that it will drop. It doesn’t mean that the price will rise and stay there.
“Between eight and 12 weeks ago, we were selling below the recommended price in our depots because of competition amongst us. So I disagree with the allegation that we are the cause of problem.
“Aside from that, marketers are being owed over N800bn and this money belongs to the banks, so they have stopped giving us loans until we pay back what we took. The Federal Executive Council approved the payment in June, passed it to the National Assembly but till today, the National Assembly has not approved it.
“And because we have not been able to pay back the loans we took from the banks, they have stopped giving us loans to do business. If we get our money back, the banks will give us loans and we will continue to trade. But the government is holding on to our money and wants us to keep borrowing from the banks, but the banks are saying ‘no, we have given you the maximum we can give you.’”
But when contacted on the matter, the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, NNPC, Ndu Ughamadu, insisted that petroleum products were being hoarded.
He said, “There have been many cases of hoarding, but I wouldn’t know whether the intention is to jerk up the prices of products. However, there have been many cases of hoarding, just like the one we discovered in Kano where 140 trucks were diverted.
“Some of your colleagues also called from Lagos asking me to confirm the hoarding and diversion of about 100 trucks of petrol, but I told them I could not confirm that because we didn’t own the tank farm in question. Again, there is this filling station where we supplied eight trucks and within four hours, they shut down the place and said they had run out of stock. Now, how is that possible?
“So we have detected many cases of hoarding. If you look at consumption, it shot up from 30 million litres to 80 million litres within a space of three weeks.”
Efforts to reach the National President of IPMAN, Chinedu Okoronkwo, on the phone were not successful as he neither answered his calls nor replied a text message sent to him.