The scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) otherwise known as petrol, which had started rearing its ugly head in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, prior to the March 28 general elections, reached an anti-climax on Thursday.
At least nine out of ten fuel stations in Abuja metropolis visited by our correspondent were said to have stopped selling petrol since Monday, culminating in untold hardships to both commuters and motorists.
For four days running, the effect of the crisis is biting harder on Abuja residents as most motorists queue for fuel for hours at petrol filling stations in expectation of fuel supply and selling, to no avail.
The grossly negligible few fuel stations which are dispensing the commodity are rationing it by selling from just one or two pumps in fuel stations that have up to twelve pumps.
Even then, the selling lasts for just a couple of hours before attendants would declare the product exhausted, leaving agonizing motorists stranded, many of them preferring to do further vigil for the next round of sale.
Apart from motorists who spend several hours at fuel stations and observe mandatory ‘night vigils’ in search of fuel to buy, many commuters get stranded at different bus stops due to lack of vehicles plying the roads.
Our correspondent who went round the FCT reports that at the NNPC Mega Station on Olusegun Obasanjo Way in the Central Area District, vehicular traffic was disrupted by long queues which covered three lanes out of four, compelling vehicles to drive against traffic using just one lane.
On the Airport Road, long, meandering queues have become the order of the days since Monday and in one instance, resulted in a road traffic accident beside the Conoil fuel station at Sabon Lugbe.
Motorists on queues at the station have been there for days, causing traffic gridlock on the road which had been reduced to one due to the security barricade at the station’s entrance.
In Gwadwalada, Giri, Garki, Karu, Wuse, Berger, Kubwa, Bwari among many other areas, the situation is similar as vehicles clustered around any station, with or without fuel, thereby, causing agonizing traffic gridlock on the roads.
Motorists who bared their minds said they had to sleep in their vehicles at the stations before getting fuel to buy, adding that sometimes they end up not being that lucky to get fuel at all.
A motorist, Mr Audu Ahuraka, said he wakes up at 4am every day to go out in search of petrol for his commuter bus, adding that sometimes he had to move from one station to the other without any luck.
A manager of one of the fuel stations who preferred to speak on condition of anonymity said that the scarcity was caused by the refusal of the Federal Ministry of Finance to pay the outstanding debts that government owed oil marketers who import petrol into the country.
“Place the blame for this agonizing and embarrassing situation squarely on the doorsteps of Finance Minister, Okonjo-Iweala and co.
“Government is owing the marketers about N200 billion naira being the cost of many months of outstanding payments, do you expect them to do magic?’’ He queried.
Mr Ohi Alegbe, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) spokesman, however, attributed the scarcity situation to the strike embarked upon by the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) and Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD).
The two associations had on April 26 commenced an indefinite strike over alleged non-payment of N20 billion debt owed them by major oil marketers, who too claim that they are being owed about N200 billion by the Federal Government.
Alegbe who admitted that the strike had affected the supply of petroleum products nationwide, however, said NNPC had sufficient stock of petrol at its coastal depots in Port Harcourt, Warri and Calabar, besides that of the national strategic reserves, to meet domestic consumption demands.
He stressed that NNPC had enough stock of petrol to service the country for 27 days at a national consumption rate of 40 million litres per day, adding that the corporation had stepped up efforts to end the crisis in the fuel supply system.
“We are, however, working towards a speedy resolution of the issues to ensure a hitch-free distribution of products across the country,” he said.
Alegbe appealed to NARTO and PTD to call off the strike in the interest of the country while also preventing unnecessary hardship on Nigerians.