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Nigeria: Year-Long Fuel Scarcity Worsens as Motorists Sleep in Abuja Queues

The NNPC has blamed election-induced restrictions for the fresh shortages.

The over one-year long petrol scarcity in Abuja and its environs continued at the weekend with several motorists sleeping overnight in the few filling stations that were open to customers.

There was chaos in most of the service stations in the heart of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as many frustrated customers eager to buy the product struggled to join the long queues stretching several kilometres, causing serious gridlock in the usual light-traffic Abuja roads at the weekend.
A quick check by THISDAY indicated that the Conoil station opposite the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) headquarters was selling the product, but had a line that stretched for as much as three kilometres.

As of Sunday afternoon, motorists who slept at the Forte filling station at Wuse zone one were seen driving off in disappointment after they were told that the fuel had been exhausted.
Nigeria, especially Abuja, has been under the burden of unprecedented shortages of petrol supply since February 2022, when adulterated product was imported into the country and has since graduated unarguably into the most prolonged scarcity situations in the country’s history.

The authorities had adduced several excuses for the erratic petrol supply in the country, including the Sallah festivities last year, bad roads in Lagos, the floods that occurred in 2022, rising handling charges, among others for its inability to make the products available at the pumps.

Two of the Oando filling stations recently taken over by the NNPC located in Mabushi and Wuse Zone one respectively were also not dispensing the fuel when THISDAY visited on Sunday.

In the streets of Abuja, a 10-litre container of petrol was selling for as much as N5,000, it was observed, as the fuel shortages appeared to have become a permanent feature since February 2022.

A report by S&P Global last week revealed that business activities driven by the private sector slumped for the first time in almost three years as companies reduced output and cut jobs due to cash and fuel shortages in February.

According to the S&P report, business activities fell to 44.7 in February from 53.5 the month before, being the worst reading since the height of the coronavirus pandemic in June 2020.

Meanwhile, the NNPC Limited yesterday assured all Nigerians of a ‘robust’ supply of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), also known as petrol.
In a statement by the Chief Corporate Communications Officer, Garba Muhammad, the national oil company stated that latest updates released on Saturday showed a total of 2.1 billion litres of PMS in stock.
The statement added that this represents 0.9 billion litres in all the land depots nationwide and 1.2 billion litres on marine vessels, which is equivalent to 35 days sufficiency as of March 4, 2023.

The NNPC which blamed the shortages on restrictions on businesses and movement during the last election said it plans to close the month of March 2023 with about 2.8 billion litres, which is equivalent to 47 days of sufficiency.

“The appearance of pockets of queues in Abuja and some parts of the country, is largely due to restrictions in businesses and movement, to allow for the conduct of the presidential and National Assembly elections and enable Nigerians to exercise their civic right.
“However, operations have now resumed at the depots and trucks are being dispatched to various parts of the country. We expect normalcy to be restored in the next few days,” the company said.
The NNPC Ltd., stressed that along with all its partners and stakeholders, it will continue to work together to ensure seamless distribution of petroleum products during the gubernatorial and State Assembly elections.

“We, therefore, enjoin Nigerians not to engage in panic buying,” the NNPC added.
Last month the NNPC apologised to Nigerians for months of pains caused by the nationwide fuel scarcity, with the Group Chief Executive Officer, Mallam Mele Kyari, assuring that Nigerians will begin to see a turnaround,  “within the next one week” at the time.

In a related development, the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) yesterday assured Nigerians that operations in loading depots have fully resumed following the restriction of movements during the recently concluded presidential and National Assembly elections which necessitated truck drivers to travel to exercise their civic duty.  

Consequently, the NMDPRA said it was working with other stakeholders to mitigate the ‘slight’ tightness being experienced in the distribution of petrol.
It invited the public to note that the current stock sufficiency stands at 35.39 days for PMS, 34.86 days for AGO and 31.36 days for ATK.
The Authority said it continues to strive towards guaranteeing supply and distribution reliability nationwide and strongly advised against panic buying.

Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja and Peter Uzoho in Lagos