Petrol scarcity: Marketers blame lack of import vessels

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Oil marketers on Wednesday said the scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, in many parts of Nigeria was due to the unavailability of mother vessels to ship the product to the country.

Also, they insisted on raising the price of the commodity following the hike in the rate of the United States dollar against the naira, as it was gathered that the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited was lacking products in many of its depots.

“There is a serious lag in product sufficiency from NNPC because of the unavailability of mother vessels. These are vessels that ship the product from abroad. That is why we have a gap,” the National Public Relations Officer, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chief Ukadike Chinedu, told our correspondent.

He added, “It is not just about flood, because the scarcity is hitting many other parts of the country. There was serious scarcity in Port Harcourt and you can see what is happening in Lagos now. In Abuja it has been there since.”

Ukadike stated that depots in the western zone were lacking products, as “all the private depots and even NNPC don’t have products.”

He said, “In Port Harcourt, there is no product in private depots, except that we heard this (Wednesday) evening that some products are coming to Masters Energy Depot.

“Also, we now buy products from depots at N179 – N180/litre; for those who manage to get. That is why we the independent marketers are tired of this epileptic distribution of PMS.

“It is high time the Federal Government revived the refineries. Our dependence on imports is really devaluing our naira and bringing suffering on the masses. One dollar is now N760 at the parallel market.”

He stated that when the dollar strenthened, the cost of PMS locally would definitely rise because Nigeria was importing the commodity.

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Asked whether the scarcity was also because oil marketers were again moving to hike PMS price, Ukadike replied in the affirmative.

He said, “It is true because both the maritime charges and that of vessels have gone up. The cost of diesel has also spiked. So how will the vessel owner cope?

“There is so much stress on the naira. Some of the depot charges are paid in dollars, and these are transactions that are done here in Nigeria.”

On whether marketers were not buying again from NNPC, the IPMAN official stated that most products of the national oil firm were stored in the company’s mother depot.

“They now give some private tank farm owners allocation to load from their mother depot/vessels with daughter vessels. So, the private tank farm owner is saddled with the responsibility of hiring a daughter vessel,” Ukadike stated.

He added, “But the price of hiring vessels now has doubled and there is no way the private depots can sell the product at the former price of about N162/litre. It is not possible.

“Some NNPC filling stations are even selling at N180/litre, which is why you see independent marketers selling at N190 – N195/litre.”

The NNPC did not respond when contacted to speak on the issue, amidst the massive queues that greeted the Conoil filling station directly opposite the headquarters of the company in Abuja on Wednesday.

Its spokesperson, Garba-Deen Muhammad, promised to revert when contacted, but did not, and also did not answer repeated calls to his phone by our correspondent.