Scarcity Without End
By Sebastine Obasi
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Persistent scarcity of kerosine and diesel push up prices of the products to a scandalous level
There seems to be no end in sight to the scarcity of kerosene. This has led to unprecedented hike in price. In the past three months, the price of kerosene has hovered between N100 and N130 per litre as against the official price of N50. When Newswatch visited some filling stations in Lagos, a good number of them complained of non-availability of the product.
At Oando, Maryland, an attendant who wished to be anonymous, said that the station had not been getting allocation of kerosene for over a month. He however, referred Newswatch to neighbouring Conoil which, he said, sold the product some time ago. At Conoil, an attendant who gave his name as Tunde, told Newswatch that the product had not been available for about two weeks. However, diesel also known as automotive gas oil, sold at N152, while petrol went for N70 per litre. At nearby Mobil filling station, the story was not different. Kerosene and diesel were not available. Only petrol was sold at the station.
The scarcity of kerosene was equally noticeable at Ikeja station of Conoil which had only diesel and petrol in stock. The two products sold for N140 and N70 respectively. At the adjacent Texaco on Kodesho street, which had kerosene, it sold for N105, just like diesel.
African Petroleum presents a peculiar scenario. At the Oba Akran Avenue station, Ikeja, kerosene was not available, while diesel went for N105. When Newswatch asked to see the station supervisor, he was said to be away. But Sukomi Abatan, an attendant, said that they had not got supply of the product for the past one week. However, there was a long queue of plastic containers apparently because of the belief that kerosene is usually delivered at night and dispensed to cronies, friends and relatives of the workers who, in turn, sell to the public at prices ranging from N100 to N120 per litre. It was a similar story at the AP filling station Agege. For two months now, AP has been putting up notices to the effect that all its stations are expected to sell kerosene at N50.
Mobil filling station on Ijaiye road, Ogba, indicated on its notice board that kerosene is sold for N54. But when Newswatch went there to ask for the product, it was told that it had not been available for more than three weeks. Asked why the station had not sold the product for that long, an attendant who chose to be anonymous, said "my brother, kerosene has become an essential commodity. We no longer get delivery as we used to get in the past."
Mobil at Agidingbi had neither kerosene nor diesel, when it was visited, whereas the one at Alausa had diesel which it sold for N150. Kerosene was not available. At Texaco, Alagbole, kerosene went for N110, while the price of diesel was N160. Ibukun Olaitan, a housewife, said that she trekked a distance of about five kilometers to buy the product at Texaco station, Alagbole, because she could no longer buy it at N130 per litre in her neighbourhood.
For Jacob Udo, a supervisor at Mr Biggs Fast food, the high price of kerosene cannot be justified. "Nigeria cannot claim to be a producer of petroleum products and yet the citizens buy these products at high prices. Kerosene should be affordable to the man on the street. The suffering is becoming too much for the common man," he said.
He is not alone. Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, has said that Nigerians should resist high prices of kerosene and diesel. Babatunde Ogun, the national president of the association, accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, of tripple dipping of the product, as well as being in alliance with a syndicate in the official allocation of the two products.
According to the association, it is disappointing and unfulfilling that NNPC still remains the only refiner of petroleum products and, indeed, the major importer of products, guaranteeing both locally refined and imported products to major and independent marketers and depot owners at ex-depot price.
"Most of the products are still being recycled through the high seas only to be brought in as imported products to attract Petroleum Support Fund, PSF, from PPPRA leading to tripple dipping," it said, adding, "it is immoral and unfair, repugnant to the principle of natural justice, equity and good conscience to sell kerosene above N50 per litre and petrol above N70 per litre."
But the Pipelines and Product Marketing Company, PPMC, a subsidiary of NNPC, in its reaction, said that it has introduced new strategies to check scarcity of kerosene. Ralph Ugwu, public affairs manager of the company, explained that one of the measures was the commitment to the 50-day sufficiency in its stock of kerosene. He also said that the performance of the Warri refinery has improved in the production of kerosene, in addition to coastal supply, while more trucks have been engaged to lift kerosene directly at the refinery. To curb the increase, the federal government inaugurated AP’s N50 per litre scheme. But the scarcity has since persisted.