Long queues of vehicles parked at filling stations and roads littered with petrol hawkers have become common sights in major cities across the country as fuel scarcity lingers for weeks, pushing up the prices of transportation and food commodities in an already fragile economy.
Despite subsidy payments rising to an average of N500bn per month, Nigeria continues to witness hitches in the supply and distribution of petroleum products and the current scarcity is the second to hit the country this year, with the first lasting about five months.
As a result of the fuel crisis situation, many Nigerians are now forced to patronize fuel hawkers also referred to as “black market”, who sell the product for as much as N250 per litre, against the official N165 per litre, and in some cases right in the front of filling stations unobstructed.
The recent scarcity, as explained by the federal government, was a result of floods in some parts of the country with hindered the delivery of the product to consumers in Abuja and its environs.
However human rights Lawyer Femi Falana, has asked the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) for information on the installation of an N17billion technology approved to monitor and track imported refined petroleum products from the point of entry to when they reach the final consumer.
The request letter dated 28th October, 2022, was made under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act and the NMDPRA is mandated by law to provide details of the contract awarded under the defunct Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF) within seven days.
Falana noted that the then Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Ibe Kachikwu, had said that deployment of the automated fuel system management and censor network would ensure 100 per cent tracking and monitoring of petroleum products.
“In view of the foregoing, I, hereby, request for information on the installation of the technology monitoring schemes and structures acquired by the PEF for the sum of N17 billion, approved by the Federal Executive Council on August 8, 2018.
“Take notice, if you fail or refuse to furnish us with the requested information before the deadline of seven days, we shall not hesitate to pray the Federal High Court to compel you to accede to our request,” Falana said.
There are also indications that the current fuel situation could worsen, as the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, (NUPENG), has threatened to shut down operations in the country over extortion, harassment and intimidation by some criminal elements operating along the Lekki Free Trade Zone Road, Eleko Ibesu.
In a letter to the Lagos state governor, NUPENG’s General Secretary Afolabi Olawale, noted that the Union had severally denounced the activities of these elements and notified security agencies on the need to curb their excesses, but that the trend of harassment and extortion has persisted.
“We are deeply constrained to bring to your urgent attention, the unwholesome activities of some criminal elements…we have no other obligation than to demand that your Excellency, as matter of urgency, put a final stop to the unwholesome activities of these criminals and similar elements across the state, otherwise we would have no other option than to direct our members, for the sake of the safety of their lives and property, to stay off the entire Lagos State until sanity, law and order are restored,” part of the letter read.
Olawole said added if urgent steps are not taken to address the matter by midnight of Sunday 6th November 2022, the Union will have no other option than to direct its members to stay off the roads of Lagos State to protect their lives and property.
Speaking at the inauguration of Pinnacle Oil and Gas Limited facility in Lagos last week, the Group Chief Executive, NNPC Limited, Mele Kyari, identified the increased population as an additional reason for increased fuel consumption in the nation.
He said: “Our population is growing. The middle class is growing, thus increasing the nation’s energy requirements, despite all the conversations around energy transition that you hear. There is no doubt that Lagos is the number one beneficiary. Let me put it this way, the largest consumer of petroleum products is Lagos. Anytime we have any disruption to supply Lagos, we panic because Lagos is our biggest customer base.
“Expansion is very necessary but the reality today is that the largest concentration of downstream facilities is in Lagos and we trust and rely on Lagos to have energy security in the coming years.”