Oil marketers may embark on their proposed strike after the Sallah holidays, a situation that will compound the already perennial and troubling fuel shortages.
Monday and Tuesday are government-declared rest days to observe the Eid-el-Kabir.
Over the weekend, the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) threatened to commence an action that would result in what it described as the “mother of all queues” at fuel stations.
IPMAN said on Friday that it was yet to receive a response from the Federal Government as regards the outstanding payment of bridging claims incurred by dealers for the transportation of petroleum products across the country.
Marketers under the aegis of the Natural Oil and Gas Suppliers Association (NOGASA) also urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to make the United States dollar accessible for the imports of petroleum products, as this would help reduce the costs of the commodities, particularly diesel.
This came as the scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, worsened particularly in Abuja and neighbouring Nasarawa and Niger States, and spreading to other parts of the country as more filling stations shut their gates to customers, citing a lack of products to dispense.
Oil marketers under the aegis of the Abuja-Suleja IPMAN said on Friday that the government had failed to substantially clear the bridging claims for the transportation of petrol being owed marketers and that Nigerians should brace up for lengthier queues at the fuel stations.
The oil marketers are demanding payment for 12 months bridging claims which they said are being owed operators in the downstream oil sector by the Federal Government.
They had also denied being paid N74 billon by the Federal Government as bridging claims for the transportation of petroleum products, which a Federal Government agency, the Nigeria Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) said it paid.
The Secretary, Abuja-Suleja IPMAN, Mohammed Shuaibu, whose unit covers Abuja, Kogi, Niger and parts of Nasarawa and Kaduna States, stated that though some members had confirmed the receipt of payments, a host of others had yet to receive theirs.
Shuaibu said: “We’ve reached out to them (government) but no response. We shall give them our resolutions as contained on our communiqué and if nothing happens then the strike will take effect after the break.
“The strike will lead to the mother of all queues because depots in the North and other parts of the country are ready to join us in solidarity. Nigerians should know that the situation is beyond us right now. This is because many of our members are going out of business because of the over N50 billion bridging claims that have not been paid to marketers. This is not right and something has to be done”.
He said IPMAN would present the resolutions reached by its members to the Federal Government through the NMDPRA by Tuesday before the proposed strike would begin.
On how the lack of foreign exchange was impacting negatively on petroleum products’ supply, NOGASA President, Mr Bennet Korie explained that the continued purchase of the US dollar from parallel marketers by importers had contributed to the dysfunctional state of the sector.
He said: “The high cost of diesel currently is as a result of marketers’ inability to access the dollar. So there is a need for government’s assistance now. We request for emergency dollar intervention to enable depot owners in Nigeria to import diesel for at least a period of five months to bring down the price of diesel.
“Diesel is fully deregulated and so marketers need dollars to import it and this is affecting the price. Diesel importers are getting the dollar from black marketers and if this continues diesel price will further increase”.
Korie added: “If you go to the depots of some marketers they don’t have products because of lack of dollars to import diesel and that is why there is scarcity. But if we have up to 30 depots importing diesel then the price will definitely come down”.
Although the official rate of the dollar by the CBN is about N416, the parallel market rate is currently over N600 and this has made it tough for diesel importers to import the commodity, as they lack access to the dollar from CBN.
Also, since diesel is deregulated, other marketers alongside the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited are involved in its importation, while Nigerian refineries are still dormant in terms of crude oil refining.
Source: Sunday PUNCH