The scarcity of petroleum products which hit Nigeria in July has worsened, spreading across the 36 states as Nigerians cling to the hope of the $18 billion Dangote Refinery which is expected to begin production by end of December.
Nigeria, the world’s 6th oil producer that is dependent on importation of petroleum products, has thrown motorists and households into confusion as petrol, diesel and kerosene disappeared from filling stations for months.
The situation heightened late November as Dangote refinery started hydro-testing in readiness for the commencement of production seven years into construction.
The 650,000 barrel per day capacity petrochemical industry located in Lekki free zone in Lagos may provide the needed relief alongside the two state-owned moribund refineries in Warri and Port Harcourt currently undergoing rehabilitation.
While awaiting the commencement of fuel production by the refineries, the Nigerian government has continued to import products which are hardly enough for all consumers across the country.
"The pumps are dry, most filling stations are shut,’’ Mr Alade Joseph, a petroleum unionist said on Wednesday in Abuja as scarcity takes its toll on residents, including those in the seat of government, Abuja, where a fuel black market thrives.
In the past weeks, long queues returned to filling stations in many cities but the lines are no longer there because products are not available.
In Abuja, the federal capital of Nigeria, boys are seen displaying petrol in jerrycans on roadsides while major fuel stations are empty.
The few stations that opened to customers are selling petrol, kerosene and diesel at 250 percent above the regulated price of N175 per litre.
Commercial motorists have increased prices beyond the reach of many workers and resident who now have to trek to their destinations.
"I live in Air Port road, and I work at the city centre but I have to trek a distance of about 12 kilometres to and from city centre every day,” said Mr Wole Adeniran, a civil servant.
The situation is the same in Kogi state, North Central Nigeria, where products disappeared from pumps since the middle of November, causing tension.
A civil servant, Mr Hassan Ahmed, said the NNPC station, a government petrol station, has been overwhelmed.
"I had been in the queue for over seven hours and could not get fuel. I resorted to [go to the] black market,” he said.
“I must tell you that the ordinary Nigerians are suffering and we cannot continue like this. The situation should urgently be addressed to alleviate the suffering,” he added.
In South West Ekiti state, most filling stations were shut while the few having petrol have hiked the price.
“The government is watching them sell the petrol far, far above regulated price and many residents cannot afford it,” said Mrs Afolabi Roland.
Worried about the situation, Governor Biodun Oyebanji of Ekiti State has set up a task force to look into the fuel scarcity.
In South East Enugu state, residents have been patronising roadside sellers for months.
As the suffering continues, the government and fuel marketers have offered different g explanations for the situation.
The Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPCL) explained that the scarcity is due to ongoing “road infrastructure projects” around Apapa and access road challenges in some parts of depots in Lagos.
The national operations controller of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Mr Mike Osatuyi, attributed the scarcity to unsteady supply in the past few weeks.
“The marketers will only sell what they buy. If the price of petrol increases, we add our transportation cost and other charges to the selling price,” Mr Osatuyi said.
In a desperate effort to stop importation of petroleum products, boost production and stop subsidy, President Muhammadu Buhari has witnessed the signing of an agreement with Daewoo Group of South Korea to revamp the Kaduna refinery.
The Kaduna refinery, like others in Warri and Port Harcourt, had not been operational for decades.
Daewoo, which is currently rehabilitating the Warri refinery, is expected to deliver fuel before the first half of 2023.