Panic buying of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly known as petrol, and long queues of vehicles were witnessed at many filling stations across many states in the country on Friday after a reported increase in pump price from N162 to N212.16 by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency.
The PPPRA had early Friday published the expected new lower and upper prices for PMS at retail outlets, putting the rates at N209.61/litre and N212.61/litre respectively.
The post by the PPPRA triggered panic buying of petrol across the country.
Checks by Saturday PUNCH on Friday showed that dealers in many states sold PMS for over N200/litre, while many filling stations stopped selling, hoarding the product in a bid to take advantage of the hike in the pump price.
This scenario played out in Abuja, Lagos, Ogun, Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Imo, Plateau, Bayelsa, Cross River, Ebonyi, Ondo and other states, as motorists besieged filling stations, forming long queues in front of many outlets on Friday.
Though the PPPRA later deleted the post and clarified that it was not within its jurisdiction to increase fuel price in the country, the announcement could not stop panic buying by Nigerians.
Long queues in Lagos, Abuja, Ogun, Maiduguri filling stations
One of our correspondents in Lagos observed long queues in filling stations, including Oando, in the Berger and Ojodu areas.
At a filling station in Warewa on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, several motorists struggled to buy fuel as the manager in charge intermittently ordered the opening and closure of the gates.
The situation was tense at the filling station as many buyers came in with several jerrycans.
A motorist, who spoke with Saturday PUNCH, said he was travelling to Benin and needed to fill his vehicle’s tank and avoid joining any long queue outside Lagos and Ogun states.
A commercial bus driver, who simply identified himself as Soji, said, “I was shocked by yet another increase in the price of petrol. Someone told me he read it online.
“So, I decided to come to this petrol station to buy fuel before they change to the new price.”
Our correspondent in Ogun State observed unusually long queues at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation filling station on Abiola Way, Abeokuta.
The NNPC filling station on Arab Road in Kubwa and NIPCO retail outlet along Kubwa-Zuba Expressway witnessed sudden massive rush on Friday after motorists heard of the publication by the PPPRA.
The same scenario played out in some filling stations in parts of Nasarawa and Niger states on Friday.
The situation was the same in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
Filling stations hoard PMS, sell above N200/litre in Enugu, Bayelsa, Owerri, Akwa Ibom, Rivers
In Enugu, Bayelsa, Owerri and Akwa Ibom and Rivers states, many filling stations did not open to customers in a bid to hoard PMS and capitalise on the reported increased pump price.
The few filling stations that opened were besieged by motorists, who were forced to pay over N200/litre for the product, which was originally sold at N162/litre.
Our correspondent who monitored the situation in Enugu reported that some filling stations that opened for business sold to desperate buyers at N230/litre.
Some motorists, who spoke to our correspondent in Enugu, said they bought the product at between N230 and N250/litre at black market as they could not endure the long queues in the filling stations that sold at N160/litre.
“I could not wait in the line for hours, so I went to a black market and bought a litre for N200 but I hear now that some are selling up to N250 a litre,” a commercial motorcyclist told our correspondent.
The Enugu State Chairman of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chief Chinedu Anyaso, decried the situation.
Anyaso said, “We are waiting for action from the national body to know what to do. The situation has forced some stations to stop selling, while those that are selling sell at exorbitant prices.”
It was a similar situation in Owerri, Imo State capital where many filling stations shut down over the rumoured hike in fuel pump price of PMS.
Findings by our correspondent in Owerri revealed that filling stations shut down in the hope they would sell at over N200/litre.
On the Aba-Owerri Road, all the filling stations did not open, except Coceaon Fuel Station, which continued to sell at N162/litre.
In Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, filling stations hiked PMS price to between N200 and N220/litre on Friday.
Some filling stations visited by one of our correspondents were seen dispensing the product at over N200/litre while the NNPC and its affiliate filing stations did not open for business.
It was a similar situation in Akwa Ibom State where one of our correspondents observed some filling stations selling the product for as high as N200/litre.
The development triggered long queues in many filing stations in the metropolis.
Speaking with our correspondent, a commercial driver, Eduo Okon, said, “It’s very disappointing that this situation is coming at a period when are are still battling with the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Panic buying hits Jos Benue, Cross River, Ebonyi, Ondo, Taraba, Osun, Kwara
In Jos, the Plateau State capital, many filling stations witnessed long queues of motorists after the rumoured hike in the PMS pump price.
Our correspondent who monitored the situation in Jos observed that only a handful of the filling stations across the state capital were selling fuel to motorists while many others locked their entrances.
It was further observed that filling stations which opened for business sold the product for between N200 and N220/litre.
Lamenting the development, a motorist, John Dachung, said he spent four hours in the queue at the NNPC petrol station at the Dogon Karfe in a bid to buy PMS.
“Why are they hoarding the fuel again after increasing the price of the product?” Dachung lamented.
In Makurdi, the Benue State capital, our correspondent reported panic buying of PMS by motorists, with many filling stations witnessing long queues.
A commercial vehicle driver, who identified himself simply as Mike, said, “It is not up to five minutes, I saw a filling station selling fuel to motorists and only saw two vehicles but as I dropped off my passengers and drove in to buy fuel, they told me that they were not selling again.”
In Calabar, the Cross River State capital, motorists on Friday woke up to a shocking increase in the pump of petrol from N170 per litre to N207 in few filling stations dispensing the product.
Most of the filling stations, including Total, Mobil and Okono Nsa on Marian road, as well as Conoil and Mobil on Murtala Muhammed highway/MCC, were shut.
Complaining about the sudden increase, a motorist, Joshua Nkereuwem, said, “N1,000 used to buy up to six litres of petrol, but with this increase it cannot buy up to five litres. Where are we going in this country? This increase will bring too much hardship upon Nigerians.”
Also, a female motorist, Angela Akiba, said, “I drove round parts of Calabar this morning and couldn’t get fuel to buy only to get here and find out that petrol is being sold for N207 per litre. How do they expect us to cope with the increase.”
Also in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, many filling stations sold PMS at between N200 and N220 per litre to the chagrin of motorists.
Speaking with one of our correspondents in Abakaliki, a tricycle operator, Mr Linus Igwe, described the development as unbearable.
Another commercial tricycle operator, Mr Kenneth Eze, said the hike in petrol price had affected transport fares in the metropolis.
A commercial driver, Mr Chukwuma Osulor, said fares for all routes had been increased by N300.
In Akure, the Ondo State capital, many filling stations sold petrol for N212/litre on Friday.
However, many other filling stations did not open for business, thereby triggering long queues in others which sold for over N200/litre.
An attendant in one of the stations in Akure told Saturday Punch that, “We adjusted our metre early this morning when they informed us that the pump price has been increased and it will be like that until further instruction.”
In Jalingo, the capital of Taraba State, the announcement by the PPPRA made many filling stations to hike PMS pump price to N212/litre, with attendant long queues at filling stations.
One of our correspondents, who visited some filling stations in Jalingo, reported a long queue of motorists at the NNPC mega station, leading to traffic congestion along Yola road.
Speaking with Saturday PUNCH, a motorist, Mr Karma John, said, “Many people are likely going to park their cars and price of foodstuff is likely going to go up if the planned increase in PMS is allowed to stay.”
The situation was similar in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.
Long queue of vehicles were noticed in some filling stations, especially at the G.R.A area of Ilorin.
The situation was however different at the filling stations in the remote areas where only a few vehicles were noticed at filling stations.
In Osogbo, the Osun state capital, the rumoured increase in PMS pump price triggered panic buying and long queues at petrol stations.
Many residents were seeing buying the product in plastic containers.
Several filing stations that did not open for customers were accused by customers of hoarding fuel in anticipation of price increase.
But a commercial driver, plying Osogbo/Ikirun route, Opeyemi Abubakar, told our correspondent that many such stations later opened after debunking the rumour of price increase.
Commercial drivers hike fare in Ibadan
There was an increase in transport fares in parts of Ibadan, the Oyo State capital on Friday as the news of planned increase in price of Premium Motor Spirit filtered in.
Commercial bus and taxi drivers, as well as motorbike riders, charged higher fares on the excuse that the pump price had skyrocketed.
A resident, Ade Babatunde, while speaking with Saturday PUNCH, lamented what he called the ugly situation.
“Additional burden has become a daily experience in the country. I live at Boluwaji area of Ibadan and I work around Oke-Ado, Liberty Stadium area. At the beginning of the year, we used to pay between N70 and N80 from Molete to Boluwaji. By the start of February, it increased to N100 but today (Friday) it shot up to N150.”
Checks showed that the transport cost from Mokola to Apata increased to N200 from N150 while passengers were transported from Apata to Wire and Cable area for N100.
However, despite the change in price of PMS per litre, panic buying was not observed in most parts of the city. There was higher concentration of vehicles in the mega filling stations as the prices were cheaper than the smaller, privately-owned filling stations.
Confusion in Edo over pump price
In Edo State, most of the petrol stations on Sapele Road were selling at the new price and the motorists trooped to the NNPC Mega Station along the same road where it was being sold at the old price, which resulted to long queues and heavy traffic.
Along the Airport Road, some fuel stations were closed due to the confusion caused by the price reversal. While some retained the old prize of N172 others had adjusted their pump prize with the situation causing panic among commercial drivers and private car owners as well as other who use fuel to power their business.
A petrol attendant stated that they had to close for the day because “we don’t know what to believe. Our management had earlier complied with the new pump.prize and when information filtered in that the old prize still subsist, we closed to avoid having issues with the management.”
No queues in Zamfara, Gombe
But in Zamfara, filling stations did not witness long queues like in some other states.
Our correspondent in Zamfara, who went round the town, reported that motorists bought PMS at filling stations without delay.
A motorist, Alhaji Mansur Kaura, said, “Some filling stations are even waving to the motorists to come and buy fuel.”
The situation in Gombe was similar to that of Zamfara, where motorists bought petrol without delay at filling stations, despite the increase in pump price.
PPPRA denies price hike
But the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency on Friday said its guiding price, which put the cost of petrol at N212.61/litre, did not translate to a hike in the pump price of the commodity.
The explanation by the PPPRA followed the widespread criticism which greeted “guiding price” it released early Friday.
The NNPC had, in a swift reaction, declared that it had not increased petrol price in March, contrary to the publication by the PPPRA.
In a statement on Friday, the Executive Secretary of PPPRA, Abdulkadir Saidu, said, “The attention of the PPPRA has been drawn to speculations about the increased pump price of petrol.
“The PPPRA by this release wishes to state clearly that the guiding prices posted on our website were only indicative of current market trends and do not translate to any increase in pump price of petrol.”
It added, “The agency wishes to remind the general public of the introduction of the Market-Based Pricing Regime for PMS Regulation 2020 as gazetted by the Federal Government.
“Based on this regulation, prices are expected to be determined by market realities in line with the dictates of market forces.”
It said one of the conditions for the implementation of the Market-Based Pricing Regime for PMS Regulation 2020 was the monthly release of guiding price to reflect current market fundamentals.
It said the PPPRA in line with its mandate to maintain constant surveillance over all key indices relevant to pricing policy, monitors market trends on a daily basis to determine guiding prices.
“While consultation with relevant stakeholders is ongoing, PPPRA does not fix or announce prices and therefore there is no price increase. The current PMS price is being maintained while consultations are being concluded,” he added.
The PPPRA pledged to continue to perform its statutory function in ensuring that the downstream sector remained vibrant as well as support both government and members of the public.
No increase in fuel price for now – FG
The Federal Government assured Nigerians that it had not increased the price of petrol.
A statement on Friday by the Minister of labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, said, “There will be no increase in the price of PMS for now as discussions are still ongoing between government and the organised labour as well as other stakeholders on the matter.”
Ngige said he had “made contact with the relevant authorities, the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the NNPC and wish to assure members of the public, especially the organised labour and workers, that there is no such increase for now.”
The minister said, “We have an ongoing discussions and standing committees, comprising labour and government on one hand and another, comprising the office of the Vice President, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Group Managing Director of the NNPC and the Ministers of Labour, Petroleum and Finance.
“Government will, at the right time, do an appropriate pricing for petroleum products but not without taking other issues into consideration. This is to ensure that Nigerians don’t suffer the pangs of any price increase in petroleum products.
“Government has deregulated petroleum products and market forces have to dictate pricing. That notwithstanding, government has decided to give it a human face by agreeing to some palliative measures that will make the price realistic and affordable to the ordinary Nigerians.
“We therefore wish to re-assure our partners in the organised labour, the NLC, TUC and affiliate unions that there will be no increase in the price of PMS for now. They should, therefore, continue to cooperate with government side to have a fruitful outcome from the discussions.”
By Chukwudi Akasike, Adelani Adepegba, Okechukwu Nnodimand Alexander Okere