Many petrol stations across the country were yesterday shut while those opened for business were besieged by long queues as motorists engaged in panic buying following the controversy that trailed reports of increase in fuel price.
The Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) had published its template for the month of March indicating that a litre of petrol will sell for N212.61.
According to the template released by PPPRA yesterday night and was later deleted, petrol is expected to sell at a lower retail price of N209.61 and at an upper retail price of N212.61.
The announcement immediately sparked outrage and panic buying across the country.
The PPPRA however made a U-turn as it deleted the announcement made on its website announcing the N212.61 petrol price increase for the month of March.
The decision may not be unconnected with the warning by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) which is the sole importer of the product.
NNPC insisted that there was no increment in the ex-depot price of petrol this month.
The executive secretary of PPPRA, Abdulkadir Saidu, in a statement however, gave clarification on the agency’s action.
He said, “The PPPRA by this release wishes to state clearly that the Guiding Prices posted on our website was only indicative of current market trends and do not translate to any increase in pump price of PMS. However, publications by the media to this effect have been misconstrued and thus misleading.
“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.
Also, the federal government assured the tripartite labour community of the organised labour, organised private sector and all Nigerians that there is currently no increase in the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).
A statement by the minister of labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, noted that there will be no increase in the price of fuel for now as discussions were still ongoing between the government and the organised labour as well as other stakeholders on the matter.
The minister stated: “I have 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.
He said, “Government will at the right time do 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, the 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 the government to have a fruitful outcome from the discussions.”
In the same vein, the minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, disclosed that there would be no increment in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) until conclusion of consultation with Organised Labour.
Sylva gave the assurance while addressing journalists in Lagos yesterday.
The minister said the clarification was necessitated by reports that the price of PMS, commonly known as petrol, had been increased to N212.61 per litre.
Our correspondents observed that filling stations across the country were already selling above the official price of N165,
It was learnt that petroleum products marketer in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) took advantage of the new petrol price template released by the PPPRA in the early hours of Friday.
A petrol station owner who spoke with LEADERSHIP Weekend on condition of anonymity said the product now sells for N212 per litre following the announcement by the regulators.
He further confirmed that all other independent marketers in the city have increased the price of the product in their stations, adding that the only place to the product for N165 per litre is the NNPC filling station.
Many filling stations around Wuse, Maraba Nyanya and Asokoro areas were either shut or selling the product at the new price.
On his part, the national public relations officer of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Elder Ukadike Chinedu, said the unfolding hardship may force many marketers out of business.
The IPMAN spokesman said the development was suffocating businesses of members of the association, stressing that currently some of the private depots are not loading the product.
He said that as of yesterday afternoon all filling stations in Port Harcourt were closed for business, including NNPC retail outlets.
“As we speak I just received a call that no filling station is dispensing fuel in Port Harcourt including NNPC retail outlets,” he said.
In Benue State, there was panic buying because the pump price of fuel differed from one fuel station to another.
Our correspondent who went round the town to monitor the situation observed that most of the fuel stations were not selling.
As at 10am, Rains Oil was selling at N175, while at Ronald Nyim it was being sold for N180.
At AA Rano in North Bank, petrol was being sold at N170, and was later changed to N180.
Many filling stations were also shut in Oyo State.
Early in the day some of the filling stations were still selling at the old price, N162 per litter. Also, there were long queues of vehicles along Iwo road, Mokola-UI road, and UI-Secretariat road. As of the time of filing this report, passengers were stranded as only a few vehicles were plying the road. Some of the vehicles, as a result, increased transport fare between 50 and 100 per cent. Long queues in most filling stations that opened were seen in Kaduna while some of the station locked their gates to customers apparently in anticipation of possible increase from the current price to the rumoured N212 per litre.
Some of the motorists said they wanted to take advantage of the current selling price of N163-166 per litre before the rumoured hike takes effect. A visit to 10 petrol stations within Calabar metropolis showed that almost all the petrol stations sold for N205 per a litre except Ecoson petrol station along Maybe Avenue Street in Calabar South local government that was selling for N215 per a litre.
Onando was still selling for N162 naira as of the time of filing this report.
In Abia state, major fuel marketers shut down their stations, leaving the independent marketers to have a field day by fixing the pump price between N175.00 and N200.00. While the price had been between N175.00 and N180.00 in Umuahia, the state capital, and Ohafia, it remained at N200.00 in Aba, the commercial city, since late yesterday. Motorists and commuters in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi state capital, expressed worry over the increase in the pump price of fuel announced yesterday.
In Osun, many filling stations refused to sell the product to their customers. The few stations that were selling maintained their previous selling rates which varied from N162:00 to N180:00 per litre. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation maintained the N162:00 selling price, though not all their filling stations had the product. The drastic reduction in numbers of filling stations selling the essential product led to a long queue of vehicles in such stations across the state. Also, fuel queues resurfaced in some of the few petrol stations in Jos the Plateau State capital yesterday.