As PH Residents Grapple With Kerosene Scarcity

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Just go to Aba now, Owerri or even Enugu, you will find out that there is kerosene. Go to some parts of the Western part of Nigeria, you will find kerosene but come to Port Harcourt inspite of the presence of refinery here and the fact that Rivers State is a major producer of crude, you don’t find kerosene.
Kerosene scarcity with its attendant skyrocketed price has become a new source of worry to the residents of Rivers State particulary those in Port Harcourt city and its environs.
This essential commodity which analysts say is being used by over 95 per cent of Nigerians for domestic and industrial needs, has equally affected the market price of other goods and services associated to kerosene product.
Residents, mostly women who need kerosene for daily domestic activity have raised their voice against scarcity of the product. Most residents have resorted to the old and crude use of firewood in cooking. Even in the city, the number of those who use firewood now to prepare their food has increased.
When The Tide on Sunday carried out a survey on the issue of kerosene scarcity in Port Harcourt, it was discovered that many filling stations do not even have the product.
Mr. Hycinth Nwoko, Station Manager of Total Filling Station at Ikwerre Road (Kampala bus stop) said for over three months, his filling station has not gotten supply of kerosene and that from the look of things, there is no indication that the product would come soon.
“It is unfortunate that right here in Port Harcourt, inspite of the presence of two refineries, petroelum products cannot be found in the filling stations,” said he.
The Station Manager who decried the situation of things, blamed the ugly situation on the activities of a cartel who he said determine who gets and who does not get the product and called on the Rivers State Government to take drastic measures to check the activities of the cartel.
He expressed fear that if the state government does not wade into the matter, this unfair treatment to the people of the state will remain and people will continue to suffer due to scarcity of the product.
Also at Texaco filling station along Aba road, investigation revealed that the station has not got of kerosene for over three months. A source at the station who pleaded anonymity disclosed that a lot of funny things are going on and suspected that some highly influential people who have hijacked the distribution of petroleum products particularly, kerosene are in the habit of diverting the allocation of the state to other states where they sell at a price higher than the normal price.
“Just go to Aba now, Owerri or even Enugu, you will find out that there is kerosene. Go to some parts of the Western part of Nigeria, you will find kerosene but come to Port Harcourt inspite of the presence of refinery here and the fact that Rivers State is a major producer of crude, you don’t find kerosene.”
“This situation is quite unfair and unacceptable and I want Governor Chibuike Amaechi to take drastic measures to readdress this injustice and bring to book the cartel that causes this problem because of their selfish interest. Rivers people must have access to kerosene,” he insisted.
Surprisingly, while filling stations lack kerosene, few metres around them, The Tide on Sunday observed that kerosene black market blossoms.
The question is where do they get their supplies from?
One black marketer who spoke to The Tide on Sunday said some persons contacted them on phone to undiscolsed places where they buy the products at a very high price but since people still buy from them, they continue to operate.
Another young lady said “my oga has been in the business of kerosene for over two years. He has a large tank in Diobu another one in Town and another one at Obigbo. We have seven boys who also hawk for us and at the end of the day, they bring returns and from there we pay them daily salary.”
Mrs Eunice Theo, a housewife in D/Line lamented that a wine bottle of kerosene that costs N70.00 before, now sell at N150.00 and a big container of Eva water cost N200.00 – N250.00.
“Tell me how I can be spending all this money on kerosene to prepare food daily for my family of eight people”?, she asked.
“We don tire for this country. They say Nigeria get oil but we dey suffer for petroleum product like this. I wonder how those other countries who do not have oil are living normal life while we dey suffer. I beg make Governor Amaechi come to our help before they kill us finish,” she continued.
Rosemary Apine, another house wife did not want our reporter to border her. “I beg I no wan talk anything. After all this talk, weti gofment go do? The government people say them no know. Abi even though they no dey use kerosene since then get gas and electric cooker, them no get relations and people living around them? Please leave gofment alone. They know weti they happen and are still feeling unconcerned,” said her.
“Imagine ordinary kerosene, we no fit get for Nigeria. Petrol dey scarce. Refineries don die finish because big people don chop am down.
E better say we no get oil at all than say we get oil and we still lack supplies,” she concluded.
Another respondent, Beauty Obinna a restaurant operator said she has stopped using kerosene to cook because “it is scarce and too costly such that when I use it, my profit becomes too small to keep me in business.”
Mrs. Obinna showed the reporter a kind of arrangement where she uses coal to prepare food and pointed out that coal is cheaper and more available.
Mrs Obinna is not alone in this strategy as more house wives, plantain and yam roasters also use the coal arrangement to cook for their families and for their restaurant business.
“It is better, and cheaper except that the heat that comes from the coal makes ones body always hot and it also makes some of us sick frequently because of the much stress involved but at least, it makes it possible for us to be in business”. Said another respondent.
Worried by the development, the Rivers State Government has taken some steps to check the situation. The state government last week, threatened that it would seal off filling stations involved in hoarding of kerosene and other petroleum products.
The state Commissioner for Energy and Natural Resources, Dr. Dawari George who sounded the warning when he visited NNPC mega station at Lagos bus stop in Port Harcourt decried the present kerosene scarcity in Port Harcourt and its environs.
“Rivers State Government will not fold its hands and allow some individuals to sabotage the economy of the state”, he warned.
Dr. George emphasised that activities of touts at the filling stations will no longer be tolerated by government.
“Activities of touts at the filling stations will no longer be allowed and a situation where Kerosene is sold few metres outside the filling stations will no longer be tolerated”, the commissioner said.
The honourable commissioner who made good his threat sealed Texaco filling station along Bernard Carr street in Port Harcourt, for hoarding products.
Dr. George also ordered for the arrest of four officials of the station.
He also resolved the four days strike embarked by the Port Harcourt refinery branch of Petroleum Tankers Drivers (PTD) and Independent Petroleum Marketing Association of Nigeria (IPMAN).
The two unions suspended their strike at the instance of the State Energy and Natural Resources Commissioner and normal loading and distribution of products has also resumed.
What is not clear as at press time was if the products being currently loaded and distributed included kerosene since it has become the major problems of most filling stations in the city.
The lingering scarcity has been existing before the recent strike by the independent marketers.
One of the marketers who simply identified himself as Kendrick disclosed that the issue of scarcity of petroleum products will never stop until the refineries come back to full operation.
He said it is a shame that Rivers State does not have a single dump where products could be stocked to last for months as is found in other advanced countries.
“Most states especially the non oil producing states in Nigeria have one or two dumps but here we lack such facilities”, he said.
According to him the importation of Petroleum products, deregulation or no deregulation will not stop the problem and suggested that investors should be allowed to own and run refineries.”
“Whoever told you that Nigeria cannot maintain and run refineries efficiently is a liar. The issue is that a few wicked people have strong hold on importation of these products and since they make millions of Naira profit daily on the business, they will do everything to ensure that the idea of refineries is blocked,” he observed.
Mr. Kendrick said diversion of the state allocation of petroleum products meant for Rivers to other states is being caused by those members of a cartel who work hand in hand with some Rivers people against the people of Rivers State.
According to him, a good number of the Rivers people involved in the business prefer to sell their allocation to business people who take them away to other states.
“Let Governor Amaechi set up a monitoring team that is very efficient and whose members have the state’s interest at heart, you will see that nobody will take products meant for the state from our own refinery here to other states,” he advised.
He expressed strong support for the move by the Federal Government to deregulate the down stream sector of the Petroleum industry so that the market will no longer be monopolised by few persons.
“Deregulation will open the market and so much that is hidden would be exposed. Interested persons will come to establish refineries and the market would be left for the economic interplay of demand and supply,” he noted.
Akwa Ibom State Chairman of the monitoring Committee of the Independent Petroleum Marketing of Nigeria (IPMAN) Prince Victor Etafia recently lashed Nigeria National Petroleum Company NNPC and its marketing affiliates (PPMC) describing them as failed agencies.
Prince Etafia was reacting in an interview with newsmen over the issue of kerosene scarcity that is also taking its toll at Akwa Ibom state, where a litre of kerosene is being sold at the rate of N200.00 and N250.00.
Prince Etatia who called for scrapping of NNPC for the commission’s inefficiency to manage the sector said dealers do not get their supply for NNPC depot but rather from private tank farms in Lagos.
Attempt to get the Port Harcourt Zonal manager of NNPC could not yield any result as he was said to be absent in office due to urgent matters.
But a highly placed officer in his office who spoke anormiously said the problem is a national issue and it is not only Rivers State or Port Harcourt problem and disclosed that the Federal Government was already on top of the matter.
The lady said with the new strategies being designed by the present administration especially the idea of deregulation will address the problem and normalcy will return to the sector as we hard in the 70s and early 80s in this country.
Group Public Affairs Manager of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Dr. Levi Ajuonoma expressed concern over the problem of scarcity of petroleum products in the country.
Dr. Ajuonoma who blamed the problem on the activities of some individuals operating filling stations who are in the habit of hoarding the products.
The Group Public Affairs boss who allayed the fear of acute scarcity that normally take place during the Christmas period said there is enough products to take care of demand both in the Sallah period next month and in the Christmas period being celebrated in December.
He warned that the Corporation will deal with those behind the artificial scarcity and also seal filling stations hoarding the products or who ever that involves in sharp practices as a deterrent to others.
He called for the support of the masses on the planned deregulation of the industry stressing that deregulation will check corruption in the sector and ensure regular supply of products.