Fuel Scarcity Hits Port Harcourt

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There is now scarcity of petroleum products, especially fuel within the Port Harcourt  metropolis and its environs. And motorists have started experiencing difficulties in buying fuel at various filling stations scattered across the city.

Long queues of vehicles are equally seen at several filling stations which throw their gates open for business while the scramble for petrol across the city which had for some time been a thing of the past has returned.

Again, residents are these days seen clutching containers and jerry cans on major roads in search of the product. Also, the seeming madness at filling stations has returned. Both motorists and other users of petroleum products who invade filling stations in their numbers, with containers are, re-enacting the scrambling game.

Some motorists hardly wait for their turn, even though they are supposed to be in queues. Some of them shunt the queues and enter filling stations with jerry cans to scramble for the product with others. Young persons who also buy with jerry cans and re-sell to those desperately in need of the product have returned to the filling stations.

“Please, sell to me. Oga, give me fuel. Na my turn. Remove this container. Wait, wait!!”. These are the cacophony of voices heard these days at filling stations in the city to create mayhem and chaos, signs to prove that fuel scarcity is once more flying in the air.

The black markets where fuel is sold at exorbitant prices are also alive again across the city. From Lagos Bus stop to Borokiri, Garrison to waterlines, Rumuola to Eleme junction, Rumuodara to Rumuokoro, Rumuigbo to Agip Estate and D/Line to Diobu, the black market dealers abound.

The dealers cut across sex. Women strapping infants on their backs are also into this business. Married men, young boys and girls equally see it as a lucrative business. Today, they are having a field day, and enjoying a wonderful patronage from buyers. Their stock in trade is buying the product at some filling stations or God-knows-where and re-selling to members of the public at cut-throat prices. Their giant containers of various shapes are commonplace.

This is even coming on the heels of the scandalous hoarding of petroleum products by some operators and owners of filling stations across the city who have taken pleasure in creating artificial scarcity of fuel since the rumours about the impending fuel scarcity started looming in the horizon.

Those who indulge in this unwholesome practice of hoarding petroleum products hardly throw the gates of their filling stations open for customers. This is simply because of their desire to make personal material gains at the expense of the suffering masses.

It was apparently for this reason that the state Commissioner for Energy and Natural Resources, Mr. Dawari George was reported to have ordered the arrest of four operators of a filling station in the Borokiri axis of the city last week.

In spite of the action, several operators of filling stations across the city still kept their gates shut against buyers. Filling stations owned by major marketers like Con Oil, Oando, Total, African Petroleum, Texaco and Mobil have remained the worst culprits.

On Friday afternoon, the gates   of several of these filling stations were under lock and key. Their attendants were also nowhere to be found. The nozzles of the fuel pumps were dry. They hardly functioned, thereby heightening the apprehension and frustration of the teeming users of petrol in the city.

One factor might have contributed to the unwillingness of the major dealers to open their gates for business. After all, they are the ones that stick to the official pump price of N65 per litre particularly when everything is rosy. Today, they may find it difficult to adjust the pump price above N65 in this period of apparent energy crisis without facing the wrath of regulating agencies.

The other independent marketers of petroleum products across the city who manage to sell to motorists and other users these days go far above the N65 pump price and people are always ready to buy to keep the engines of their cars and machines roaring. That is the irony. The loss of the major marketers seems to be the gain of the independent marketers and black market dealers. A real dilemma.

The current fuel scarcity came as a rumour. It is today a reality in the Port Harcourt metropolis and its environs. It is also a fall-out of the so-called planned deregulation of the petroleum sector by the federal government. But the government had recently debunked speculations that it was planning to increase the pump price of fuel beyond N65 on November 1, 2009. Inspite of the government’s quick intervention to clear the air, speculations are still rife, and this has led to artificial scarcity of petrol, foisted on the populace by some heartless dealers.

Petroleum tanker drivers who were reported to be on strike last week are also alleged to have called off the strike to pave the way for uninterrupted supply of petroleum products across the city.

If this gesture would provide the much-desired reprieve to motorists and other users of petroleum products in the city, it is expected to be seen in the coming week. But for now, the fuel scarcity is biting hard, taking a toll on commuters who are doling out high fares. Is there any reprieve in sight?

Donatus Ebi