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When Will Long Queues Disappear From Filling Stations?

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Fathoming the intrigues of oil politics in Nigeria has remained a fundamental contradiction. With an economy that is heavily dependent on crude oil revenue, Nigeria has wobbled consistently in the production, distribution and utilization of petroleum products. This is more disturbing because Nigeria is about the sixth largest producer on the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) template, and the ninth largest gas producer globally.

  Nigeria appears the only oil and gas producing country where consumers battle endlessly to get petroleum products. Indeed, long queues have remained a ubiquitous feature of the nation’s filling stations. Every attempt by government to normalize the process has met with stiff resistance by what seems a cartel, their proxies, agents and accomplices, who feed fat on the skewed system. But the scramble for petroleum products is now a predominant ethos despite attempts to put the situation under control.    

  In Port Harcourt and its environs, petroleum products are almost always scarce at the available filling stations dotted all over the city and its suburbs as customers find out at every blink of the eyes that their gates are locked under the pretext that they don’t have supplies. Even the filling station operators have cashed in on this unfortunate malady to exploit customers through various unsavoury means.

  The Tide can now authoritatively state that this festering situation has given rise to a retinue of black market operators. In fact, the filling station attendants obviously prefer to sell products to the black market cartel, who procure the products at higher prices. The black market operators, also expressly make the products available to would-be customers at exorbitant rates, even as the genuine marketers are complaining of lack of supplies. This, indeed, is the irony.

  Take a visit to TOTAL Filling Station at Elele Alimini in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State, for example. The romance between black market operators and fuel pump attendants is conspicuous. A retinue of youths, who have embraced the hoarding and hawking of products as a pastime, besiege the station with hundreds of jerry cans on a daily basis to buy fuel for retailing at cut-throat prices. Motorists could be seen stranded in queues for hours or even days as they wait in vein under the scourging sun to be attended to. But, alas, TOTAL is not alone in this matter. Other major marketers are also culprits in this saga. However, the independent marketers are worse in this game.

  Most filling stations across the state, particularly in the major cities or urban centres, relish in this show of shame. The filling stations prefer to sell in jerry cans. Why? Simply because the black market vendors of petroleum products pay more to get the products. For example, a litre of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), which is commonly called fuel, officially sold at filling stations for N65, is pumped to the jerry cans of these illegal fuel racketeers at N70 per litre. The cartel takes the products across the filling station’s fence, on the road, and sells the products easily to desperate motorists or other end users for as much as between N96 and N105 per litre. In fact, a 20-litre petrol bought from the filling station at N1,800, is usually sold just a few metres away from the filling station it was originally bought at a minimum of N3,800. At some times, that 20-litre fuel goes for as much as between N5,000 and N6,500. These are the daily occurrences within Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, and its environs. 

  Let’s take a typical Port Harcourt scenario, for instance. At the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Mega Station at Lagos Bus Stop in the heart of the city, a hoard of illegal products dealers and marketers surround the circumference. They buy PMS, kerosene, and diesel in jerry cans directly from the mega station. Just immediately after that, they beat a cautious retreat across the road, where they display their products for sale to potential buyers. The illegal market here is booming, very lucrative, but dangerous and life-threatening because of the flammable substances they deal on.

  While some motorists queue to get products from the mega station, others, who do no want to waste their precious time queuing to get fuel from the station, end up with the hawkers of products nearby. There, they procure the products just as they ask. They only need to negotiate appropriate prices, mostly at cut-throat rates, with the syndicate, who control a huge market within the precinct. From petrol, kerosene to diesel, the products are almost always available, even in the face of acute scarcity. Elsewhere in Port Harcourt Township, where there is a well known filling station, the story is the same.

  A drive through Station Road/Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs Road will reveal similar atmosphere, particularly between Station Bus Stop and Loko Bus Stop, or the popular Post Office Bus Stop. On this stretch are Mobil, Oando, AP, TOTAL, and Conoil filling stations. Petrol hawkers make brisk business on a daily basis here.

  On the very busy Port Harcourt/Aba Expressway, the craze for the market is palpable. From Leventis Bus Stop through Eleme Junction, the unending sight of products hawkers is almost permanent. In fact, Aba Road has another high concentration of illegal products hawkers in Port Harcourt. Both day and night, these hawkers are there, at your beck and call. This is the popular road that connects Port Harcourt, nay, Rivers State, to other neighbouring states to the East, West, North and even South. Within a 16-kilometre stretch of this road from Isaac Boro Park, are three Conoil stations, one Oando station, three Texaco stations, two AP stations, four TOTAL stations, three Mobil stations, an NNPC mini-Mega Station at Oil Mill Junction, and about six independent filling stations between Oil Mill and the former toll gate, some metres away from KM16.

  The Tide spoke to some motorists, illegal products dealers, filling station attendants, and other stakeholders, who voiced their concerns on the lingering trend. Motorists, who spoke to The Tide at some of the filling stations, alleged that most of the fuel attendants and station managers, reserve certain pumps for black market operators, who buy in jerry cans and drums, in some cases. They claimed that most of the fuel attendants prefer to sell to those with jerry cans because they add their commissions to the approved pump price of products, thereby jerking the prices up. They also say that the long queues noticed at most filling stations are as a result of the fact that the fuel pump attendants don’t sell to vehicles immediately they find their way into the stations. They, therefore, blamed the persisting problem on government agencies charged with the responsibility of checking the situation, lack of adequate personnel to monitor and enforce the laws.

  As for some of the illegal products dealers, they argued that buying in jerry cans makes their returns faster. They agree that although there is a lot of risk involved, they have to continue with the business because that is the only way they can earn some money to feed their families and make ends meet. They also agree that the risk may be enormous, but argued that there is nothing they can do for now, given that it is not easy to get paid employment in the country today.

  But the filling station managers and fuel attendants continue to pass the buck. They argue that the long queues are as a result of inadequate product supplies. They also argue that although they sell to vehicles as they come in, but that the criminal elements, who buy in jerry cans for resell, harass, threaten and intimidate them, if they don’t sell to them as quickly as possible. They said some of the criminals hovering around filling stations, posing as gate men in some cases, oftentimes, take over the sale of products at the stations. They claimed that it is for this reason that some of them have gone the extra length to engage the services of armed police men to man the gates or mount checks at the pumps to ward off any intruders and those who may want to assault them.

  However, some stakeholders disagree. They told The Tide that the filling station managers and attendants are aiding and abetting the situation. They leveled series of allegations against the operators of the filling stations, including hoarding, selling more to with jerry cans, and encouraging illegal bunkering and hawking of products. They challenged government agencies responsible for monitoring, enforcement, and regulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry to brace up to the deteriorating situation so as to save Nigerians from the lingering fuel crisis. They also urged government to repair existing refineries to enable them operate at full capacities, augment and bridge supplies through importation, and check hoarding of products.

  Honestly, the government needs to do more to normalize the situation. At the state level, the Rivers State Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources should live up to its mandate. The Petroleum Products Monitoring Task Force has been reportedly dissolved, but it needs to be reconstituted, reinvigorated, strengthened and empowered to prosecute law breakers and other offenders. The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) inspectors, monitoring teams and agents should intensify efforts at getting the various filling stations to play by the rules, even if it means shutting down and prosecuting filling station managers, pump attendants, and dealers who compromise.

  At the national level, the lead provided by the Petroleum Minister, Dr Rilwanu Lukman, two weeks ago, in a terse warning to the management of NNPC to address the problem of fuel scarcity in major cities in Nigeria or face sanctions has yielded positive result in Abuja. The queues that hitherto, permeated all filling stations in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) suddenly disappeared, some few days after the warning. In Lagos, Port Harcourt, and elsewhere, the situation has yet to return to normalcy. This is why an integrated approach is required to address the ugly situation, and make it easy for Nigerians to enter the filling stations, get whatever products they want, and leave without much ado. It is a matter of mustering the political will to act. And the minister has already shown it. Others must follow suit. This is only when the long queues will disappear from the filling stations across Nigeria. 

When Will Long Queues Disappear From Filling Stations?

OIL & ENERGY

Taneh Beemene

 

Fathoming the intrigues of oil politics in Nigeria has remained a fundamental contradiction. With an economy that is heavily dependent on crude oil revenue, Nigeria has wobbled consistently in the production, distribution and utilization of petroleum products. This is more disturbing because Nigeria is about the sixth largest producer on the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) template, and the ninth largest gas producer globally.

  Nigeria appears the only oil and gas producing country where consumers battle endlessly to get petroleum products. Indeed, long queues have remained a ubiquitous feature of the nation’s filling stations. Every attempt by government to normalize the process has met with stiff resistance by what seems a cartel, their proxies, agents and accomplices, who feed fat on the skewed system. But the scramble for petroleum products is now a predominant ethos despite attempts to put the situation under control.    

  In Port Harcourt and its environs, petroleum products are almost always scarce at the available filling stations dotted all over the city and its suburbs as customers find out at every blink of the eyes that their gates are locked under the pretext that they don’t have supplies. Even the filling station operators have cashed in on this unfortunate malady to exploit customers through various unsavoury means.

  The Tide can now authoritatively state that this festering situation has given rise to a retinue of black market operators. In fact, the filling station attendants obviously prefer to sell products to the black market cartel, who procure the products at higher prices. The black market operators, also expressly make the products available to would-be customers at exorbitant rates, even as the genuine marketers are complaining of lack of supplies. This, indeed, is the irony.

  Take a visit to TOTAL Filling Station at Elele Alimini in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State, for example. The romance between black market operators and fuel pump attendants is conspicuous. A retinue of youths, who have embraced the hoarding and hawking of products as a pastime, besiege the station with hundreds of jerry cans on a daily basis to buy fuel for retailing at cut-throat prices. Motorists could be seen stranded in queues for hours or even days as they wait in vein under the scourging sun to be attended to. But, alas, TOTAL is not alone in this matter. Other major marketers are also culprits in this saga. However, the independent marketers are worse in this game.

  Most filling stations across the state, particularly in the major cities or urban centres, relish in this show of shame. The filling stations prefer to sell in jerry cans. Why? Simply because the black market vendors of petroleum products pay more to get the products. For example, a litre of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), which is commonly called fuel, officially sold at filling stations for N65, is pumped to the jerry cans of these illegal fuel racketeers at N70 per litre. The cartel takes the products across the filling station’s fence, on the road, and sells the products easily to desperate motorists or other end users for as much as between N96 and N105 per litre. In fact, a 20-litre petrol bought from the filling station at N1,800, is usually sold just a few metres away from the filling station it was originally bought at a minimum of N3,800. At some times, that 20-litre fuel goes for as much as between N5,000 and N6,500. These are the daily occurrences within Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, and its environs. 

  Let’s take a typical Port Harcourt scenario, for instance. At the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Mega Station at Lagos Bus Stop in the heart of the city, a hoard of illegal products dealers and marketers surround the circumference. They buy PMS, kerosene, and diesel in jerry cans directly from the mega station. Just immediately after that, they beat a cautious retreat across the road, where they display their products for sale to potential buyers. The illegal market here is booming, very lucrative, but dangerous and life-threatening because of the flammable substances they deal on.

  While some motorists queue to get products from the mega station, others, who do no want to waste their precious time queuing to get fuel from the station, end up with the hawkers of products nearby. There, they procure the products just as they ask. They only need to negotiate appropriate prices, mostly at cut-throat rates, with the syndicate, who control a huge market within the precinct. From petrol, kerosene to diesel, the products are almost always available, even in the face of acute scarcity. Elsewhere in Port Harcourt Township, where there is a well known filling station, the story is the same.

  A drive through Station Road/Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs Road will reveal similar atmosphere, particularly between Station Bus Stop and Loko Bus Stop, or the popular Post Office Bus Stop. On this stretch are Mobil, Oando, AP, TOTAL, and Conoil filling stations. Petrol hawkers make brisk business on a daily basis here.

  On the very busy Port Harcourt/Aba Expressway, the craze for the market is palpable. From Leventis Bus Stop through Eleme Junction, the unending sight of products hawkers is almost permanent. In fact, Aba Road has another high concentration of illegal products hawkers in Port Harcourt. Both day and night, these hawkers are there, at your beck and call. This is the popular road that connects Port Harcourt, nay, Rivers State, to other neighbouring states to the East, West, North and even South. Within a 16-kilometre stretch of this road from Isaac Boro Park, are three Conoil stations, one Oando station, three Texaco stations, two AP stations, four TOTAL stations, three Mobil stations, an NNPC mini-Mega Station at Oil Mill Junction, and about six independent filling stations between Oil Mill and the former toll gate, some metres away from KM16.

  The Tide spoke to some motorists, illegal products dealers, filling station attendants, and other stakeholders, who voiced their concerns on the lingering trend. Motorists, who spoke to The Tide at some of the filling stations, alleged that most of the fuel attendants and station managers, reserve certain pumps for black market operators, who buy in jerry cans and drums, in some cases. They claimed that most of the fuel attendants prefer to sell to those with jerry cans because they add their commissions to the approved pump price of products, thereby jerking the prices up. They also say that the long queues noticed at most filling stations are as a result of the fact that the fuel pump attendants don’t sell to vehicles immediately they find their way into the stations. They, therefore, blamed the persisting problem on government agencies charged with the responsibility of checking the situation, lack of adequate personnel to monitor and enforce the laws.

  As for some of the illegal products dealers, they argued that buying in jerry cans makes their returns faster. They agree that although there is a lot of risk involved, they have to continue with the business because that is the only way they can earn some money to feed their families and make ends meet. They also agree that the risk may be enormous, but argued that there is nothing they can do for now, given that it is not easy to get paid employment in the country today.

  But the filling station managers and fuel attendants continue to pass the buck. They argue that the long queues are as a result of inadequate product supplies. They also argue that although they sell to vehicles as they come in, but that the criminal elements, who buy in jerry cans for resell, harass, threaten and intimidate them, if they don’t sell to them as quickly as possible. They said some of the criminals hovering around filling stations, posing as gate men in some cases, oftentimes, take over the sale of products at the stations. They claimed that it is for this reason that some of them have gone the extra length to engage the services of armed police men to man the gates or mount checks at the pumps to ward off any intruders and those who may want to assault them.

  However, some stakeholders disagree. They told The Tide that the filling station managers and attendants are aiding and abetting the situation. They leveled series of allegations against the operators of the filling stations, including hoarding, selling more to with jerry cans, and encouraging illegal bunkering and hawking of products. They challenged government agencies responsible for monitoring, enforcement, and regulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry to brace up to the deteriorating situation so as to save Nigerians from the lingering fuel crisis. They also urged government to repair existing refineries to enable them operate at full capacities, augment and bridge supplies through importation, and check hoarding of products.

  Honestly, the government needs to do more to normalize the situation. At the state level, the Rivers State Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources should live up to its mandate. The Petroleum Products Monitoring Task Force has been reportedly dissolved, but it needs to be reconstituted, reinvigorated, strengthened and empowered to prosecute law breakers and other offenders. The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) inspectors, monitoring teams and agents should intensify efforts at getting the various filling stations to play by the rules, even if it means shutting down and prosecuting filling station managers, pump attendants, and dealers who compromise.

  At the national level, the lead provided by the Petroleum Minister, Dr Rilwanu Lukman, two weeks ago, in a terse warning to the management of NNPC to address the problem of fuel scarcity in major cities in Nigeria or face sanctions has yielded positive result in Abuja. The queues that hitherto, permeated all filling stations in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) suddenly disappeared, some few days after the warning. In Lagos, Port Harcourt, and elsewhere, the situation has yet to return to normalcy. This is why an integrated approach is required to address the ugly situation, and make it easy for Nigerians to enter the filling stations, get whatever products they want, and leave without much ado. It is a matter of mustering the political will to act. And the minister has already shown it. Others must follow suit. This is only when the long queues will disappear from the filling stations across Nigeria.

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Oil & Energy

NNPCL Assures On OB3 Pipeline Completion

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The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC Ltd) has said the Obiafu-Obrikom-Oben (OB3) Gas Pipeline would now be completed next quarter.
This is as the national oil company said it would continue to invest in the development of huge oil and gas infrastructure to make it easy for operators and prospective investors to carry out their business in Nigeria.
The Executive Vice President, Upstream, Oritsemeyiwa Eyesan, disclosed this at the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC), in Houston, Texas, United States of America.
Speaking at one of the panel sessions of a luncheon organised by the Petroleum Technology Association of Nigeria (PETAN), with the theme: “Sustainable Energy Solutions for Africa’s Future (Nigerian Perspective)”, Eyesan stated that NNPC Ltd.’s objective was to ensure that there is a healthy balance of energy sources in the country.
She explained that though the oil and gas sector is not where it ought to be, much progress had been made between last year’s edition of the OTC in terms of opening up the sector for investments and infrastructural development.
While identifying funding as the major challenge impeding the development of the sector, Eyesan listed some of the bright spots in the industry to include the Executive Orders signed by the President to open up the sector, the imminent resolution of the assets divestment by the International Oil Companies (IOCs), and the aggressive execution of gas infrastructure projects such as the OB3 Gas Pipeline, which she said would be completed in the next quarter.

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TotalEnergies Targets 100 Startups In 2024

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As part of its support to businesses in Nigeria and Africa,  TotalEnergies Nigeria has launched the 2024 edition of its Startuppers challenge.
By this, the multinational aims at empowering 100 businesses across 32 African countries with N8 million cash prize, personalised coaching, and media representation.
The year’s edition of the challenge, launched virtually at an event attended by the Managing Director of TotalEnergies Nigeria Plc, Dr. Samba Seye, and other executives of the energy company, Last Thursday, would be used to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the multinational.
Presenting the form of this year’s competition, the General Manager, Total Country Service, TotalEnergies, Mrs Adesua Adewole, said registration for the challenge would open on May 13th and close on June 18th, 2024.
Adewole explained that 100 startups would be selected at first before 5 finalists would be selected, adding that the shortlisted businesses would pitch to a jury made of experts who would select winners across three categories.
“In December, we will have 100 businesses to celebrate in Africa. In past edition, we had  only six winners who were invited to Paris but this year, we will have 100 winners who will be going to selected location where they will be celebrated”, she said.
Adewole stated that Africa was special to TotalEnergies, hence the focus.
In her words, “Africa is special to us. When you look at Africa, our youths make up 60%.  They are the ones who will develop he continent, so we streamlined this to them to help them develop their businesses or ideas, scale up and become the business leaders of tomorrow.
“The aim of this 4th edition is to support and encourage young African entrepreneurs to innovate and bring their projects to reality in their country of application”.
Explaining further, the Country Communications Manager, TotalEnergies Nigeria, Dr Charles Ebereonwu, said “we have not attained 100 years before.
“Apart from celebrating 100 years, we have introduced new dimensions like your empowerment of women and equality. All entries will be subjected to whether they take into consideration these dimensions”.
Targeted by the challenge are startups less than three years old or pioneering a business idea with a positive impact on their communities and/or the planet.
“The aim of this 4th edition is to support and encourage young African entrepreneurs to innovate and bring their projects to reality in their country of application”, a statement from the firm said.

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TCN Targets Power Restoration To North-East, May 27

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The Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) has said electricity supply will be fully restored to the North-East by May 27.
TCN’s spokesperson, Ndidi Mbah, who disclosed this in a statement made available to newsmen, weekend, said the commission’s contractors were working to erect four new transmission towers along the Jos-Gombe axis, to enable the restoration of power supply to States in the North-East region of the country.
Recall that TCN had on April 23, said four of its towers along the Jos–Gombe 330 kilo volt (kV) transmission line were vandalised, affecting electricity supply to Gombe, Damaturu, Maiduguri, Yola, Bauchi, and Jalingo.
“The tower collapse affected Gombe, Damaturu, Maiduguri, Yola, Bauchi and Jalingo. Immediately after the incident, however, TCN engineers worked first to redistribute available bulk supply on the Jos, Bauchi, Gombe 132kV line between Jos and Yola Discos, while work commenced immediately at reconstructing the four vandalised towers”, the commission said.
It continued that “Presently, we are rebuilding the four towers simultaneously. Progress is evident, with one tower nearing 80% completion, another at 60%, a third at 30%, and dismantling work finished on the fourth tower”.
Additionally, she said, “tower members” are being fabricated and assembled on-site to expedite work, adding that TCN is dedicated to the quick restoration of bulk power on the line route.
“Construction work on the Jos – Gombe transmission line, taking supply up to Damaturu and environs will be completed and energized by the 20th of May, 2024, while the Damaturu – Maiduguri axis will be completed on the 27th of May, 2024.
“Expectedly, bulk power transmission would be fully restored on the affected 330kV transmission line by the 27th of May. Yola and Jos DisCos would also be able to offtake and distribute optimally from TCN substations.
“For now, only 38MW is wheeled to both Jos and Yola Distribution companies, with each receiving 19MW each. Efforts to take some of the available power to Jalingo was hampered by very high voltage on the line, which could cause a system disturbance”.
According to the spokesperson, TCN is aware of the inconveniences caused by the current insufficient power supply through Yola and Jos DisCos to electricity customers in the affected states.
Mbah further said the company pledged to earnestly expedite work on the towers to guarantee that the towers are completed within the specified time frame.

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