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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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US Plans To Reduce Gasoline Prices

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The Biden Administration is considering tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a potential tool to bring down the gasoline prices
Selling millions of barrels from the SPR may do precious little to impact the price of gasoline directly
·If the Administration were to opt for an SPR sale to increase the availability of crude, it could likely release up to 60 million barrels of crude oil
·The Biden Administration is considering tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a potential tool to bring down the gasoline prices in America that have hit a seven-year high this year.
However, selling millions of barrels from the SPR may do precious little to impact the price of gasoline directly, traders and analysts say.
A sale from the SPR could be one of “tools in the arsenal”—as U.S. President Joe Biden said this weekend – which the Administration could use to relieve the burden on households who have been paying in recent months the highest prices at the pump since 2014.
Yet, the U.S. may be able to release up to a tenth of the current stockpile in the SPR, traders have told Bloomberg. That wouldn’t be enough to bring down gasoline prices as much as the Administration possibly hopes, they warn.
Moreover, most of a potential sale could consist of sour crude grades, which currently are not the favorite of refiners because they need more natural gas—whose prices are much higher now—to process those sour grades into fuels.
SPR Release On The Table After OPEC+ Snub
“The SPR is certainly on the table as an option. The president will have more to say about that,” U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said on Friday when asked what America can do now to reduce gasoline prices.
President Biden is considering a release from the SPR as a possible move to reduce gasoline prices in the United States, after OPEC+ ignored on Thursday calls for putting extra barrels on the market, Secretary Granholm told Bloomberg last Friday.
The President could announce measures to address high gasoline prices as soon as this week, Granholm told MSNBC in an interview on Monday.
“Hopefully there will be an announcement or so this week,” Granholm told MSNBC, referring to the President’s possible moves.
“He’s certainly looking at what options he has in the limited range of tools a president might have to address the cost of gasoline at the pump, because it is a global market,” the energy secretary added.
Gasoline Prices Highest Since September 2014
Meanwhile, U.S. gasoline prices continued to climb despite the end of driving season two months ago.
In the week to November 8, “The price at the pump continued its slow climb, rising two cents on the week, with the national average for a gallon of gas hitting $3.42,” AAA said on Monday. That’s the highest since September 2014.
“The latest decision by OPEC and its oil-producing allies to maintain their planned gradual increase in output will not help lessen supply constraints, so any relief will most likely have to come from the demand side,” according to AAA.
Shorter days with the end of the daylight saving time could decrease demand for gasoline in coming weeks, AAA spokesperson Andrew Gross said.
SPR Sale Will Likely Be Up To Three Days Of U.S. Petroleum Consumption
If the Administration were to opt for an SPR sale to increase the availability of crude, it could likely release up to 60 million barrels of crude oil, after accounting for mandatory sales pre-approved by Congress and the minimum volumes needed at the storage sites, a source at one of the world’s top oil trading houses told Bloomberg on condition of anonymity.
As of November 5, the SPR held 609.4 million barrels of crude oil, of which 252.5 million sweet crude and 356.9 million sour crude.
A release of up to 60 million barrels in theory would cover around three days worth of total U.S. petroleum consumption, which was 20.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in the pre-pandemic 2019, per EIA data.
According to analysts, an SPR sale wouldn’t do much to reduce prices at the pump and relieve the burden on households amid inflationary pressure for all other goods.
“Other Tools In The Arsenal”
President Biden hinted during the weekend of “other tools in the arsenal” to tame rallying gasoline prices.
“There are other tools in the arsenal that we have to deal — and I’m dealing with other countries; at an appropriate time, I will talk about it — that we can get more energy in the — in the pipeline, figuratively and literally speaking,” President Biden said, referring to the oil market after OPEC+ snubbed the U.S. Administration’s call for extra supply.
On Monday, eleven Democratic Senators wrote a letter to President Biden “to express our support for your efforts to help families and businesses across the nation who are struggling to cope with soaring gasoline prices.”
“Continued U.S. exports and overseas supply collusion could be devastating to many in our states, contributing to higher bills for American families and businesses,” the Senators, including Elizabeth Warren, said.
“In light of these pressing concerns, we ask that you consider all tools available at your disposal to lower U.S. gasoline prices. This includes a release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and a ban on crude oil exports. We hope you will consider these tools and others to make gasoline more affordable for all Americans,” the Senators wrote.
Faced with the highest gasoline prices in seven years and one of the worst fears of every American president—high prices at the pump, the U.S. Administration with the long-term clean energy agenda is now scrambling to provide immediate relief to people’s gasoline and energy bills.

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FG Increases Prices Of Electricity Meters

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The Federal Government has raised the cost of both single-phase and three-phase electricity meters.
In a circular dated November 11, 2021, issued by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, price of a single-phase meter has been increased from the current cost of N44,896.17 to a revised price of N58,661.69.
It also increased the price of a three-phase meter from the current cost of N82,855.19 to a revised rate of N109,684.36.
The memo with reference number NERC/REG/MAP/GEN/751/2, entitled ‘Review of the unit price of end-use meters under the Meter Asset Provider and National Mass Metering Regulations’; managing directors, all electricity distribution companies and all meter asset providers are to effect the increment from November 15, 2021.

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Seplat Energy Distances Self From Chairman

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Seplat Energy Plc has said that an ex parte order granted by the Federal High Court in Lagos has barred it from doing business with its Chairman, Dr. ABC Orjiako, and two energy firms.
A statement from the company on Tuesday, signed by its Director, Legal and Company Secretary, Mrs. Edith Onwuchekwa, said: “Seplat Energy has been made aware of the ex parte Interim Orders of Mareva Injunctions which were granted by the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, Nigeria in a court action instituted by Zenith Bank Plc against Shebah Exploration & Production Company Limited and eight others, with an additional 29 cited parties.
“The Interim Orders give an administrative mandate to Seplat Energy Plc and others not to deal with the assets of (or transfer funds to) Shebah Exploration & Production Company Limited, Shebah Petroleum Development Company Limited and Dr. A.B.C. Orjiako.
“The order has no impact on the operations of Seplat Energy. We understand the injunction relates to loans made by Zenith Bank Plc to Shebah Exploration & Production Company Limited in 2014.”

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