• Thursday, June 13, 2024
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BusinessDay

Reps demand arrest of hoarders, raise hope of normalcy in days

Reps push for new law to curb illegality in maritime sector

…as ‘black marketers’ fleece desperate motorists

The House of Representatives has urged security agencies to arrest and prosecute those found to be engaged in the hoarding of petroleum products amid a continuing scarcity of petrol in the country.

Their call comes as long queues persist at filling stations with the product selling for between N750 and N1000 in most of Nigeria’s 36 states.

In Lagos, street urchins who have turned ‘black marketers’ continue to make brisk business buying petrol in jerrycans from filling stations and reselling to desperate motorists on the roads at between N1,200 and N1,300 per litre.

“It’s a booming business for us; everybody is involved and nobody harasses anybody,” one of the sellers along Osborne Road, Ikoyi, in front of the NNPC filling station, told our reporter on Tuesday evening.

The House of Reps committee on petroleum resources (downstream and midstream) said on Wednesday that their findings show product availability. The reps decried the logistical challenges that have made the product scarce, saying these must be tackled.

Ikenga Ugochinyere, the co-chairman of the committee, who addressed the media, said although there was enough petrol to service the country for about 30 days, the supply and distribution to marketers was disrupted by challenges of transport vessels “That was supposed to take the products from offshore to onshore.”

“Our people have been through a lot in the last few days and we must not plunge them into further pains. We appeal to all traders and those rendering services not to unduly take advantage of this temporary challenge, which will be cleared in the next few days.”

“It is so painful that Nigerians have been subjected to great hardship and pains as a result of the scarcity of petroleum products in the past few days. This development has led us as representatives of the people, to engage with the regulators of the relevant sectors to find out the cause(s) of this scarcity and provide solutions to same.

“We strongly frown at the activities of middlemen who have taken advantage of the short disruption of supply, to maximise profit and generate an inordinate gain for themselves, at the detriment of our people.

“We hereby call on security forces to support the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, Petroleum Products Retail Outlets Owners Association of Nigeria, the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners and other key stakeholders in the distribution chain, to ensure that acts of economic sabotage that has to do with hoarding, arbitrary increment in price, products diversion and smuggling are detected and dealt with,” Ugochinyere noted.

He, however, noted that the House was convinced that this hardship was temporary and the country would get over it in a few days.

From our investigations, we have found out that petrol products are available. We have it on good authority that we have at least 1.5 billion litres of petrol in our storage facilities that can last for 30 days.

“It is, however, saddening to note that it is as a result of logistics that the queues have resurfaced. These logistic issues range from difficulty in transporting products from the mother vessel to the respective petrol stations. Movement of products from offshore marine vessels to the stations, disruption from Escravos channels.

“We have gotten the assurances from the regulators in the value chain that these bottlenecks are being cleared. In the course of this public holiday, more grounds will be covered. From our findings, the issues that necessitated the disruptions which led to the appearance of fuel queues in petrol stations have been cleared,” he said.

Also, Henry Okojie, co-chair of the committee, called for patience, as the crisis was being tackled.