Fuel scarcity looms as marketers, suppliers contend with hurdles

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Supply of petroleum products across the federation may be disrupted in the coming days, as multiple challenges confront marketers, haulage companies and their workers.

The operators, yesterday, said over 90 per cent of trucks, conveying petroleum products, are stocked in different parts of the country, especially in the Okpella area of Edo, Omuo-Ekiti in Ekiti, Maradi in Niger and some parts of Oyo, among others.

When The Guardian visited the site between Kabba and Omuo-Ekiti, a multitude of heavy-duty vehicles heading from the northern part to other regions was stuck in a queue, spanning over 10 kilometres, immediately after Iyara in Kogi State.

Those heading northward were also stranded, as it took the intervention of men of the Nigerian Army to normalise the situation.

In some portions of the road between Kogi and Ilorin, only one vehicle could move at a time owing to the deplorable state of the highway. Some haulage companies had to station towing vans at different sections to rescue trapped vehicles.

Most travellers and motorists, who avoided the Okene-Okpella expressway enroute the South-South, South-East, South-West regions and parts of the North Central on account of the dilapidated condition of the infrastructure, drove against traffic and then created gridlocks at most horrible portions of the road. Even at that, it took about two to three hours for them to find their way.

For most voyagers, who would have connected parts of the South West and Ilorin through the Kabba-Egbe- Ilorin highway, the gateway has remained a death trap.

While this reporter took the Kabba-Ekiti route in, returning through the Ilorin-Egbe-Kabba road was a nightmare. Apart from being totally deserted with a few heavy duty vehicles now avoiding the Ekiti path, it takes over 10 hours crossing from Ilorin to Kabba for a trip that ordinarily should not exceed three hours.

Although the route between Kabba and Lokoja is smooth, the number of police checkpoints became another concern. The Guardian witnessed a development where a cop shot the tyre of a trailer. In protest, the truck driver barricaded, demanding a new tyre. It took the intervention of military men, who were travelling along the axis, to restore normalcy after about an hour.

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With Nigeria’s inflation rate on the upswing, experts said the prevailing situation would not only spell doom for supply of petroleum products, but also worsen poverty in the face of the free fall of the naira.

While petroleum products are usually transported via pipelines elsewhere globally, the Nigerian scenario remained a case study.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had said only 38 per cent of the over 5,120 kilometres pipelines owned by the state oil company was functioning, blaming the development on vandals despite spending billions on securing the assets.

In 2018, the Director of Highways in the Federal Ministry of Works, Chukwunwike Uzo, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the Federal Government was undertaking various road projects across the federation to the tune of N2.8 trillion.

Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, just last month, said the President Muhammadu Buhari administration was executing 800 contracts and 13,000 kilometres of roads and bridges nationwide.

But motorists appear not to be feeling the impact of these projects, as the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), which hauls over 90 per cent of petroleum products in the country, is insisting that its operations are seriously threatened by the decrepit infrastructure.

NARTO’s National President, Yusuf Othman, stated that the road network in the country was not only at all-time worst, but equally needed immediate intervention.

Also deploring the development, the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), through its Executive Secretary, Clement Isong, insisted that the bad roads were elongating delivery period and increasing the cost of doing business.

Besides, President of Petroleum Products Retail Outlets Owners Association of Nigeria (PETROAN), Dr. Prince Billy Harry, charged the government to make the pipelines work efficiently.

Vice President of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Abubakar Shettima, said they were considering an emergency meeting this week over the situation.

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