Many motorists and commuters are stranded in Nigeria following an excruciating three-week fuel shortage.
Long queues continue to form at petrol stations in major cities, occasioning a hike in pump price in places where the product was available.
Many bus stages are jammed with passengers travelling for Christmas celebration, yet many commercial vehicles were held up in petrol stations.
Motorists were spending long hours on queues to buy petrol, even as the government insists on the availability of fuel at all depots.
Public vehicle operators have increased fares by between 50 and 70 per cent.
Customers now pay between $0.70 and $0.80 per litre of petrol, against the official pump price of less than $0.40.
Many motorists have also resorted to buying from the black markets.
A survey indicated most filling stations had the product, but refused to dispense, against the advice of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), to sell the product at the government regulated price.
The DPR team has penalised many filling stations, including some government controlled mega ones, for hoarding fuel.
The current shortage is the first end-of-year fuel crisis since the former ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was ousted in May 2015 by the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The government had directed the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to end the crisis, but many stations were still not dispensing and the few that sold fuel were swamped with thousands of vehicles.
The Ministry of Petroleum Resources and its agencies continue to assure Nigerians, leaving them to conclude that the government may have been overwhelmed.
A businessman, Mr Abdul Adamu, said on Saturday that he spent five hours under the scorching sun and parted with a bribe before he was able to buy petrol.
“I’ve never seen this sort of hell before. This is a bleak Christmas for Nigerians honestly.
“Even if they bring all the petrol trucks in Nigeria into Abuja, this crisis I am seeing can only ebb after Christmas,’’ he said.
Mr Shehu Dawudu claimed he spent seven hours at a petrol station and was not lucky as the station abruptly shut down, claiming to have run out of stock.
“It was like a bullet piercing my heart. I wasted the little petrol in my car and at the end, I got nothing. What could be more devastating than that. I’ll try elsewhere and if I don’t get, tomorrow, the search continues”, he stated.
A commuter, Mr Mary Akachi, said she spends hours waiting for a taxi to Lugbe from Banex since the crisis began.
“Before the scarcity, it was so easy getting a taxi to Lugbe from Banex. But on Friday, it was something else. No taxis. Those willing to go hiked the fare but the crowd was much. You needed to struggle.
“We were told many taxi operators were languishing on queues in various filling as they struggle to buy petrol.’’
Petroleum minister Ibe Kachikwu has assured Nigerians that the situation would soon change.
He said there was sufficient stock for the Christmas period and beyond.
The Head Public Affairs Unit of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Mr Mohammed Saidu, said marketers diverted petrol from Abuja on Friday.
Mr Saidu added that some of the culprit filling stations have been slammed with fines.
Source: Daily Nation, Nigeria