MasterwebNews 15/6/16 - Woes and Gains of Fuel Scarcity by Hawkers

[ Masterweb Reports: Odimegwu Onwumere reports ] - As scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) punched hard on the country in February 2016 lasting for about two months, the economy was grounded and filling stations turned to bedrooms of some sorts to motorists, while commuters paid transport fares through their nostrils.
 
“The official slouches was that the fuel scarcity would end by the first week of April but it may take about four more weeks to get fuel into the country due to the long process of ordering petrol from refineries,” reported Emmanuel Asiwe, Publisher of Huhu Online, 10th April 2016.  
 
The fate that befell motorists was not different from other users of the product like generator sets users. According to Asiwe, “This crisis was inevitable, when the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), in a fit of bad judgment reduced the import allocation ratio of private companies from 60% to 22%.”
 
Nigeria was at a crucial turning point. Anna Rosenberg, director of sub-Saharan Africa research at Frontier Strategy Group, said. “It could muddle through this year with relatively low growth, but only if the government adjusts monetary policy and lets the naira devalue.”
 
Wayside hawkers otherwise called black marketers had a field day; they took on the opportunity to make money genuinely, covertly and overtly by selling ‘any type of fuel’ at their disposal to unwary public.
 
They sold 10 litres jerry can of petrol that ordinarily shouldn’t cost more than N1000, between the rate of N2, 000 or N2, 500. That was based on the level of the scarcity. Some sold the same litres of fuel between the rate of N2, 800 or N3000.
 
That was against the official price of N86 per litre. Asiwe believed that, that happened because “the NNPC was expected to import the entire balance in supply of petrol requirements for allocation to oil marketers for eventual distribution” but it failed.
 
“Indeed, the NNPC even argued that this option would not only be profitable but also checkmate any hanky-panky by oil marketers over the volume of fuel imported,” Asiwe added. 
 
Some houses gutted fire as a result of hoarding petrol in houses, while a few black marketers paid the great price with their lives in the infernos and in the hands of authorities, while others were thrown into prison.
 
Observations
Conversely, many people shouted against the touts that they made the product’s price skyrocket. But many motorists who ran out of fuel late night were saved by the black marketers who stayed put in the business from dusk to dawn.
 
Noticing the atrocious adulteration in PMS during the period, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) didn’t shy away from admonishing all operators of petroleum products depots from objectionable actions of sullying, hoarding, alteration and manipulation of the product.
 
Perils Of Hawkers
The scarcity attracted both international and local attention. “Nigeria is no stranger to fuel scarcity,” as according to Bloomberg News. “Despite its massive oil wealth, years of mismanagement have left state-owned refineries working at a fraction of their 445,000 barrels per day capacity.”
 
The Forte Oil Petrol Station on 21 Road in the FESTAC Town area of Lagos State on April 6 2016, was thrown into disarray when a young man who hawked PMS and simply identified as Emeka, was supposedly shot by personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).
 
Two other hawkers whose names were given as Smart Ogabor and Oladiran Atolagbe were also shot.
 
While Emeka was said to have died on the spot as later confirmed at Lagos Mainland General Hospital, Yaba, the other two that were alive were hurried to a hospital.
 
Confirming the incident to newsmen, a resident who was simply identified as Abiodun, said, “I was present at the filling station. The hawker was killed by one of the NSCDC men.
 
“Out of the four persons the officials who were taskforce that came to the filling station to seize jerry cans shot, one died; others were rushed to the hospital.”
 
Eyewitnesses said that there sin was their involvement in selling PMS in jerry cans due to the scarcity of the product in the state, when government had reportedly ordered petrol hawkers to desist from what it called “illicit trade in petroleum”.
 
“We were on an official duty, monitoring the area to see if there were filling stations selling more-than the pump price,” said the NSCDC Lagos State Command, Mefor Chibuzor.
 
Police Interference
When the gun shots were noticed, youths who wanted to stage a protest after, in condemnation of the act by the NSCDC, were prevented by the Area E Command, after the officials of the NSCDC denied killing anybody.
 
In a statement issued by the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, SP Dolapo Badmos, it was gathered that the NSCDC personnel shot unsystematically when they arrived the filling station.
 
“Armed with AK 47 rifles, petroleum product hawkers were raided on the 21 Road, FESTAC, by roughly seven operatives of the NSCDC, in a Toyota Hilux.
 
“They fired intermittently injuring Ogabor, Atolagbe and Emeka and absconded to unidentified place.
 
“This is one of the incidences the persistent scarcity of fuel that is habitually witnessed in the states across the country cause,” SP Badmos said.
 
Arrest Of Hawkers
Across the country, fuel hawkers were arrested during the scarcity. In Lagos alone, ten fuel hawkers were arrested on April 3 2016 by the Lagos State Task Force on Environmental and Special Offences (Enforcement) Unit for purportedly complicating traffic in the Oshodi and Ikeja areas of Lagos State.
 
Confirming the arrest, the unit’s spokesman, Adebayo Taofiq, said that the hawkers caused vehicular gridlock whereas the Chairman of the task force, SP Olayinka Egebyemi had given ordinance in no circumstance should there be vehicular clustering around filling stations in Lagos State, (perhaps due to hawkers). 
 
Sentence Of Hawkers
A Gudu Upper Area Court in the FCT in the same month supposedly, sentenced seven fuel hawkers to two weeks imprisonment each “for hawking the commodity.”
 
The names of the convicts were given as Sani Bagudu, Kabir Abubabkar, Danjuma Bello, Lawal Rabiu, Abdulrahman Saidu, Yunusa Isa and Salisu Ibrahim – all of Garki, Area 1, Abuja.
 
The presiding officer, Alhaji Umar Kagarko, who reportedly sentenced them after they pleaded guilty to the charge, said, “Your action is hazardous and could cause fire outbreak in public places.’’ He, however, apparently gave them an option of N3000 fine each.
 
Police Rebuttals
In a swift reaction on April 30 2016, the Nigeria Pol
 
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