Ban on fuel black marketers, apt. Written by Hilary Y. Kasmi

Just last Wednesday, the people of Plateau State, particularly residents of Jos-Bukuru Metropolis woke up to hear on radio that activities of fuel black marketers, have been banned henceforth. The Special Task Force, also known as “Operation Safe Haven” had through its Media and Information Centre handed down the ban through a press statement signed by its Media/Information Officer, Captain Iweha Ikedichi.
The ban, according to the press statement was a product of a “resolution at the end of heads of security agencies meeting held at the headquarters of the Operation Safe Haven”. The STF as the security outfit is popularly called insisted that a “Ban is hereby placed forthwith on all forms of roadside and illegal sale of petroleum products in Jos and Bukuru Metropolis. All persons who have in their stock or possession petroleum products are given the next 24 hours effective 1200hrs Wednesday 23 March to 1200hrs 24 March 2016 to dispose of them or return them to petrol stations for custody”.
The reason for this ban is not far-fetched; as the fuel situation in Plateau State, especially in the capital city has been negatively exceptional and has always retarded economic and social engagements in the state. There have been instances where the fuel situation in some major cities across the country would witness some sort of stability, but that of the state would almost always continue unabated, and with nobody to check the activities of the black marketers who are highly connected to a cartel that the security agencies are either aware of, or are afraid to apprehend.
The scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly known as petrol, has lingered since December last year; particularly the one in the Jos-Bukuru Metropolis where hundreds of motorists besiege few filling stations that dispense the product on a daily basis. Some people have had to leave their houses sometimes as early as 4am to queue for the commodity.
For example, as at last Wednesday when the ban on the activities of these fuel black marketers was being announced, the fuel scarcity was biting harder in Plateau State; as fewer filling stations had fuel to sell to the public. Most residents have had to rely on private stations who sell at between N120 and N125 per liter, and some of the stations had for about two weeks now had also been closed for lack of supply. Some residents of Jos have had to travel to either Mangu or to bordering states to get the fuel at a slightly cheaper margin to run their cars and generators.
On the same Wednesday, only the NNPC mega station located along Yakubu Gowon Way in the state capital was selling, while virtually all stations belonging to major marketers were without fuel.
A dealer for one of the major marketers around Farin-Gada area who preferred anonymity told SUNDAY STANDARD in Jos that the little fuel that comes in are normally rationed on rotational basis to keep the stations going, saying, “We had one truck yesterday and it was shared to three stations. When another truck comes, it will be shared and we go round like that”.
He dismissed allegations of hoarding in some quarters leveled against the marketers, insisting that if supply was sufficient there would be no reason for anyone to do so. But when SUNDAY STANDARD went to town to sample the opinions of motorists and others who use petrol for their business, most of them decried that the scarcity had imposed additional financial burden on them as they buy fuel from the ‘black market’. But a resident of Mista Ali along Zaria Road in Jos Metropolis who also preferred his name not in print alleged that major marketers were diverting supplies to the black marketers, saying they discharge a small quantity in their stations and take the bulk to the black marketers at night.
“This ban is the best thing that has happened to us in this state lately, because these fuel dealers are reaping us dry and smiling to the bank with their ill-gotten wealth. I want the STF to ensure compliance and ensure that heavy sanction and prosecution are done against anybody that would contravene this ban”, a resident of Down-Base in Farin-Gad a area in Jos city contended.
He said “one thing that the STF needs to do is to also address the crowd and the rowdy situation around the filling stations whenever they are dispensing fuel to motorist, because that portents a very serious security problem. Such things happen when people shunt and want to take fuel ahead of those who have been on the queue earlier than them”. According to Mr. John Dung, a commuter, the decision of the STF and other security agencies to ban this people is to say the least apt, considering the situation the state is going through.
Still on the same Wednesday, Nigeria’s Minister of State, Petroleum, Dr. Emmanuel Kachikwu, announced to Nigerians that there was no respite in sight for the lingering fuel scarcity in the country, and this has left many petrol users perplexed. The Minister had succinctly told the nation that despite the efforts being put in place by the Federal Government, fuel queues might not be completely eliminated until about two months. Kachikwu however did not mince words as he was quoted in some media as saying that he didn’t have the magic wand to turn things around, and since he is not a magician, the possibility of fuel queues disappearing in the country is a far cry for now.
But even at that the minister did give some element of hope, when he mentioned that it would take at least between now and May for the queues to disappear, because of course, his team was working relentlessly to curb the situation and bring back decorum and sanity in the fuel supply chain in the country. The minister’s confession has drawn heavy criticisms from various stakeholders, including the organised labour, petroleum marketers, oil industry workers, manufacturers and experts in the oil sector, including the end users of the commodity.
However, the ban on the activities of black marketers in Jos and Bukuru Metropolis brought a twist on the fuel situation in the city. It has revved up the panic level, and the likelihood of people hoarding this essential commodity higher now than ever before. While this piece was being put together, it was learnt that a gallon of petrol which was sold between N750 and N800 before the ban is now selling in some places N1500, while in others N1700 and above.
“The ban is a necessary evil that would do us some good eventually, but government must take steps to end the scarcity as it is worsening our economic condition, particularly that people have to pay extra for transportation and other things”, a commuter resident in Jos (name with held) told the SUNDAY STANDARD. Therefore, this ban is long overdue if the lingering fuel scarcity in Jos and Bukuru Metropolis must abate.

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