by crossriverwatch admin
Calabar, the Cross River State capital city, is located in the coastal region of Southern Nigeria and has an area of 406 kilometres as well as close to one million people.
As one drives into the city, particularly on Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday mornings, visitors and residents alike, are greeted by the sight of people on a long queue of about one kilometre carrying jerry cans of different shapes and sizes waiting under the scourging sun to buy Kerosene from the NNPC mega station and Northwest Petroleum, an Independent marketer.
The people, particularly at the NNPC mega station, who besiege the area days prior to the sale of the product, come from as far as Akamkpa, Biase, Odukpani and Yakurr local government areas on the western part of the city as well as Akpabuyo and Bakassi council areas.
Kerosene or DPK, popularly used by millions of Nigerian families for domestic purposes, has remained scares in the whole of Cross River State.
A visit to major fuel stations in Calabar revealed that the sections or pumps designated for the sales of Kerosene were either covered in dust, damaged or under lock and key due to lack of usage.
At other local fuel stations, especially those owned by Independent Marketers, the kerosene pump showed evidence of regular usage, though none of the stations had the product for sale at the time.
However, one would not fail to notice a surge in the display of surface tanks for storage and sales of kerosene along some streets within the metropolis and even along the Calabar – Ikom – Ogoja highway when travelling to Obanliku in the northern senatorial district.
Also observed is the fact that the surface tanks, both within Calabar Metropolis and the other local government areas have Kerosene, which they sell at very exorbitant rates to consumers and those engaged in retail business using beer or wine bottles and other smaller containers.
A small restaurant owner and mother of four in Calabar, Mrs Christy Asuquo complained about adulterated Kerosene, which unbeknownst to her included more water than the substance.
Mrs. Asuquo, who was visibly squeezing water from the wig of the stove, said with a frown on her face “As I came to the shop, I asked my girl to buy me two litres of Kerosene to use this morning to start my business. You can imagine that the stove wouldn’t light up and when I checked I found so much water at the bottom of the stove. And I paid 130 naira per litre”.
Another woman, a housewife in Iwuru Obio Ntan, a village in Biase local government area, Mrs Victoria Effiong stated “the high cost of kerosene and its availability affects us as a family. When kerosene was sold at 80 naira per liter, at least I could afford to buy fifty litres to sell. But, now we buy it at 115 naira per litre, my business has stopped. I buy from that retailer there for 130 a litre just for my use”.
“Like yesterday, my son could not find the kerosene to buy. He had to walk to another village and bought one litre at 170 naira. As it is, we need to get dry wood from my brother who is a farmer, so that we can manage this one until that retailer finds kerosene to buy”, she said.
The Clan head of Iwuru Obio Ntan, Chief Amaku Agbor Ijingha told CrossRiverWatch that the supply of kerosene for his household is sourced miles away either from Calabar or Ikom, a situation that has brought untold hardship on the family especially with the ban on logging by the Cross River State Government.
According to Ijingha, “the cost of kerosene in this village is so high. Fetching firewood as a substitute is another problem. Since we are not allowed to cut down trees any more for fire wood, our young men have to go deep into the forest, over 20 miles, to pick dead trees for cooking”.
He said “anyone who can make kerosene cheap, we will be happy, in fact, grateful because right now, it is too costly, it is 150 naira. We manage to buy as we can. There is no tank or filling stations here to enable us buy it at even 100 naira. We heard that government say kerosene is 50 naira. If that is true, then life will be better for us”.
Boniface Felix, who lives at Ifum Mkpa, a remote village that is about three hours drive from Uyangha in Akamkpa Local government area said he prefers to buy about five litres of kerosene every market day at 150 naira per litre as against 250 or 300 naira per beer bottle in his village.
A villager, Mr. Effiong Ekpenyong lives at Ikot Okon in Akpabuyo local government area, said “it has been difficult for us to cope here in the village. We do not have enough money to buy kerosene at 100 a bottle, but at the filling station (surface tank), it is 140 per litre here.
When asked if he has ever bought kerosene at 50 naira a litre, Ekpenyong exclaimed “where? It is not here. Most times, we go into the bush to get firewood and it is not easy”.
Mr. Maurice Ekpenyong also an indigene of Akpabuyo remarked “on Dual Purpose kerosene, people in the villages like to use kerosene because of lanterns. There must be a reduction for those of us in the villages. When the marketers sell at high cost, it does not affect them. It only affects us who have no choice but to buy this kerosene. They should help us and make it cheaper for us”.
“We have never bought kerosene at 50 naira, at least we used to buy it at 65 naira before. If they can help us reduce the price, it would be better”, he said.
Mr. Sunday Okoro, a petty kerosene retailer at Iwuru Obio Ntan, said “when I started the business in this community, I used to buy kerosene all the way from Calabar, the first ever NNPC mega filling station along the highway. They sell at two different prices. Firstly, the NNPC mega station sell to those they refer to as Union People and those will now sell to us.
Secondly, they can also sell directly to us in our jerry cans. Even at that, the price on the metre is 50 naira, but they sell to consumers at 70 or 80 naira, while retailers like us will pay between 100 and 120 naira per litre”.
Okoro, who noted that the high cost, the stress and transporting the product back, makes it impossible to sell at a more reduced cost to the villagers, said he now travels to a nearby rural town to buy from an independent marketer at 107 naira per litre.
He explained that as a result of the cost, a method of making the product affordable for his customers was adopted using smaller containers such as a small tomato can that sells for 20 naira, liquid milk container for 30 naira, while a 30 centilitre soft drink bottle sells for 50 naira.
Owner of a surface tank in Calabar South area, Mr. Inwuanyanwu Basil hinted that kerosene was sold at 120 naira a litre. But, if the product is readily available, the cost would be reduced.
“I buy kerosene straight from independent marketers at the Depot, the NNPC depot here in Calabar. As it is now, the price of kerosene is always fluctuating; they sell sometimes 80 or 90 naira. But now, there is an increase in price, some Union People sell for 90 naira and others at 100 naira. The price changes because if those who bring kerosene from Port Harcourt depot don’t have, then those marketers who got theirs from Lagos will sell higher”, said Basil.
Etubom Felix Nsemo, a retired Comptroller of the Nigeria Custom Service, and the proprietor of a petrol station disclosed that for more than fifteen years, NNPC Calabar Depot has not brought in kerosene to Cross River State.
Nsemo stated “we have never bought any kerosene from NNPC. There is no record to show that we ever did. Go and ask them. We buy kerosene from independent importers, at sometimes, at very exorbitant prices and not from NNPC. It is about 15 years now, if not more. I am saying this with all amount of certainty because the records are there. Cannon Ball, as an independent marketer, has its records to prove this.
“In my house, at times, we look for firewood to cook because kerosene is not always available to buy. People at home spend so much on a bottle of kerosene. How can you go and buy kerosene 150, 200 naira per (beer) bottle?” he queried.
Etubom noted “I mean, it is outrageous! If you go to the (NNPC) mega station, you see people clamouring there to buy kerosene. They are not enjoying any subsidy at all. I am very emphatic about this, some people use Nigeria’s money to fight Nigeria. They are the once who have taken the subsidy money. The kerosene subsidy, where does it go to? If we, the independent marketers don’t have any kerosene to distribute to the grassroots since we are closer to them, and then, who takes the subsidy money?”
In Akpabuyo and Bakassi areas, a man who prefers to be addressed simply as Edward confirmed that to the best of his knowledge, no member of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, and others smaller union, has in the past 14 years, bought kerosene from the Calabar depot.
The Chairman of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, Cross River State, Mr. Effiong Etukudoh explained to our correspondent the factors responsible for the high cost of kerosene or DPK in the state.
“The high cost of kerosene is due to two factors; NNPC and partly, IPMAN. When I say NNPC, I mean this product is not produced sufficiently to go round all the depots in Nigerians for sale to filling stations as required. So, why you notice this high price is because people go outside Cross River State to source for kerosene and bring it back to sell. Most filling stations cannot buy from outside as it may take a long time to exhaust the product – it is not cost effective. They must depend on NNPC to have their supplies at a reduced rate so that they would make profit”, Etukudoh noted.
According to Etukudoh, “the other aspect of it, which is IPMAN, a certain quantity of the product used to be assigned to NIMCO depot in Lagos State for marketers like us to go down there and get the kerosene and then bring back to our filling stations. But, we know that a clique keep on commandeering this product and sell it to whoever they like. So, for now, people would not get this product at the Federal Government’s subsidized rate because the independent marketers leave Calabar to Delta, Rivers and Lagos states to buy kerosene”.
The Chairman also stated “In the downstream sector, we can get kerosene at affordable price when Port Harcourt has it. Port Harcourt is the main base as far as the eastern zone is concerned. And if Port Harcourt refinery does not have it, then no depot within system 2E comprising Enugu, Benue, Rivers, Calabar and other, will have kerosene. Marketers would not like to source for kerosene at very expensive rate and then keep in storage when they have financial commitments with the banks.
“However, I know that the NNPC Calabar depot is doing some renovations. Formerly, they were using 2 loading arms for petrol, but it has been expanded to 6 loading arms, which is an improvement. Also, their tanks for kerosene are being repaired to enable them start bringing kerosene to Calabar”, he said.
However, several attempts to speak with the NNPC Calabar Depot manager did not yield result as security personnel at the entrance said the top officials travelled to Abuja and could not ascertain when they would return.
The people have urged the Federal Government and the NNPC to cushion the effect of the current realities due to the high cost of kerosene in Calabar and other parts of the state.
These Nigerians, who due to the band on logging, can no longer access firewood as before also appeal to the leadership of IPMAN to take the situation in Cross River State rather seriously, by holding positive discussions with NNPC to enable those at the grassroots enjoy the subsidy on kerosene.
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