Buhari Expresses Regret Over Fuel Crisis, As Scarcity Bites Harder And Masses Cry Out This Yuletide Season

As Nigerians face a bleak Christmas characterised by fuels shortages, soaring transportation and food prices, and their inability to even travel to their country homes to spend the season with their loved ones, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday broke his silence on the crisis and expressed his regret over the harrowing situation. He also expressed sympathy with Nigerians.

Buhari in a statement that he personally signed and posted on his Twitter handle @MBuhari, said he sympathised with Nigerians on the “needless” queues they have had to contend with in recent times, adding that he had directed regulators in the oil and gas sector to increase their surveillance and end hoarding and price hikes by fuel marketers.

The president, who said he was being briefed regularly on the effort by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to ensure availability of fuel across the country, added that he had been assured by the NNPC that a significant improvement would be witnessed in the next few days.

According to him, the corporation had also disclosed that new shipments of fuel were being distributed nationwide, noting that the relevant agencies would continue to provide updates on the situation, even as he thanked Nigerians for their patience and understanding.

He said: “The fuel scarcity being experienced nationwide is regrettable. I sympathise with all Nigerians on having to endure needless fuel queues. I’m being regularly briefed, especially on NNPC’s interventions to ensure that there is enough petrol available during this period and beyond.

“I have the NNPC’s assurance that the situation will improve significantly over the next few days, as new shipments and supplies are distributed across the country.

“I have also directed the regulators to step up their surveillance and bring an end to hoarding and price inflation by marketers. Let me also assure that the relevant agencies will continue to provide updates on the situation. I thank you all for your patience and understanding.”

Xmas Travellers Stranded

But as the petrol shortages bit harder, passengers travelling for Christmas were stranded at the Mararaba bus park in Nasarawa State, among several others nationwide yesterday.

This was compounded by the few transporters who had fuel but cashed in on the development by increasing fares arbitrarily.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), many travellers were forced to cancel their trips and return home due to shortage of vehicles at the parks.

Ernest Obi, a businessman who was supposed to travel to Enugu State from Maraba, near the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, said he would not be able to embark on the journey.

He said had he spent four hours at the Mararaba park, but was unable to get a vehicle.

“I cannot imagine what people are going through. Our staying in this country is becoming unbearable.

“I came to the park as early as 7 a.m. and this is noon. I have not seen a vehicle to convey me to my village.

“You can see the crowd yourself. Why is it that this scarcity occurs around the Christmas season every year?”

Another intended traveller, Joy Andrew, said the Christmas period was a time and opportunity for most people to travel and meet loved ones and parents.

Ms. Andrew who was seen leaving the park, said she would try again last night.

“I think I will take a night bus after what I have experienced. May be it will be better,” she said.

She added that the situation had also caused a lot of exploitation of travellers by drivers and bus owners.

“This situation is making the drivers to exploit commuters as many of them have increased the price of transport fares.

“I used to pay N2,500 from this park in Mararaba to Benue. But today, the drivers are asking for between N4,500 and N5,000,” she said.

Another intended traveller, Jacinta Uche said: “The situation is so bad. I got here as early as 6 a.m. thinking that I will avoid the rush.

“But to my surprise, I met so many other passengers who said they got here before me. There are few cars at the park and those that are available, have doubled their fares.

“I will not be going back home. This year’s Christmas will be dull for me because I don’t think I will make it to the village,” she said.

Other than the lack of vehicles at the bus parks, the fuel crisis resulted in a traffic gridlock along the Abuja-Keffi expressway as commuters spent hours on the road; the same was replicated from Ore to Benin and several other expressways in the country.