Ndi Anambra has cried out over exorbitant price in Premium Motor Spirit, popularly known as petrol, which is currently selling between N330 and N350 per litre in Onitsha, Nnewi, Awka and other parts of Anambra State.
The situation was like that at all the filling stations visited by our correspondent across the state on during the week, except at a filling station located at Tarzan, near Onitsha and Awka (name withheld) which was selling at N280 but with large queues of vehicles and customers scrambling for the product.
As a consequence, the cost of transportation and prices of commodities has sharply increased in the state.
This is just as travelers going to other parts of the South-East for the New Year celebration were made to pay as high as over 300 per cent in transportation fare.
Movements in and around Anambra were also affected as tricycle and shuttle buses increased their fares astronomically.
It was gathered that fares for intra-city shuttle and tricycle had increased by as much as 300 per cent as transporters now collect N300 for distances that cost N100, as commuters and commercial transport operators engage in hot arguments and quarrels.
For instance, a journey from Onitsha to Awka, which used to be N500, was increased to N1,500 Upper Iweka to the Main Market, Upper Iweka to Holy Trinity and others, which were formerly N100 went up to N300.
Our correspondent who went round major cities of Onitsha, Nnewi, Awka, Ekwulobia, during the New year observed that motorists in the town expressed concern that the price of petrol had continued to rise without anybody coming to their rescue.
They accused marketers of arbitrarily hiking prices because of the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
A traveller, identified as Kingsley, who lives in Onitsha but travelling to Abakaliki in Ebonyi State, lamented that the increase in transport fare had put additional burden on the travellers and household items. Another resident in Awka who have his name as Madam Nkechi, maintained that she could not travel with her entire family of eight due to high cost in fuel price, rather her husband with the first and second daughter had to embark on the journey to Imo state for Christmas.
They called on the Federal Government to intervene in the petrol price issue and save the masses from unbearable hardship.
Another traveler and a trader in Nnewi, Mr. James Udo, who described the situation as very pathetic, blamed it on the greed and opportunistic nature of transport operators who see the Yuletide as a period to amass wealth.
In his response, a commercial driver with the Star Sunny Motors in Onitsha, Mr. Goddy Ikem, justified their actions, insisting that transport operators were now buying PMS at a very high price which has adversely affected their returns.
Ikem, in charge of Anambra, Ebonyi and Enugu states, said, “It is not our problem; the price we are charging is reflective of the high cost of buying petrol.
“This is even affecting us the more, but we have to remain in business to service our people, especially during this Yuletide period.
“The high amount we buy petrol now is even affecting our returns and our profits have dropped by about 50 per cent, commuters should understand our plight too and know that it is not our fault.”
Meanwhile, Anambra Civil Society Network ACSONET a foremost Citizens and Non State Actors stakeholders group has kicked against the current hike in prices of petroleum products, and demands prompt intervention by government through the regulatory bodies to avoid imminent social and economic crisis.
Leader of the group, Prince Chris Azor, in a Save Our Souls (SOS) statement, decried the excruciating pains/hardship citizens especially, commuters are passing through during this festive period. “This is unacceptable as concerned authorities seem to be aloof at the suffering of the masses” he said.
“Relevant Authorities should wade into this matter to avert imminent resistance by frustrated citizens. Right now our people who visited home are finding it very difficult to go back due the high cost of transportation and other commodities. This is an obvious existential threat” he continued.
The Media has been awash with unpleasant headline reports of escalating prices of petroleum products across the nation, with particular attention to Anambra State. One report monitored by observers said that the product was being sold for between N300 and N400 in Onitsha/Awka areas of the State, a development that has made residents apprehensive, wondering what the cost of living would look like this year 2023.
This would definitely have a ripple effect on the cost of transportation, food items, building materials, and other essential commodities and goods and services, generally. They remarked.
A regulator, Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) yesterday vowed to revoke the licenses of petrol marketers selling above the controlled prices as well as those hoarding the product in their depots, saying that the sector is not yet deregulated, and that the nation still had at least 30-day sufficiency,
Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), has also, decried the inability of Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) to monitor prices of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) across the country. They blamed the activities of unscrupulous middlemen in the distribution and marketing of petrol, for the perennial scarcity and arbitrary increase in pump prices across the country, a situation it described as “pure fraud and corruption of the highest order.”
Whatever the issues are, responsible authorities should promptly, come up with strategies to end this avoidable debilitating situation.