Fuel price raise: We sell as we buy—-Independent Marketer
Mr Ovoke Oshasha is the proprietor of Voke star ventures. He is an Independent Marketer of petroleum products operating in Ughelli. In this interview with Jon Egie he throws light on the prevailing fuel crisis in the country lamenting that there is nothing the marketers can do about the ugly situation except by divine intervention.
MD, as an Independent Marketer, how would you explain the fluctuating price of PMS to consumers?
The reason for the fluctuation is there is no constant availability of the product by NNPC. Most times we buy from the private depots and when you are buying they give you at their own price. Afew days ago we bought at N145. So, if you buy at N145, before you include transportation, take it to your station, pay your staff, run diesel to power the pumps you use to sell the product the price goes up N160 per litre. The issue is NNPC should make the product constantly available. I learnt that the volume they released recently befor they went on strike was about eleven million and as I speak, that quantity is almost exhausted and then we will all fall back to the private depot from where we get supply. If it is not for the services of these private depots the scarcity would be so severe that when you run out of fuel you have to leave your car where it dried up. It is just that their own is expensive but what do we do? We must run our staion, we must be in business so we have to buy from them so that we can service our customers.
A few months back the pump price was low, what happened, what caused this change?
What caused the change is that, at that time NNPC was having product. Like I said before, if there is constant availability of the product, I think the price of NNPC is N76.7 or thereabout, before you load and get to your station it would be almost N80 so it gives you no reason for not selling at N86.50 but when you do not have it from NNPC and you go to shop for your product in the private depots you sell higher.
How come the price of product at the private depot is so high?
You know the private depot import the fuel, they are not like NNPC that produces the crude. They pay cost of importation, pay tax and all that and these make the price go up.
Before now the private depot have sold at a lower price what could be responsible for the raise in price up to N145?
That is for them to answer because they sell to us we buy from them. I would not want to know from them why they are selling high. If government can regulate their price, good. Let government go and regulate the price at the private depot, when it is regulated and the product is given to us at government approved price then we can sell at N86.50
So, the location of the problem now is on government?
Yes. Government, the DPR, Department of Petroleum Resources, they regulate everything. They should go and start the fight from there and they should ensure that there is constant availability of product. That is the most important thing because you cannot control what you did not give out. You want to control the price of fuel and you cannot give it out. Those people, the private depot owners, do they not pay tax? They pay different things, it is just like you buying a car abroad you pay for duties and other things t custom and custom will come and tell you how to sell your car? No! You sell it the way you can make profit.
Do you see the government policy on pump price as unrealistic?
It is unrealistic. There need to be constant availability of the product. Sometimes the NNPC shuts down, for about two weeks there will be no product, where do you want the common man to get fuel if not for the private depot? You see, that is the problem.
You are in a difficult situation but the lay man does not see it that light…
Yes, they just believe that we are selling at N160 and that means we are the people who are arbitrarily raising the price. They should know that we also buy and we sell the way we buy. If the product is cheap we will sell cheap and if it is high we sell high. We must keep our stations running, we pay tax and salaries to the people working there.
Morally, do you feel the pains of the people?
Yes. Iam a human being, I have relations there too who are also using this product. Every Nigerian must use the product. My relatives are also complaining. Sometimes I go to the extent of selling to my relations the way I bought it just to sacrifice for them. If the price of fuel goes up it affects everything; people who do business will tell you the transport to buy their goods increased and they definitely increase the price of their goods. So that is the situation and there is nothing we can do about it.
Do Independent Marketers have a meeting where they can discuss issues?
We have our meeting evert last Friday of the month that is when we meet to discuss and the only issue is we must sell the way we buy.
We hear that sometimes you have a pratical measure of dodging the DPR officials when they come to check your level of compliance with the government approved price. Filling station A and B sell at a time and before you know it, a cross- call goes out and all are shut at the same time, can you explain why all filling stations get shut some time?
One thing I see, we are all human beings and we have an association, since DPR does not want us to sell the way we buy then we close, but it is still affecting us and yet what can we do?
For the sake of the common man who does not understand what is happening, what message of hope will you give to the consumer?
We all are Nigerians; if our country is better today it is for the benefit of everybody. Our prayer is God should help us save this situation of fuel crisis because it is only God that can help us. Even now the crude price is low at the market so definitely, this product is even supposed to be cheaper than the N86.50 they are selling now you know. I t is just God that we pray to come and save us.
So the situation looks hopeless?
Yes, it is a very hopeless situation. You see people complaining, people crying, difficulty everywhere, it is just God that we pray to come and help us.
How do you personally react to the NNPC restructuring?
I am an Independent Marketer that is their problem. My concern is to get the product at a cheap price and sell, that is all I want.
Thank you very much.