Fuel scarcity: Black marketers are making cool cash from selling petrol in Lagos
- As fuel scarcity lingers, black market petrol dealers appear to be making a lot of money from every sale
- The worsening fuel scarcity in the country has forced many Nigerians to turn to black marketers
- Findings suggest that filling station managers and attendants are enabling the activities of black marketers which further fuels the scarcity of petrol
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On every corner of the roads, you would spot them carrying different sizes of jerry cans filled with petrol and running after motorists with the intent to persuade them to buy from them. Along with their jerry cans of petrol, they are always with a hose to help a customer discharge the petrol from the jerry cans to their cars in exchange for a handsome price.
Welcome to the world of Nigeria's petrol black marketers. Mostly unemployed, they have chosen to capitalise on the current fuel scarcity to make some money for themselves. A 5-litre jerry can of fuel is sold between N2000 - N3,500 depending on the location and the time of the day.
The worsening fuel scarcity has forced many Nigerians to turn to black marketers despite the more expensive rate the product is being sold by them. Transporters who need to convey passengers, motorists who need to get to work or their place of business, business persons who need to power their generators for their businesses and of course, individuals who need to power their home generators are some of the customers who now depend on the alternative that black marketers provide.
Petrol queues in many parts of Nigeria have extended, giving rise to the activities of black marketers. Many filling stations are shut as they did not have the products to sell and those that are selling have to deal with long queues, sometimes stretching as far as 2 kilometres.
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Legit.ng observed that in many parts of Lagos, filling stations that had the product was selling for between N220 - N400 per litre, depending on the petrol station, location and time of day.
How petrol black markets operate
Interestingly, the activities of petrol black marketers mostly thrive during fuel scarcity. Customers hardly patronise them when there is no scarcity unless in rare cases where one's vehicle runs out of fuel in the middle of a highway where there is no petrol station in sight.
A second scenario that would require their patronage would be if a customer desperately needs the product when the available filling station may have closed for the day.
But during fuel scarcity, they serve as a major alternative to Nigerians who can not locate available filling stations that have fuel or do not have the time to spend in long queues which sometimes requires wasting a whole day.
Black marketers, on the other hand, have all the time in the world to spend in fuel station queues to get the products. You would easily identify them as the ones who usually bring several giant jerrycans and drums to fuel queues and are ever ready for the pushing and shoving at the filling stations.
Depending on the rate they buy from the filling stations, they would most likely sell at double the cost price or for a price that guarantees them a lot of profit that according to them, compensates for the time spent in queues.
The current fuel scarcity in Nigeria which has lasted for about two months has put black marketers at an advantageous position as they now make cool cash on every transaction.
When Legit.ng spoke to a black marketer simply identified as Toso about operations, he said that his unemployment status forced him to turn to the illegal trade. The dealer who operates from the Cele bus stop section of the Oshodi-Apapa expressway said:
I'm only doing this because I have to feed my family. If I was employed, I would be at work and not on the street selling fuel. The scarcity just provides an opportunity to make more money within a short time and selling fuel is good business. I bought petrol for N250 a litre but I'm selling at N350 a litre. I don't think that is too much a profit to make for my stress.
Another black marketer who identified herself simply as Oreoluwa and sells her petrol for N400 a litre told Legit.ng that the business is quite stressful, even though profitable at the same time. She said:
It's not always easy, especially for a woman. You have to have the strength to struggle in the fuel queues. You have to be ready to spend the whole day or sometimes two days to buy as much quantity as you need. But the profit you make at the end of the day makes it worthwhile.
Even though some black marketers like Oreoluwa have to struggle to get the fuel, Legit.ng found out there are some who are higher up in ranking and have connections with top staff in the filling stations who supply them with ease.
One of the petrol black marketers who simply identified himself as Jimoh told Legit.ng that the system is more organised than what people know and see. He said that there are more individuals involved in the black marketeering of petrol.
What I'm selling is not too much. We see some people come to the filling stations at night to buy up to N500 litres of petrol. Imagine how much you will make from selling N500 litres at increased prices. They go and redistribute to other smaller hawkers to sell and make returns. Some staff of these filling stations are the ones directly involved in these deals.
Admitting that the business is quite profitable, Jimoh however stated that it has its own risks and downsides. He said that sometimes they are harassed by security agents who will raid them and seize their jerrycans of petrol.
He also stated that the major risk is buying a large quantity for a specific amount and hoping to score a huge profit, only for the scarcity to end before you finish selling. When that happens, you could run at a loss depending on how much quantity you still have.
Why the black market is thriving
Petrol black marketeering usually raises its ugly head whenever there's a scarcity. For black marketers, it is usually an opportunity to make a lot of money, in most cases, with the collaboration of filling station staff who prefer to sell to them for more profit than to sell to regular consumers.
When Legit.ng visit Pinnacle filling station on the Oshodi-Apapa expressway, while they sold to consumers for N250 per litre, those who were buying in jerrycans would have to part with an additional N500-N2000, depending on the size of the container.
This extra charge is different from what they pay for the quantity of petrol purchased. It is sort of like a bribe for even selling in jerrycans, as we later found out that instruction from headquarters was for them not to sell in jerrycans.
Kayode Adeneye, an energy expert who spoke with Legit.ng stated that the activities of black marketers are being fueled by filling station management. He said:
Some of the black marketers are in cahoot with some fuel station managers and attendants. There are indications that the filling stations most times hoard and later sell to black marketers the fuel they are supposed to sell to customers. This is because it is more profitable to the filling station management to sell to black marketers than to regular users.
Fuel Scarcity: Passengers Frustrated as Bus Drivers Hike Transport Fares in Lagos
For more than two months, the current fuel scarcity in Nigeria has lingered with no solution in sight. As a result, filling stations have hiked pump prices from the official N165 per litre to between N250 - N500 per litre across different cities in the country.
As if the hardship was not already enough, the fuel scarcity has pushed upward the cost of food items in the market and also hiked the transport fares across the country, heightening the frustrations of the masses.
Most filling stations are shut as they lack petrol to sell, while a few others that are open for business are flooded by hundreds of motorists and consumers who are ready to purchase the product despite the hike in pump price.
In reacting to the biting fuel scarcity, President Muhammadu Buhari recently set up a steering committee to find a permanent solution to the problem by ensuring the fluidity of petrol at every point in the supply chain.
Last year, Legit.ng reported that the Federal Government began an operation to clamp down on the activities of black marketers of petroleum products. The FG also warned filling stations hoarding or diverting fuel they would be shut down.