As fuel scarcity worsens in Abuja, black marketers have increased in number and are smiling to the bank.
Indeed it seems that while fuel scarcity is a phenomenon that middle class and rich generator and car owners dread, it is something that the poor masses bold enough to get involved in the risky trade relish.
However whereas in the past, only male adults were known to take to the streets running around to sell the product, today, women and young boys have joined the league.
Women, garbed in wrapper and young ladies in jeans trousers pace up and down the streets armed with the “tools of the trade” – hoses and jerry cans – are now a common sight in Abuja and even in some parts of Lagos.
In Abuja in particular, reports the Sun, it used to be young men, especially from the north of the country that dominated the ad-hoc business.
However as the scarcity worsens, apart from women who are now in the picture, little boys around the ages of 11-15 who ought to be in school are out on the streets, even on the highways hawking a commodity that the country is meant to have in abundance.
The question among Abuja residents and ineed among most Nigerian consumers, is why fuel remains scarce in the filling stations while supply never dries up among the hawkers in the black market. If indeed the dire scarcity painted by petroleum markers exists, shouldn’t it also cause a dry-up in the supply that keeps the black markets thriving.
It seems some black marketers travel to nearby states to get the fuel. But others actually get it in Abuja as filling stations prefer to sell to black marketers than to regular customers with cars as the stations make more profit from selling to black marketers.
From the security men at the filling stations who collect money to let cars that are not in the queue have access to the station, to the policemen who patrol around to seize fuel from hawkers, sometimes collect bribe from the black marketers, so many odd businesses have been spawned by the man-made scarcity .
While the boys and women at the roadsides and streets with gallons of fuel are most visible, there is always a ‘mini depot’ from where the main black marketers sell to the young men and now women. Apparently, the boys on the street are just the visible outlets of the disturbing trade.
The hustling of these black marketers is now part of metropolitan life as they hang around the major roads. However, in their struggle, they are always wary for patrol vans of the police who seize their gallons of fuel
One of these female sellers spoke to the Sun on why there were women thriving too in the business, she explained that it was because of the economic situation in the country.
“When we come into the business, one will go home and tell the other woman the profit she made in the sales and by the next day, the woman who was told of the profit possibility also starts hawking. For instance, you tell her, I bought fuel at N3000 and sold it at N4000, making N1000 gain, the woman listening gets excited about such profit margin that also comes fast. Tomorrow she will eventually give it a try. That is why everyday you see more females on the streets hawking fuel.”
Still speaking on the struggle to make the best of the bad situation and how and where they get their fuel, she said, “we travel to the nearby states like Kaduna, Niger or Nasarawa or the outskirts of Abuja to get the fuel. I go there with two or three people. There, we buy at N130 for a litre but their liters are tampered with and the queues at the filling stations not so long that we save time buying unlike in Abuja where buyers can wait for an entire day to buy fuel.”
An engineer, Stanley Mbah, who works near a filling station along the Kubwa expressway who had an opposing view, said, “they get fuel here in filling stations in Abuja, I see them everyday, the filling stations prefer to sell to them than they to car because they make more profit from them. The question is, what is the Petroleum Task Force doing? Why can’t the government monitor where the fuel supplied filling stations go to? What is the media doing about exposing this wrong thing going on? When Nigerians talk of corruption at the top I say, it is around us, patrolling.”
“I have not seen anything done by the government, we see people hawking petroleum like groundnut and government officials that should enforce the stoppage pass like they don’t see them.
“Now women are in it, because of poverty, you see women and girls in the everywhere in Abuja hawking fuel, all out to look for food for the hungry mouths at home.”