By Afolabi Joseph
These, indeed, are trying times in the country as lingering fuel scarcity impacts negatively on businesses.
Many businesses are now grounded for lack of fuel to power their operations. Many Nigerians had expected that the fuel situation would have improved by now based on the assurances given by the Minister of State for Petroleum resources that petrol scarcity will end by April 7.
Instead of abating, the fuel crisis is deepening and impacting on business activities as many man hours are spent looking for fuel while many business hours are also lost to endless time spent waiting for commercial vehicles to get to the offices.
Even small businesses that sell cold drinks and frozen foods are lamenting that the situation have rendered them helpless, as sales are down drastically.
Newsherald reporters that went to town in different parts of the country came back with the same type of agonizing experience people are passing through.
For instance, Mrs. Grace Chinedu, a grocery store owner in Oke Aro area of Ogun State, lamented bitterly that she could no longer sell cold drinks, where she used to make more sales to feed her family.
“Before the beginning of this fuel scarcity, I was making more than N5000 daily from the sales of cold drinks. But now, I could hardly sell up to N300 a day. The weather is harsh and everybody wants something cold. But as there is no fuel to power my generator, it has affected my business adversely,” she said.
Also, Mr. Jericho Adeyinka, a fashion designer, who works on the Island, said that the fuel situation as almost crippled his business as he could no longer go to the office regularly. “The fuel ‘wahala’ has almost crippled my business. I can no longer go to the office regularly because I cannot afford the fares, neither am I able to buy petrol for my generator.
“So, what I have decided to do is to work from home on certain days, so that I don’t disappoint my clients,” he added.
The General Manager of Christ Light Transport Company, Mr. John Ezaka, whose vehicles ply the Lagos-Abakaliki route, said that sales have reached an all-time low as a result of the scarcity of fuel.
“We have 50 buses on our fleet located in our three parks in Lagos, Ijebu-Ode and Abakaliki.
“But since the beginning of the year, our business has been experiencing a lot of challenges, particularly the scarcity of fuel.
“We have had to increase our transport fares from the N3, 200 to N4, 200, but we discovered that many people are now afraid to travel because they are not able to afford our new fares.
“In the past, a total of three or four buses departed Lagos for our various destinations daily, but now, we would be lucky to have even one full bus daily.
“It wasn’t this bad last year, so our sales have seriously reduced,” he said.
Also, the manager of Motlan Printing Press at Oshodi, Mr. Olanrewaju Dunmiju, said he was stranded at Iyana-Ipaja for over three hours before he decided to walk to the next bus stop because he has lots of pending work to do in his office.
“I have a lot of work to do at the office, so I can’t afford to waste my time waiting endlessly at the bus stop because those I met there are still there,” he said.
According to the Director General of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Muda Yusuf, “The fuel crisis is further hitting productivity during the worst economic slowdown in 15 years. “Many people cannot get to work on time or at all, because either they cannot get fuel for their cars or they cannot afford higher transport costs.”
The situation has undoubtedly affected every aspect of live in the country as transportation fares have also increased by more than 100 percent in most cases.
In Lagos State for instance, transport fare from Agege to Yaba, which used to be N150 has gone up to N400 while Iyana-Ipaja to Oshodi is pegged at N300, instead of N100.
From Ikorodu Garage in Lagos to Ogijo in Ogun State, along the Ikorodu-Sagamu Road, is now N200, instead of N100, while the fare from Ikorodu to Mile 12 is now N250, instead of N150.
A driver, who operates the Oshodi to Orile Iganmu route, Mr. Tunde Ajani, said that the transport business had not only become stressful but was no longer lucrative because of the hardship encountered in the pursuit of fuel.