By Ijendu Iheaka
Acute scarcity of the Premium Motor Spirit, commonly called petrol, has hit Umuahia and Aba, the commercial nerve centre of Abia.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the development has resulted in a sharp increase in the price of the commodity in service stations belonging to independent marketers.
In the two cities, reports that the commodity now sells at between N190 and N220 per liter.
Major marketers, however, sell at the official pump price of N162, where the commodity is available.
Meanwhile, transport fares in Aba have shot up by about 100 per cent.
A short distance trip in the metropolis by bus, which hitherto cost N50 per passenger, now costs N100.
From Osisioma, on the Aba-Port Harcourt Expressway, to any part of the metropolis, fares went up from N100 to N150.
Also, from Asannetu Market on the Aba end of the expressway into the metropolis by tricycle, popularly called Keke, the fare, which cost N300 before now, costs N500 per commuter.
Unsuspecting commuters, who came out on Tuesday morning to go to their respective places of work, expressed shock over the development.
Some of them decried the situation in an interview with NAN, saying it would add to the economic hardship in the country.
Mrs Onyinyechi Amarawuchi described the hike as unexpected and coming at a time many families were struggling to provide food on the table.
“This is unfair and government should intervene to restore normalcy in the supply of petrol to the state to put an end to the development.
Amarawuchi feared that the fare increase could have a consequential effect on the price of food items.
“You know the price of commodities in the country, especially food items, has a direct link with the cost of transportation.
“Bearing this in mind, government must strive to keep the cost of transportation in check to save the poor from abject poverty,” she said.
A tricycle operator, Eugene Ohalete, said he bought the commodity at N220 per liter, hence the hike in his fare.
“I hiked my fare because filling stations increased the price of petrol and I cannot buy fuel for N220 or N250 and collect N50 as fare per commuter.
“How do you want me to service my tricycle, pay the owner, who gave it to me on hire purchase and still feed my family, if I do not increase my fare?
“I don’t know why fuel prices went up. They cannot increase fuel price and expect transport fare to remain the same,” Ohalete said.
Many commuters in the city, who could not afford the sharp fare increase, resorted to walking long distances to their destinations.
The scenario is not different in Umuahia, the state capital.
There were long vehicular queues in a few major marketers service outlets selling the commodity at the official pump price.
Some motorists told NAN that the scarcity and hike in the price of the commodity could heighten inflation rate and also worsen the economic difficulties in the area.
They, therefore, appealed to the government and relevant agencies and groups involved in the supply of petrol to take urgent measures to bring the situation under control.