A front page banner headline in one of the national dailies on April 16 read, ''Pump Price: Oil Marketers Defy Govt in South East''.
The report had it that marketers of petroleum in Anambra and other states in the south east had continued to sell petrol for between N200 and N220 in Awka and environs despite the increased supply of the product to the state.
It went on to report that all the major marketers in the state had failed to comply with the government’s approved price of N86 and N86.50 except the NNPC Mega Station and Total Filling Station.
It further reported that one of the marketers, NIPCO, initially sold at the approved price after taking delivery of the product only to quickly adjust their metres and sold it at N190.
At another filling station, according to the report, this time in Ogidi, the operators used a tape to hide the N140 price per litre and pasted N170 while transactions were done with calculators in an apparent move to cheat customers.
The paper believed that Anambra marketers had received their fair share of supply of petrol but had refused to sell at the normal price.
This is, indeed, the general practice across Anambra State, even before the current energy crisis. Marketers have always been in the habit of hiking prices at the slightest notice of fuel scarcity despite having their old stock bought at the normal rate. But the same people will hesitate to bring down the price after normalisation and when asked why, would usually claim that they had not exhausted the stock they bought at higher prices.
Really, marketers have been taking people for a ride because of their greed and such behaviour has become worse in this period. But the saddening aspect of the whole thing is what seems to be the silence or inactivity of the Anambra State government to monitor the compliance of these sharks to the approved new price regime as is the case in many states. What happens have been mere half-hearted attempts at monitoring compliance which have never been sustained. This development has only served to embolden the marketers to persist in their act.
We feel it is therefore time that the Anambra State Government asserted itself and call the bluff of these marketers. They cannot continue holding the state to ransom. Government should revive the task force on petroleum immediately and mandate it to deal decisively with erring marketers in order to bring relief to the Anambra citizenry.
A situation where these marketers get supplies and still refuse to bring down prices is not acceptable. The task force should be saddled with the responsibilities determining which stations have been supplied and at what price. This will enable it to know the real defaulters. They should also check for metre manipulations and severely punish those behind it.
Allowing the marketers to get away with their dubious transactions is not good for the polity. As a result of the current energy crisis, the prices of almost everything have spiralled out of reach of the ordinary citizens and knowing that we are in a country where anything that goes up hardly comes down, there is every need to act fast and arrest the situation.
The task force on petroleum in Anambra should be alive to its responsibility by embarking on regular all round monitoring of petrol stations and leave a hotline for people to report erring stations. The suffering of the people is too much and should not be allowed to continue unduly.