Gas station pumps ran dry in major British cities on Monday and vendors rationed sales as a shortage of truckers strained supply chains to breaking point in the world’s fifth-largest economy.
A dire post-Brexit shortage of lorry drivers revealed as the COVID-19 pandemic eases has sown chaos through British supply chains in everything from food to fuel, raising the spectre of disruptions and price rises in the run up to Christmas.
Drivers queued for hours to fill their cars at gas stations that were still serving fuel, albeit often rationed, and there were calls for National Health Service (NHS) workers to be given priority, to keep hospitals open as the pandemic continues.
“As pumps run dry there is a real risk that NHS staff won’t be able to do their jobs, and provide vital services and care to people who urgently need it,” said Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the British Medical Association’s council chair.
Pumps across British cities were either closed or had signs saying fuel was unavailable on Monday, Reuters reporters said, with some limiting the amount of fuel each customer could buy.
The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which represents independent fuel retailers which now account for 65% of all UK forecourts, said members had reported that 50% to 90% of pumps were dry in some areas.
“We need some calm,” Gordon Balmer, executive director of the PRA, who worked for BP (BP.L) for 30 years, told Reuters. “Please don’t panic buy: if people drain the network then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) said it had seen higher than usual demand for fuel across its British network and that some sites were running low on some grades of fuel.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said there was no shortage of fuel, urged people to stop panic buying and said there were no plans to get the army to drive trucks, though the Ministry of Defence would help with trucker testing.
Hauliers, gas stations and retailers warned that there were no quick fixes, however, as the shortfall of truck drivers – estimated to be around 100,000 – was so acute, and because transporting fuel demands additional training and licensing.
For months, supermarkets, processors and farmers have warned that a shortage of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers was straining supply chains to breaking point – making it harder to get goods onto shelves.
Amid warnings of a dire winter ahead, some politicians in the European Union linked the supply chain stress to the 2016 Brexit referendum and Britain’s subsequent decision to seek a distant relationship with the bloc.
“The free movement of labour is part of the European Union, and we tried very hard to convince the British not to leave the Union,” said Olaf Scholz, the Social Democrat candidate to succeed Angela Merkel as German chancellor.
“They decided differently. I hope they will manage the problems coming from that,” Scholz said.
British ministers have insisted that Brexit is nothing to do with the current trucker shortage, though around 25,000 truckers returned to Europe before Brexit. Britain was also unable to test 40,000 drivers during COVID-19 lockdowns.
Edwin Atema, the head of research and enforcement at the Netherlands-based FNV union, told the BBC that EU drivers were unlikely to flock to Britain given the conditions on offer.
“The EU workers we speak to will not go to the UK for a short-term visa to help UK out of the shit they created themselves,” Atema said.
Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo Seeks Collaboration With Vietnam on Agriculture and Technology
Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo has sought collaboration with Vietnam in the areas of agriculture and technology. The vice president spoke in Vietnam at a bilateral meeting on Monday.
During the meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart, Võ Thị Ánh Xuân, Osinbajo acknowledged both countries’ market potentials in the digital economy, telecommunications, and agriculture.
Speaking at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo noted that telecommunication penetration in Nigeria is one of the deepest in any developing country, stating that about 120 million Nigerians now use one telecom service or the other.
Calling for collaboration on digital economy, Osinbajo said “We have close to 120 million of our citizens who have put to use telecom equipment or devices. And also, broadband connectivity is vastly improved. We hope that by 2025, we will have broadband connectivity for all of our over 200 million people”.
On the call for collaboration in the area of agriculture, the vice president noted that cashew production is an important area in which both counties can partner.
He said ” Given the food crisis that the world faces today, and is likely to continue facing even in the coming years, I like to say that the way forward is for our countries to collaborate. For instance, establishing cashew processing plants in Nigeria”.
Investors King understands that Vietnam is the world’s second-largest cashew processor with an annual processing capacity of 1.2 million tons representing up to 40 percent of the world’s total capacity.
Speaking at the event, the Vietnamese Vice President commended Nigeria’s leadership role in the ECOWAS sub-region and Africa generally, especially in the peaceful resolution of disputes.
She also commended Nigeria’s handling of the Covid 19 pandemic while reposing confidence in Nigeria’s ability to resolve challenges confronting the African continent and the West African region in particular.
Conclusively, she added that her country would continue to work with Africa to meet its aspirations in agriculture, clean energy and digital penetration.
Togo, Benin, and Niger Republic Owe Nigeria N4.1 Trillion in Electricity Debts
Nigeria currently supplies electricity to the Republic of Benin, Togo, and Niger through the Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading, NBET Plc
The House of Representatives on Public Account has disclosed that Nigeria’s neighbouring countries, Togo, Benin, and Niger Republic owe the country about N4.1 trillion in electricity bills.
The revelation was contained in a letter sent by the committee to the Managing Director of Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading, NBET Plc, Dr. Nnaemeka Eweluka.
According to the letter which was signed by the Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Oluwole Oke, the Managing Director of NBET is expected to appear alongside Dr. Marilyn Amobi, who served as MD/CEO from 2016 to 2020.
The house committee has accused the former MD, Amobi of non-rendition of the Audited Accounts for the years 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.
Investors King understands that Nigeria currently supplies electricity to the Republic of Benin, Togo, and Niger through the Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading, NBET Plc. About 6 percent of the electricity generated in the country is sold to the neighboring countries.
Meanwhile, according to the managing director of NBET, the federal government is working on structures that will enhance power distribution in the country, stating that most of the power-generating companies are currently located in the southern part of the country.
“Most of the power generation companies are located within the south-south and south-west largely because of gas with one in the south-east, of course, we have the hydros in Niger state,” he said.
The MD added that Nigeria could generate up to a capacity of about 14,000 megawatts. He however noted that the distribution capacity is only between 4,000 to 5,000 megawatts per day.
Eweluka nonetheless sounded a note of hope, making references to the intervention projects that are currently ongoing such as the partnership with Simens.
“To address this gap between what is available and what the system can currently carry; there are a number of intervention projects that the government is currently pursuing, that include the presidential power initiatives in partnership with Siemens,” he concluded.
No Plan to Increase Fuel Price; Says FG
The Federal Government has stated that it has no plan to increase fuel price during the yuletide period.
This assurance is coming amid the nationwide fuel scarcity which has pushed the price of petrol above N250 in many retail stations.
Investors King learnt that fuel is being held for N250 per litre in Abuja and several other cities across the country while black marketers are charging between N400 and N450 per litre.
The scarcity and the high price of fuel are however becoming unbearable for many Nigerians, especially those who have reasons to embark on business travel for the December festivals.
According to the National Public Relations Officer, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Chief Ukadike Chinedu, most of the association members, who owned the bulk of the filling stations across the country, were now subjected to purchasing PMS at about N220/litre, which was why many outlets currently dispensed at about N250/litre and above.
He noted that the cost of the commodity has been on the rise due to its unavailability and other concerns in the sector.
He added that the price of fuel could be sold from N350/litre to N400/litre before the end of the year.
Meanwhile, a number of senior officials at the NNPC had stated that the subsidy was becoming too burdensome on the national oil company, as this was another reason for the scarcity of PMS.
According to a source who is familiar with the development as reported by Punch News, “How can we continue to import 60 million litres of petrol daily and keep subsidising it, while millions of litres are either diverted or cannot be accounted for? The burden is too much, as you rightly captured in that story”.
Investors King understands that NNPC is the sole importer of petroleum into the country and it pays billions of naira every month to subsidise the product to N147 per litre.
Reuters News reported that in August 2022, NNPC paid more than $1 billion as fuel subsidy while the federal government earmarked N3.6 trillion as fuel subsidy in the 2023 budget proposal.
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