Stakeholders in the petroleum and transport sector have said that the Federal Government’s initiative aimed at promoting the use of Compressed Natural Gas-powered vehicles nationwide is facing a major challenge due to inadequate CNG stations in the country.

CNG can be used in place of petrol, diesel, and liquefied petroleum gas. It is used in traditional petrol/internal combustion engine automobiles or specifically manufactured vehicles.

President Bola Tinubu approved the establishment of the Presidential Compressed Natural Gas initiative last year, targeting over 11,500 new CNG-enabled vehicles.

Also included in the target are 55,000 CNG conversion kits for existing PMS-dependent vehicles as the initiative seeks to strengthen in-country manufacturing, local assembly, and expansive job creation in line with the presidential directive.

However, stakeholders in the petroleum and transport sectors have lamented that the absence of the needed CNG stations is frustrating the FG’s initiative and stalling the massive roll-out and use of CNG-powered buses.

An insider in the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, who is not authorised to comment on the issue, in a chat with PUNCH Online, however, said that the government is making efforts to encourage and support the establishment of CNG stations.

She noted that the regulatory framework for CNG is designed to ensure the safety of consumers and promote fair competition.

“We are working closely with stakeholders to monitor the establishment of gas filling stations, adherence to safety standards, and creating an environment where Nigerians can confidently adopt CNG,” she said.

Also speaking with our correspondent, an energy analyst and CNG expert, Dr Amina Yusuf, harped on the need to establish more CNG buses, adding that CNG offers Nigeria a unique opportunity to address both environmental and economic challenges.

“Its cleaner emissions profile and domestic availability position it as a viable alternative to traditional fuels, reducing carbon footprints while enhancing energy security,” Yusuf said.

However, in various cities, especially in Lagos, Abuja, and Ogun state, our Correspondent gathered that the introduction of CNG has garnered mixed reactions from users. While some individuals and businesses welcome the opportunity to contribute to cleaner air and reduce costs and emissions, others express concerns about the accessibility of refilling stations and the overall feasibility of the transition.

PUNCH Online findings from drivers, commuters, and major gas marketers confirmed that a major hindrance to the CNG-powered bus initiative is the absence of the needed stations.

They also harped on the urgent need for a robust network of CNG stations to support the adoption of natural gas as a cleaner and more sustainable alternative to conventional fuels for vehicles.

The drivers, commuters, and gas marketers in separate encounters told our correspondent that despite Nigeria’s abundant natural gas reserves, the lack of sufficient filling infrastructure restricts the accessibility and viability of CNG-powered vehicles.

A CNG-powered commercial car driver on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, Tanimola Ibrahim said: “I was initially skeptical about the use of CNG due to the upfront cost of converting my vehicle. However, the fuel savings and the smoother engine performance convinced me of its benefits.

“I hope more CNG filling stations will be established across the country to make it more convenient for drivers like me.”

A business owner and CNG-powered vehicle user, Chidinma Okafor, said she has switched her delivery fleet to using CNG while describing it as a game-changer.

“Not only am I contributing to cleaner air, but the cost savings over time are substantial. The government’s incentives have eased the transition and made it a win-win for both my business and the environment.”

However, Hassan Sani, a commuter differs in his comment saying the CNG refueling stations are on the increase compared to what it used to be when it came up as an alternative.

“It’s been a cost-effective decision. The availability of refilling stations is increasing, and I’m glad to contribute to reducing pollution. It’s a small change that can make a big difference.”

A CNG-powered taxi driver, Suleiman Abubakar said, “As a taxi driver, CNG has significantly lowered my operating costs. With the rising fuel price, it’s a relief to have a more affordable option. I believe as more drivers make the switch, it will not only benefit us but also contribute to a cleaner environment.”

Abubakar, however, also harped on the need for the establishment of more CNG stations.

A truck driver, Musa Idris, speaking with our correspondent stressed the need for the Federal Government to increase awareness of the use of CNG-powered vehicles.

He also urged the FG to partner with the private sector and gas marketers to increase the number of gas stations across the country.

He said, “The major challenge is the inability to access gas stations when driving long distances. This is a big threat to the use of CNG by truck drivers even though we value it more than diesel.

“Diesel and petrol are now expensive, while CNG is cheaper, safer and more economical,” Idris told PUNCH Online.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited recently announced that it has partnered with NIPCO Gas Limited to construct 35 CNG stations across the country, adding that the partnership aims to provide cheaper alternative fuel to motorists in Nigeria in compliance with President Bola Tinubu’s directive.

“As part of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited’s commitment to providing cheaper alternative fuel to motorists, the company is happy to announce a strategic partnership with NIPCO Gas Limited to deploy compressed natural gas (CNG) stations across the country.

“This landmark collaboration aims to expand our CNG infrastructure, improve access to CNG, and accelerate the adoption of cheaper and cleaner alternative fuel for buses, cars, and Keke NAPEP, which will significantly reduce the cost of transportation and engender sustainable national economic growth.

“Once fully operational, the stations can service over 200,000 vehicles daily, thereby significantly reducing the cost of automobile fuel for Nigerians and the cost of transportation.

“The first phase, comprising 21 CNG stations, will support intra-city transportation and be ready by the first quarter of 2024; while the second phase, comprising 35 CNG stations, will support inter-city transformation and will be ready by late 2024. This will be further complemented by an additional 56 stations to be deployed by NNPC Retail across the country,” NNPC said in a statement.

The Chief Corporate Communications Officer, NNPCL, Mr Femi Soneye, when called to share more details on the partnership to establish more CNG stations requested our Correspondent to send him a message, but he has yet to respond to the message as of the time of filing this report.

Assistant General Manager, Corporate Communications, NIPCO Gas Plc, Mr Lawal Taofeek, in an exclusive interview with PUNCH Online, however, told our Correspondent on Tuesday that NIPCO Gas Limited is operating 14 CNG stations across Nigeria and has converted over 7,000 vehicles to run on CNG.

He said, “NIPCO’s technical competency and field experience will bolster the initiative’s success and amplify its positive impact on the nation’s economy”.

President Tinubu said his administration has made provision to invest N100bn between now and March 2024 to acquire 3,000 units of 20-seater buses powered by CNG.