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Pains, more pains from fuel crisis

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Fuel scarcity long queue

Queue at a petrol station

• Labour threatens to call workers’ strike
• Telecomms operators may shut down services
• Lawmakers, marketers, others meet today
• Capital Oil defies strike, begins loading petrol

UNLESS a solution is quickly found to the lingering fuel scarcity, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) says it may ask workers to stay at home in protest.

A statement yesterday by the Deputy President of NLC, Comrade Issa Aremu, said: “After several weeks of deliberate deprivations of petroleum products by both the government and marketers alike with all the associated hardships, it’s time all Nigerians stopped agonising and rose in unison against this (Nigeria’s) agony caused by capitalism.

“With petroleum products’ prices as high as N350 per litre, (far above N87 per litre!) claims and counter-claims between Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and marketers over so-called N159 billion subsidy payments and all state actors looking indifferent, Nigeria is the only country on earth which unacceptably and criminally denies its citizens basic sources of energy: fuel and electricity.”

Aremu, who pointed out that Labour was studying the way the government was handling the situation, said that “Nigerian workers may be asked to stay at home if the current scarcity and price robbery of Nigerians continue.”

There were indications , also, that because of the fuel crisis, telecommunications service operators may shut down services. Consequently, about 142 million active telephone lines in Nigeria may be halted.

The operators including MTN Nigeria, Airtel, Globacom and Etisalat yesterday, cried out, saying they were not getting diesel supplies to their respective Base Tranceiver Stations (BTS), spread across the country.

The situation has not been helped by the fact that at present combined output of petroleum products from the four existing refineries has continued to fall short of the total national demand just as most filling stations in Nigeria ran out of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) at the weekend.

Specifically, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s (NNPC’s) four refineries – two in Port Harcourt (PHRC), and one each in Kaduna (KRPC) and Warri (WRPC), with a combined installed capacity of 445,000 barrels per day (bpd) are almost producing at zero capacity.

And worried by the scarcity, the leadership of the Senate is scheduled to meet with representatives of the Executive arm of government, petroleum marketers, depot owners and tanker drivers in Abuja this morning to find solution to the intractable fuel queues nationwide.

On its part, the Nigerian telecommunications sector, which is estimated to be worth over $32 billion, is home to about 29, 000 BTS, which is currently adjudged to be grossly insufficient to meet the growing demands for the services in the country.

Investigations by The Guardian showed that the operators power the BTS with about 50,000 generating sets, with at least two in each site.

As at February, Nigeria’s tele-density was 101.8 per cent. Indeed, on its Facebook Page, yesterday, MTN Nigeria, which has about 61 million subscribers and over 40 per cent market share, stated that the growing diesel scarcity was jeopardising its operations.

MTN Nigeria stressed that the scarcity posed a significant threat to quality of service and the ability to optimally operate the net beokuta while receiving a delegation of South West Women Leaders under the leadership of the Iyalode of Yorubaland, Chief (Mrs) Alaba Lawson at his Hill Top residence, noted that the new opportunity is God – given.

He said the good thing about the next administration is that the man who would head it, Buhari, is neither “a green horn nor a novice” in governance.

According to him, Buhari had been in the saddle before, even if it was under a “different circumstance” and would therefore use his experience to navigate the country in the right direction.

Maintaining that Nigerians are a clever people, Obasanjo advised Buhari to be honest and truthful with them, saying he should not try to “cover up” or try to “play the ostrich” with them, but to be as honest as possible with them in overseeing the affairs of the country.

The former president, who told his visitors that he believed in the political acumen of the President-elect in leading Nigeria, noted that the country had been poorly managed in the last eight years.

He contended that it would take some time for Buhari’s government to correct the anomalies, asking him not to be frightened by the situation.

He said: “When I came in 1999, there was no fuel and power. The situation was like this and I thought we have put that one behind us. The man that is coming on board has a lot of experiences in terms of governance.

“He is not a green horn. We have both worked together in administering, then as a military Head of State and we did it well. Nigerians need to exercise patience because what has been destroyed in eight years cannot be re-built ‎in a day.

“Let’s give him time. Let’s pray for him and let’s cooperate with him. We are all concerned about the present situation of Nigeria. The expectation is very high but at the same time, there is a lot of goodwill internally and externally for the in-coming government.

“Once the in-coming administration realises this and takes every step, particularly in the first three months when people will be watching and counting‎, for me, I think, we will get there.”

Speaking further, Obasanjo said: “God has provided a new opportunity for Nigeria and Nigerians and I believe God does not make mistake.

“‎There are two things I believe the in-coming President appreciates: he knows that the expectations of Nigerians are high and that he should not be frightened by the situation on ground.

“All he has to do is to be honest with Nigerians, and try not to be too clever with them.

“There is a lot of goodwill for the in-coming administration from within and outside the country. What is important is that steps have to be taken that will not lead to the squandering of the goodwill and I believe the in-coming government will be able to take care of that.”

In her response, Lawson said the country was currently experiencing agony in terms of corruption, insecurity, high crime rate, lack of power and fuel.

She noted that Obasanjo took over reins of leadership in 1999 when Nigeria was in a critical situation “like what is being experienced now.”

She urged Obasanjo to continue to play the advisory role towards ensuring the success of this administration.

She said: “We are aware that you also took over the reins of power of this country at a critical time and with the help of the Almighty, you were able to bring us back from the brink. The same goes for now.

“We therefore appeal to you not to leave this incoming government alone. Though we are confident in the time-proven abilities of our incoming President Muhammadu Buhari, we also believe that two heads are better than one and where there is a gathering of wise ones, wisdom will issue forth from there.”


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