Anxiety as fuel scarcity lingers
Sir: Queues of motorists struggling to purchase premium motor spirit, popularly called petrol, persist for about the sixth week since they were first noticed at retail gasoline outlets in Abuja as the essential commodity remains elusive.
While most of the filling stations are shut, a few dispensing the product have hordes of customers with apprehension written all over their faces as they spend valuable man-hours – sometimes days on vehicular lines. By the way, the above scenario is said to be playing out in some other parts of the country where fuel scarcity continues to exist.
Sadly enough, a large crowd of commuters could be seen at bus terminals waiting for the arrival of any available public or private transport service to convey them to their various destinations.
Naturally, the PMS shortage has afforded agents like “Black Marketers” the opportunity of cashing out big from their illegal brisk business. The racketeers make humongous gains selling the product in jerry cans of 5,10, and 20 litres. These allegedly go for as much as N5,000, N10,000, and N20,000 respectively in blatant contravention of extant laws.
Expectedly though, almost every aspect of human endeavour is impacted by the ripple effect of the notorious petroleum saga. Aside from grounding economic activities in parts of the nation, the imbroglio has engendered an astronomical rise in transportation costs for both inter and intra-city movements said to have quadrupled to about 200 per cent. Similarly, prices of essential food items have skyrocketed with a lot of families having difficulties affording balanced diets every day.
In the aviation industry, several flights of local airlines hit by the nation-wide shortage of Jet-A1 fuel which rose to about N700/litre before interventionist measures by government have been cancelled. This has led to a hike in airfares. Meanwhile, the World Bank has predicted that the rising prices of goods and services in the country will push seven million Nigerians into poverty this year.
As a solution to the lingering crisis, Dr. Ahmed Adamu, a petroleum economist in an article titled, “Fuel scarcity: Issues and solutions,” has recommended the stoppage of petroleum importation and removal of subsidies; calling on the government to encourage the use of alternative fuels like Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), Adamu canvassed petroleum consumption reduction programmes to include investments in light rail transit.
As we await the full operationalization of the 650,000 barrels-per-day Dangote Refinery in Lagos which Minister of Information and Culture has described as “a game-changer capable of driving refining revolution in Africa”, the imperatives for convocation of an urgent emergency summit by the government, industry players with relevant stakeholders towards advocating proactive measures for a radical transformation of the oil and gas sector cannot be overstressed. After all, a stitch in time, they say, saves nine.
• Patrick Wemambu was the editor of Abuja-based Abuja Grand magazine.