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Fuel scarcity again! Have we not suffered enough?

By Ayo Oyoze Baje
30 January 2023   |   4:24 am
The newspaper headlines are haunting, heart-jerking, painting a horrifying spectacle of the preventable pains of the long-suffering Nigerians, still stewing in the paradox of want -of refined premium motor spirit...

fuel scarcity

The newspaper headlines are haunting, heart-jerking, painting a horrifying spectacle of the preventable pains of the long-suffering Nigerians, still stewing in the paradox of want -of refined premium motor spirit (pms)- in the midst of plenty natural deposit of crude oil resource.

If in doubt, consider some of them: ‘Petrol scarcity bites harder in Abuja, Oyo, Yobe’(-2nd March, 2021). ‘Commuters groan as fuel scarcity bites harder’ (24th Nov., 2022). ‘Fuel scarcity bites harder, cripples socio-economic activities in Kebbi (18th December, 2022). ‘Commuters trek, motorists sleep at filling stations as petrol scarcity bites harder’ (23rd January, 2023).

And if you thought there was some ray of hope at the end of the long, dark tunnel another headline stated that: ‘Fuel scarcity bites harder as marketers abandon cargoes over new charges. Price hits N270/N300 per litre”. That was also on 23rd January, 2023. Lest we forget, it was this same set of deceitful promoters of the current All Progressives Congress-led government that promised Nigerians that petrol would be sold at N80 per litre should the political party be voted into power to dislodge the then, so called ‘clueless’ President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration! That was during the now infamous and well-orchestrated vile and viperous political campaigns against thePeoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2014/2015.

Furthermore, they told us that there was nothing like ‘fuel subsidy’ as claimed by the PDP government. That it was a mere smokescreen. But today, those same politicians are vowing to remove the fuel subsidy, come April, 2023. That is some two months to go! Trust some gullible, naïve, ethno-religious and sentimentally mesmerized citizens-they swallowed the listless lies line, hook and sinker. But here we are today, all groaning under the ‘Preventable Pains of Fuel Scarcity’.

Incidentally, that was the title of my opinion essay severally published by some newspapers and online blogs on 18th February, 2022.Perhaps, a gentle reminder would wake up and tackle some slumbering senses. This was part of what I wrote back then: ‘The queues are long-winding and tortuous. The crowds of fuel-seekers are agitated and visibly angry. The attendants at the few fuel filling stations still selling petrol are ever-ready to attend mostly to the highest bidders, ready to part with some extra cash. Not long after, the jostling for the much-needed fuel degenerates into bloody fisticuffs, as verbal missiles are exchanged more freely than bullets at the battle-field. Valuable man-hours are wasted and lost, but who really cares. At least, not right here and now in Nigeria.

‘With all these scandalous scenarios unfolding in a country where crude oil was reportedly discovered in commercial quantity, precisely in Oloibiri, Bayelsa state some 66 years ago, it elicits no arguments when it is described as more of a curse than an economic cure’.

Coming back to the current situation of fuel scarcity, what could be responsible for it and how do we eventually get off the hook? According to several news reports, there is a pointer to the fact that the current fuel crisis across the country may worsen in the days ahead. The reason is traceable to the hike from N10 to N16 per litre lithering charge imposed on the independent marketers.

In addition, the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) stated in unequivocal terms that the long-winding delay in implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) was gradually slowing down some expected new investments and subsidy removal.

It would be recalled that the Federal Government had in 2022 shifted the removal of subsidy till June this year,(currently being shifted to April), a move that has been condemned by the stakeholders. Even though there was the imported product on the high sea, the associated cost involved in evacuating the product to the depots was no longer sustainable. And it makes no economic sense for the oil marketing business to thrive. Besides, the number of daughter vessels made available for evacuation of petrol from the high sea was grossly inadequate to service the number of marketers queuing for the service. Worse still, the marketers are lamenting that some cost elements which hitherto were paid in Naira are now been exclusively charged in Dollars!

Adding to the transportation challenges remains that of the NNPC as the only importer of petrol into the oil-producing country! Anomalous isn’t it? Of course, it is and it is reflective of a failed leadership that takes undue pleasure in blaming others for its self-inflicted woes.

That brings us to the questionable move by the so called anti-sabotage organization that goes by the name of ‘The Natives’. It is asking the Directorate of State Security Service (DSS) and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to fish out oil marketers and other marketers surreptitiously fuelling the fuel scarcity across the country! Can you believe that?

The group went ahead to remind the pain-bearing Nigerians that according to the Minister of state for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva, President Muhammadu Buhari has not directed the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) to increase the price of PMS! But it does not take rocket science to understand the rudimentary factors that underscore and influence the price regime of consumables, more so, that of petrol!

The pain in all of these factors leading to high costs of petroleum products is that we, the common Nigerians, are at the receiving end. We bear the brunt, always holding the short end of the stick of the national economy. Unfortunately, when the prices are hiked there are no measures in place to cushion the spin-off effects on the high cost of living. As usual transporters are using the opportunity to rip-off helpless passengers.

As recently reported, a bus ride from Abule-Egba to Oshodi all in Lagos state which used to go for N300 has been increased to N500 while Abule-Egba to Sango which used to cost N200 has gone up to N300. At the Apapa depot, tankers have been on queue for months without product to load except for those evacuating Automotive Gas Oil (AGO), popularly called Diesel.
But unlike fuel scarcity in 2021/2022 traced to its adulteration, this is linked to increased market forces. With inflation rate at 21.34%, lending rate increased from 16.5% to 17.5% by the CBN, the spin-off effects of the hike in the cost of PMS on transportation, cost of food items and consumables have come at the toughest time. Now the burden-bearing donkey is crying out loud that the weight of the loads being placed on its back are too heavy to bear!