Friday, 22nd September 2023

Understanding the fuel subsidy razzmatazz, corruption and deceit

By Josef Onoh
07 June 2023   |   2:36 pm
May I start by giving credit to Adedamola Adetayo, of the Crescent Media? He is one Nigerian whose deep patriotism for the country is incontrovertible and craves for restoration of the old order, when Nigeria once worked and I appreciate, fancy his passion. To all those who despite the thorny road to ‘Renew Hope’ still…

May I start by giving credit to Adedamola Adetayo, of the Crescent Media? He is one Nigerian whose deep patriotism for the country is incontrovertible and craves for restoration of the old order, when Nigeria once worked and I appreciate, fancy his passion. To all those who despite the thorny road to ‘Renew Hope’ still exhibit the tenacity, ruggedness and unwavering courage of the African wild buffalo though mortally wounded won’t fall but charge towards its aggressor. President Tinubu and members of our party the APC will stand on our bond, our covenant with Nigerians to ensure that despite all odds we shall together Renew Hope.

Earlier than now, Nigeria had four refineries: two in Port Harcourt, one in Warri and another one in Kaduna. Crude oil was pumped into those four refineries and we got all the products we wanted. Even at that time, the four refineries couldn’t meet our consumption in Nigeria and we had to import the balance. I am not sure anybody bothered to find out why the four refineries couldn’t meet our domestic needs for fuel, perhaps we were servicing Benin and Niger Republic and God knows how many other republics we serviced.

There was the Atlas Cove Jetty built somewhere on the faraway buoy, off the Lagos coast, very far from town where all products were received by the NNPC. It is owned by the NNPC. There were NNPC fuel depots all over the country; in Mosimi- Sagamu, Apata in Ibadan, Ilorin, Aba, Enugu, Makurdi and so on and so forth. We also had the Major Marketers at the time: Mobil, Texaco, Shell BP which became National Oil, AP, etc. Each of the Major Marketers had their depots at a place in Ijora-Apapa. That area was designated in the master plan of Lagos for fuel depots.

The Depots of the Major Marketers received their consignment directly from Atlas Cove and there was a chain of pumping fuel through the pipelines to satellite depots in various states across the country. Most fuel going to the Northern parts was transferred through special rail tankers and not road trucks. Fuel was pumped to the depots all over the country and road trucks only executed local transfers from the depot to filling stations. The world was a lot saner then. That was the period before America came with the Presidential system, IMF, World Bank and Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). It was the period of sanity just before the Zionists just got their own inspiration which was around that period too.

Then corruption came and was later institutionalized. Corruption which the society previously frowned at suddenly became prosperity in the hands and mouths of the people. Suddenly men without known means became glorified and exalted in society. Sometime in the middle 1980s, the Federal Government gave notice that it was going to embark on a Turn-Around Maintenance (TAM) of some or all of our refineries. As a result of the shortfalls expected, and also because NNPC was the major importer and administrator of fuel matters in Nigeria and wouldn’t be able to cope with the anticipated shortfalls, licenses were given to private actors to also import fuel into the country alongside NNPC. Those people were called Independent Marketers.

The TAM was targeted for 18 months at the time, but that was nearly 40 years ago and we may never have that TAM completed. The refineries never returned from that TAM. They were actually grounded, destroyed and never to function again till this day. We created emergency billionaires called Independent Marketers; they are the monsters we have fed and battled to this day. The Zionists were all out to destroy the refineries to enable their own schemes which are nourished through importation.

The ‘Pastorprenueurs’ kept on preaching prosperity to fuel the corruption, damage our values, emasculate our morals, divided our attention, threw viruses into our social harmony and ensured that we were perpetually ‘zombified’ and permanently distracted from the main issues, but instead glued to the channels of the kingdom of Heaven. Naira was just falling hard, poverty accelerating and the people were totally incapacitated; they will never be able to bring useful persons from their midst to form a responsible Government that could ever be able to do anything in the revolving socio-economic crises.

Pipelines have been severally attacked and vandalized and you couldn’t vandalize a petroleum pipeline without insider help. They have destroyed everything and now you see thousands of fuel tankers from Lagos, carrying products to as far away places as Sokoto and Maiduguri. These trucks destroy the roads and kill many Nigerian citizens through fire accidents.

What has then happened is that we got a set of Independent marketers who import fuel; another set in the civil service of NNPC and Politicians/Militaricians and the government fixes a price for petrol. The Marketers get licenses, get forex and they go to import fuel but the government must first assure them, more or less, to off-take their trade risks. The Marketers are traders doing but who must get guarantees from the government to more or less buy their products at their own quoted prices before even setting out. So the marketers go to Europe for example to buy 30 metric tons of fuel and they will report a landing price according to exchange rates. Since the Government has fixed pump prices, the Government is under obligation to pay the balance of whatever the quote as price per litre and this is where the problem lies.

A man can import 10 metric tons of petrol and will run to PPPRA in Abuja to report that he brought in 60MT. Of course, there could have been some behind the scene deals with the relevant agencies. On Sunday he will go and do thanksgiving with his Pastor and his Jet. He can afford to build 200 Mosques in 3 months and send 1,000 people to Mecca to pray. What has then happened is that the first set of people, who already cornered 50 percent of our income to themselves as salaries and allowances will also through and in conjunction with the Marketers, swallow another 25 percent of the balance through the Fuel Subsidy Schemes.

Meanwhile, the same people already shortchanged the country right from income sources through crude oil theft. These people are altogether probably less than 10 percent of the population. The poor Nigerian Masses who are about at least 90 percent are left to grope in the dark to manage less than 25 percent of the remaining balance of our income. From that 25 percent, there will still be found some among the masses – Armed robbers, Agberos, Vandals, Area boys, Shylock traders, etc, who will corner five percent to themselves.

In short, the 90 percent mass population (about 180m people) will have only about 20 percent of Nigeria’s income to live on. My arithmetic tells me that will never make sense. This corruption is an institutionalized scheme; you can’t fight it easily, but the surest way to fight it is with the help and support of the masses- the same masses you want to rescue. The first thing the marketers will do, and which they have done, is to lock up their depots and filling stations. They are not interested in free market trade. You have to give them a subsidy to be in business, once you stop it they will also lock up shops and there will be fuel scarcity.

Fuel Scarcity is music in the ears of groups like the opposition parties, especially in this age of the ever-hateful Zionist elements. They will instigate the same masses to revolt and unless a leader is powerful he will eventually back down and continue to allow the scam. If he doesn’t back down, he will be seen as wicked and anti-people and the non-patriotic elements will be excitedly going about with the news. Then you will hear “Bread was N100 during Buhari, it is now N200 under Tinubu.” If he backs down, things will only become worse.

The solution is to remove subsidy and damn the consequences – total hands of fixing fuel prices. If you are an Independent marketer, go and import fuel and sell at your price, even if it is N1,000 per litre. It is a free Market. Government can charge the banks to assist those marketers who are serious about business with credits. Let it continue like that and allow market forces to determine the final prices and the exact quantity of fuel we need. We will only have a few months to feel the pain but many years to enjoy the fruits. Nigerians have the decision to make.

The non-patriotic elements will surely feast on this and we must not allow them. Open borders, reset the security infrastructure and you will see prices of foodstuff will drop to counterbalance the prices of fuel. In one year, I believe we will know the truth of fuel subsidy. The big question before us is: in whose interest is NLC fighting for?

Dr. Josef Umunnakwe Onoh, is the former spokesman of President Bola Tinubu in the South East