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Preventable pains of fuel scarcity!

By Ayo Oyoze Baje
25 February 2022   |   3:02 am
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 are ever-ready to attend mostly

[Fuel Scarcity

“Great leaders do not give excuses for failure. They find the reasons to succeed” -Anonymous

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 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 battlefield. 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. Or, how else can any sane citizen explain that the host communities have had to bear the brunt of gross environmental degeneration; with oil spillage that has stifled out fishing and farming activities and carbon-monoxide fumes that have choked lives out of not a few residents? And who can explain the unresolved equation of trillions of naira wasted every blessed year for over 40 years on the Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) of the four refineries, without a drop of the refined product? The citizens are left to stew in their own muddy mire of foolhardy acquiescence to the persistent punishments from their unrelenting oppressors!
  
That the country once ranked as the sixth-largest oil-producing in the world and still the largest on the African continent boasts of the World Extreme Poverty Capital status (OXFAM Report 2018) portrays a pitiable paradox. That is, of poverty and penury in the midst of plenty resources. What with an ever-skyrocketing inflation rate, a huge debt crisis never witnessed before in the annals of the nation’s history? Add all that to a spiralling rate of mass youth unemployment, with the attendant ominous rise in crimes and criminality and the failure of government is patently clear, even if the puerile propagandists twist their tactless tongues!
 
So, in all of these oily perspectives, there are more questions than answers dangling before both the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) and the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority (NMDRA). Firstly, one is suspicious about the timing of the importation of adulterated fuel into the country. Why is it coming up soon after the federal government, facing threats of protests from the labour unions, decided to put on hold its earlier proposal to remove the controversial fuel subsidy? Would the cumulative effects of the scarcity of fuel not still lead to the high price regime, now that some car owners are compelled to buy a litre for between N400 and N450 in Abuja? What about the short supply that has several filling stations in Plateau State under lock and key? And what do we make of the many precious hours spent in queues by vehicle owners in Lagos State? But that is not all there is to the sleazy saga of fuel scarcity.
 
Ordinarily, methanol as part of PMS. In its chemical function, it raises the octane level and minimises the knocking of car engines. If, as claimed, the imported Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) passed all the scrutiny tests put in place by the NMDRA, how come the methanol level was later adjudged to have been compromised above the standard, the acceptable quantity of five per cent as it operates in China, Russia, India, Europe and the United States?
 

This single standard of five per cent is also set by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), NUPRA and DPR. It should be noted that PMS with high methanol levels seriously harms car engines, sometimes leading to its explosion! So, who knows how many Nigerians, who unknowingly bought the adulterated PMS are currently battling with their car engines?
 
It, therefore, goes beyond the public apology recently offered by Mele Kyari, the GMD of the NNPC. How would Nigerians feel if, for instance, a regulatory authority on food and drugs mistakenly allows for the importation of contaminated, substandard and hazardous processed foods and drugs (God forbid)? And thereafter tenders apology after some consumers must have fallen victims to their deleterious and damaging effects on the body? Certainly, no one should be above the wrath of the law or seen to be so.
 
That brings into the larger picture, the recent call by members of the Non-Governmental Organisation called Nigeria First that the heads of the two agencies should do the needful by resigning honourably. Yes, they should. We as a people have had enough of poor leadership across political and economic strata because we are the victims. One can only imagine what would have happened if for instance the proceeds of crude oil sales have been judiciously applied by patriotic leaders over the past six decades.
 

Perhaps, Nigeria would have attained the status of a First World country, boasting of strong and solid educational structures, producing the best of brains as India is achieving in both medical tourism and information technology. Perhaps, we would by now be leading the world in the production and export of sundry food materials, but this time in processed and standard qualities. Perhaps, we would by now be boasting of some of the high-tech medical facilities, such that our president and some top-notch politicians would not jet out to foreign hospitals in search of medical care. And that brings us to the critical question of why we keep “going to Sokoto (State) always in search of what we have right here in our sokoto (trousers)?”
 
Oh yes, why do we have to keep importing the processed products of petroleum, cocoa, coffee, cashew nuts et al when God has blessed us with their raw varieties in abundant quantities? It is high time Nigerians began to maximally benefit from them. Surely, we need a swift paradigm shift in both the leadership and followership matrix to put the nation above our selfish inclinations.
 
Even as the Major Oil Marketing Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), led by the Chairman, Olumide Adeosun, has directed its members to extend the operations of their jetties, depots and filling stations to between 18 and 24 hours until the queues subside, this is one issue that must not rear its ugly head again. The negative implications of huge economic losses to individuals and the country, the deterioration of car operational performance, environmental pollution, and the failure of regulatory authority could well have been avoided.
 

Considering the avoidable pains inflicted on the people, some patriots are suggesting that some form of compensation be given to the vehicle owners in terms of reduction in the pump price of PMS. But that will be like the camel passing through the proverbial needle’s eye.
 
The best way forward, therefore, is for a thorough investigation into the adulterated fuel issue. The aim is to fish out the culprits, who must be made to face the full wrath of the law, no matter whose ox is gored. This will serve as deterrence to others. One hopes that even if members of the National Assembly wade into it by setting up its own committee, it should not replicate the sordid saga of the investigation into the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), which has remained nebulous as the clouds at dusk. With the total deregulation of the oil sector, aimed at attracting private sector investment Nigerians will be saved from the preventable pains of the current fuel scarcity.

 

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