Biting fuel scarcity and sliding economy

22 November 2015, Abuja – Nigerians are spending the 4th week battling to get petrol in fuel stations. The queues are getting longer across the nation. This nightmare looks intractable, as traumatised Nigerians go through harrowing experience in fuel stations daily. Surprisingly, there is always petrol in the black market.

*Fuel queues return.

*Fuel queues return.

The NNPC obviously knows those supplying to this market. This is simply failure of government. For most of this week, the black market price of petrol varied from N120 to N350 per litre depending on the part of the country you are buying. Imagine Nigerians paying as much as N350 per litre for petrol in Port Harcourt. Even approved petrol stations are selling above the regulated price of N87 per litre. This is the same petrol the APC said should not sell for more than N70 per litre. The party said this early this year after the Jonathan administration slashed petrol price to N87 per litre.

Spin doctors of this administration are apparently out of ideas about what next to tell the nation about this biting fuel scarcity. Their falsehood is falling like pack of cards. We were told massive lies about the refineries working. All that have also fallen by the way side.

Only last week, the NNPC boss, Ibe kachikwu asked the Director of Commercial Services of the Pipeline and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), Justine Eziala to tell the nation that there was petrol stock of 1.4 billion litres in the country.  Eziala wants us to believe that the biting scarcity was artificial. What is the business of Nigerians with the billions of litres of stock being propagated? What Nigerians want is to drive into fuel stations and buy petrol without any hassle. They are not interested in all these bogus figures. There is so much deceit in the system. Now, the truth unfolds. We are back to the dark days of long queues at fuel stations and pushy black markets.

The truth is that the Buhari administration has jeopardised the supply of petroleum products by sustaining this corruption called fuel subsidy. Now, the marketers are holding the nation by the jugular for fuel subsidy claims of almost N500 billion. It is only the NNPC that has been doing the bulk of the importation of petrol in the last three months. As a result, the corporation is struggling to meet demand.

What should be done to improve fuel supply? Very simple. This administration must face the reality of deregulating the downstream sector of the petroleum industry. This action will encourage private sector investments in refineries. As for our four dead refineries, the federal government should hand over controlling shares to private sector players who would then decide how to revamp them. The fraud called subsidy must go. There is also the need to overhaul the Petroleum Product Pricing and Regulatory Agency and the Department of Petroleum Resources. The top hierarchy of these agencies must be discharged.

The biting fuel scarcity and erratic electricity supply have simply compounded our sliding economy. The economy of this nation has never had it so bad in the last six months. Industries are gasping for breath. Just this week, mobile communications giant, Airtel sacked almost 100 Nigerians. Virgin Atlantic has sacked 50 Nigerians. Three weeks ago, online store, Jumia sacked over 200 Nigerians. Thousands of Nigerians have been sacked in the last six months by major players in the upstream and downstream sectors of the oil industry. Over 100,000 Nigerians have lost their jobs in the construction industry. Manufacturers are scaling down production. Industrial capacity utilisation is dwindling. Inflation is on the rise. Purchasing power is falling. The capital market is crumbling. Our economy requires urgent stimulation and the Buhari administration does not know how to go about it. The biggest victims are our young men and women who are daily being thrown out of jobs.

The truth is that government must swiftly reflate the economy by massive spending on infrastructure. Verified claims of contractors must be paid so that they can return to sites. Bottlenecks placed on the path of manufacturers, particularly foreign exchange restrictions must be removed. Industries must be encouraged to increase capacity utilisation.

While the economy slides, all we hear about daily in our dear nation is the bogus war against corruption and the sham Treasury Single Account. The government keeps celebrating the fact that about N2 trillion had been mopped up through TSA as if the money would go into the federation account for sharing. The truth which they have refused to tell Nigerians is that the MDAs will still take care of their expenditures from their revenue paid into the TSA. At the end of the day, most Departments and Agencies, after using the revenue paid into the TSA, would still get subventions from the treasury to survive. Already, the TSA is being depleted with outrageous commission paid to the firm that handled the transfer of the MDAs’ funds in commercial banks to the Central Bank of Nigeria. The firm, System Specs, said it was not the only one that benefitted from the 1 per cent processing fee from funds that accrued in just one month. It said the banks from which the funds were moved also shared in the proceeds.

System Specs owns Remita, the e-payment and e-collection software used for the implementation of payments into the TSA. While the initial proceed said to have accrued from the deal was given as N25 billion, the Leader of the Senate, Ali Ndume, said it has risen to as much as N60 billion. It is heart-warming to know that the CBN had ordered System Specs to refund the billions of Naira collected as processing fee. The processing fee paid under this “Change” administration is curious.

Ibe Kachikwu’s Wild Goose Chase

Somebody should please stop the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Ibe Kachikwu from squandering the limited resources of this country. He is going in search of oil in our side of Lake Chad. Previous administrations have wasted billions of USD on this bogus search without result. Now, my dear Kachikwu has indicated that the country may well be on the verge of a significant oil find in the Lake Chad area in North-east Nigeria based on analysis of recent seismic 3D data generated from the Chad Basin.

In a presentation to the Petroleum Club, Lagos, the NNPC boss stated that NNPC was injecting a lot of energy into the effort to ensure success in this regard.  The GMD said. “There are signs from the latest 3D seismic studies that oil may well be very close to being found now in Lake Chad after very many years of trials. I think that this is very key. It is key both for the geographical balancing of oil production and it is also very key for the purpose of refinery placement in the North in terms of access to crude. I am optimistic that by the end of the year we should be able to announce something major on this.’’ Haba, Kachikwu! Why do you want to continue putting our money in this fruitless search? Don’t you know how much has gone into this in the last 30 years without result? You are apparently doing this to satisfy your paymasters and secure your position. This is a big shame.

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