06 December 2015, Lagos – THE last couple of weeks have indeed been trying times for Nigerians in general, as the fuel and power situation continues to take a downward turn. Sadly, there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.
Fuel, particularly petrol, scarcity has been recurring in the country and adversely affecting the economy for almost a month, while electricity supply has never been as bad as it has in recent times.
Many Nigerians wonder what has changed from the months of June and July when this present administration came into power and Nigerians were switching off their refrigerators and a trip to filling stations to buy fuel was usually for vehicles and now.
Many Nigerians have been thrown in perpetual darkness and it is a battlefield scene at many filling stations where only the strong or those that can afford ‘black market’ survive.
Most filling stations claim they don’t have stock (petrol), yet the black market boys thrive and do business glaringly in front of most.
Most of the filling stations The Guardian visited on the stretch of Ikorodu road were shut. The few that sold had massive human and vehicular queues, while the black marketers were strategically located in front of the stations, hawking five litres of the ‘liquid gold’ for as much as N1, 500.
No matter how long the scarcity persists, artificial or not, the black marketers always seem to have fuel in stock, making many to alleged that they work hand-in-hand with most of the filling stations, ripping Nigerians off and lining their pockets in the process.
It was discovered that most of the filling stations on Lawanson road sell to private vehicles very early in the morning or very late at night and usually shut down during the day, leaving consumers at the mercy of black marketers.
This unfortunate situation is affecting many homes and businesses. Muinat Atunnise, owner of MuiMui Atunnise Clothiers said the present situation was affecting productivity and reducing sensible man-hours, as most of the day was being spent looking for fuel, instead of engaging in other meaningful activities.
Asides the wasted man-hours, the available fuel is expensive, forcing her to pass on the extra cost to customers.
Lack of regular electricity and inability to constantly fuel her generators most of the time to run her business was wiping off her profit margin and leaving her frustrated.
On Wednesday morning, she spent three hours at a filling station without petrol to buy.
She, like several others are calling on the Buhari-led administration to address the electricity and fuel situation as soon as possible, saying the situation was crippling several businesses.
Most of the shops selling frozen foods at Lawanson and Ijesha area have temporarily shut their doors, hoping to re-open when the situation improves.
Mrs. Tawa Adebayo of Alubarika Frozen Foods on Lawanson road pleaded with the government to come to their rescue to avoid aggravating the unemployment situation in the country.
There were no goods in her freezers, but she still must come to her shop because she could not just sit at home.
Mrs. Adebayo disclosed that she gave away a lot of her goods when they were on the verge of total rot due to lack of electricity and non-availability of petrol to power her generators.
As she bemoaned the current situation, one of her sales girl walked in with an empty 25-litre keg, lamenting that she could not get petrol to buy, despite being on the queue for several hours.
The shops beside hers were shut and she explained that their owners were no longer showing up until electricity was restored.
Many small-scale enterprises (SMEs), which constitute about 60 per cent of the productive sector, are now at the verge of collapse.
Businesses are folding up by the day due to exorbitant overhead costs and the failing economy, with inflation on the rise and purchasing power declining everyday.
Despite several assurances by this administration that the situation was ‘artificial,’ and caused by greedy marketers and would be brought under control in a few days, that has not been the case, as the scarcity of petrol and worsening electricity supply inter a fourth week.
Experts have warned that the economy is in danger of total collapse and the solution is to deregulate the downstream sector of the petroleum industry, saying such would encourage private sector investments in refineries.
*Tobi Awodipe – Guardian