06 March 2014, Lagos – Like a recurrent nightmare, the notorious fuel scarcity saga descended on Nigerians again from nowhere. What started like a child’s play is now in its second week with predictions in some quarters that it would not abate soon. What is more, all the relevant agencies connected with the provision of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), appear clueless as to the cause of the current scarcity.
Initially, consumers thought it was the infernal “artificial scarcity” associated with the activities of independent marketers who like to hoard the product to maximise profit. But a denial by independent marketers suggested that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) may have something to do with the scarcity. NNPC, on the other hand, has absolved itself of any complicity in the latest crisis, insisting it has all the petroleum to keep the nation “wet” as the supplier of last resort. It is the same old blame game all the way with nobody taking responsibility. As usual all that the NNPC appears to be interested in is keeping mute and distancing itself from what has become a perennial national disgrace. While the coordinating agencies continue to trade blame, the national agony deepens.
Long queues adorn several cities across the country in what looks like a bizarre mascot of the centenary celebrations that just ended.
The sordid spectre did not escape the probing gaze of foreign dignitaries, who flooded Abuja for the revelries, who kept wondering how an oil producing country would be subject to such scarcity. The overall effect of this is that prospective investors became sceptical, while citizens’ faith in their leader further goteroded. Yet the scarcity provides an opportunity to deeply reflect on our history as a people vis-a-vis themismanagement of our oil era and gas sector.
For, while oil has not been the back-bone of our national economy in its entire 100 years of existence, the product has been the main issue for the last six decades. And the product has continued to be the hope and the despair of Nigerians. That explains why not many people can understand how the sixth largest producer of oil in the globe cannot find the product for its domestic use. As Nigerians groan daily at filling stations, the stark irony of this predicament is one they cannot fathom. It is as confusing as it is frustrating. Yet, resolving the logjam is not a mystery.
After all, countries like Ghana and Niger, who are not in the same category as we are, seldom witness such fuel scarcity. Niger Republic even mockingly said it would supply us with refined oil recently. First there is need for better supervision by the Ministry of Petroleum.
In a country where state officials cannot even account for the number of barrels sold or what is accruable there from, there is still more work to be done. The NNPC, for instance, has still not satisfactory explained the alleged non- remittance of $20 billion into the Federation Account.
Also, the federal government should find a way of reining in the behemoth called independent marketers.
Government cannot afford to surrender leadership and authority to a bunch driven primarily by the need to make profit at all costs. This can only happen when government officials stop the current collusion with business men to rip off Nigerians.
Above all, the agencies involved must learn to work together as a team. At the moment, there appears to be a gross lack of coordination, high wire corruption and duplication of duties amongst the agencies.
The sum total of the foregoing is the long queues currently seen across the country are stinging rebuke of those chest beatings of last week in Abuja. It is also a sign that the first 100 years of Nigeria has not given us much to cheer about.
– This Day