ANALYSIS: Is Fuel Scarcity Coming To Stay In Nigeria?Articles/Opinion, Featured, News Features/Analysis, Tajudeen Balogun Saturday, March 19th, 2016
By Tajudeen Balogun, Head, African Examiner, Nigeria Bureau
These days, I am persistently bothered, therefore, keep asking the question: is the fuel scarcity, just like it is experienced in power supply, gradually becoming part of our life in Nigeria? It is not debatable the scarcity has been frequent with us, as far back as 1997/98 during the black era of late General General Sanni Abach’s Military junta. In fact, one might argue that long queue in our gas stations; due to shortage of fuel supply has been with us earlier – than Abacha’s Military regime. Despite this fact, inadequate fuel supply few years back, in the country, has assumed more worrisome dimension.
For instance, the scarcity almost became a ‘must expectation’ (somewhat) throughout the immediate past administration. I doubt if Nigerians ever experienced a complete quarter or little above, during the last democratic dispensation, without being faced with harrowing experience of fuel crisis, which unfortunately, involved frantic search for the product; long queue at the gas stations; panic buying and most grievous, loss of lives owing to fire outbreak, ignited by stockpiling of fuel inside the vehicles and at homes.
Many Nigerians will still recall how the country was brought to her kneel at the twilight of former President Goodluck Jonathan, due to scarcity of fuel, and to worsen the matter, power outage. Then, the electricity generation was left barely over 1000 megawatts. It is exactly horrible experience Nigerians were exposed to then, they have again been returned, some weeks back.
My worry about the present fuel scarcity is its coincidence with the awkward power supply. Given the terrible development, it is an open fact that Nigerians now live, work and sleep under pressure! And to worsen the situation, the productivity level in every sector of the economy has been systematically reduced!
Also very disturbing, is the poor state of health of many Nigerians. ‘A healthy body is an able body’; what about that if I may ask? Almost four weeks the current fuel scarcity, worsened with the constant power outage started, Nigerians in their households have not found the experience rossy at all. No thanks to the daily very hot and biting weather.
The state of affairs with our power and petrol supply to say the obvious is so sad, disturbing, calls for questions, urgent and lasting solutions. I mention the way out, but this can only be achieved when there is will and determination on the part of the authorities in charge. So, is President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has what it takes to end poor power supply and regular acute shortage of fuel in Nigeria? Sincerely, I have no reservation on whether this government is working and will eventually deliver on its party’s campaign promises.
Still, the questions that have kept me wondering are: why must Nigerians live perpetually in blackout and with irregular means of energy to transport themselves from one place to another? Why are we not having coordinated, clear and sufficient information on the fuel crisis situation? Has the government been overwhelmed with the sharp practices in the oil and gas sectors? More significantly, is the fuel scarcity gradually coming to stay in Nigeria?
On information dissemination, personally, I feel the Ministry of Petroleum Resources is not doing enough as expected. Whatever the level of supply we have in reserve presently, (whether enough or not), the fact remains that the product is not readily available. What happens now is ‘skeletal’. I say this because two out of every 10 or more gas stations, including the NNPC and major marketers (outlets) sell fuel to the frustrated and anxious customers.
For now, you are lucky if you drive into a gas station, buy and go. I must add here that this only happens if the station just gets its supply and minutes the information spread, the same fuel outlet is besieged by the motorists and other customers, especially those who buy into the containers, to use at homes, offices, workshops or shops.
This is the experience in most parts of the country. Therefore, to posit that the fuel supply has now improved might amount to painting a wrong picture. Recall, after the last week’s oil workers, under NUPENG and PENGASSAN called off their almost 48 hours needless and useless industrial action, the Lagos State chapter’s NUPENG Chairman, Mr. Tokunbo Korodo hinted that the shortage in fuel supply might extend till next month! If you like, say we are gradually getting there. But I keep asking, why the scarcity has remained this long? Nigerians deserve detailed information and explanation.
Just last week Friday after weeks of almost total blackout in many States, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed did some public explanations, regarding the causes of power outage. The Minister surmounted courage by announcing that getting “5,074MW all-time high that was reached earlier will take a few more weeks”. The electricity generation he explained cut, due to the routine maintenance by the Nigeria Gas Company which he pointed out, affected the supply of gas to power stations, “forcing down power supply from an all-time high of 5,074 MW to about 4,000MW”.
Despite that Nigerian public does not have the obligation to fix the shortcomings reeled out by the Information Minister, the Government still owes it adequate communication bothering on factors that informed the prevailing power challenge. The likes of feedback by the Minister last Friday, on the electricity, is lacking on fuel scarcity. This has remained my source of worry since the latest scarcity began about four weeks ago.
So far, the only explanation I can credit to the Minister of State for Petroleum, Mr. Ibe Kachikwu has remained the usual defence that the NNPC has enough fuel in stock and that, there is no need for Nigerians to be worried as well as panic purchase.
As I write, I cannot place the submission by the Hon. Minister. If truly there is enough fuel in reserve, why not evenly available for sale? Why the queue at the gas stations and agony of scarcity across the country? If the product is available as said by the Minister, why very limited gas outlets sell, (not even on regular basis)? More importantly, why all the branded NNPC sales’ outlets do not sell the product all the time? Of course, I am very much aware that not all the branded (NNPC) outlets have direct link with the oil and gas corporation. This and supply, most Nigerians have realized are parts of the challenges facing the establishment.
Another factor for the persistent scarcity is importation. Mr. Kachikwu on assumption of office last year as the Group Managing Director of NNPC promised that the Port Harcourt Refinery would resume work. It did; yet, the conflicting signal is the speculation that it is only the Kaduna Refinery which is functional. What about the controversies surrounding the oil subsidy removal? On this, Mr. Kachikwu has been categorical in confirming the removal, but a counter position on the same issue from the same government have further dazed many Nigerians, such that many cannot really make a categorical statement on the subject. The aforementioned are certainly not good for the image of a Government which has enjoyed so much of goodwill from members of the public.
This is the more reason why Mr. President and his junior Minister must review the mode of their operations; work out a coordinated channels of communication between the government and the public on the developments within this very sensitive Ministry. President Buhari as the Minister in charge must be on top of the activities of his added portfolio. But, if he is so pre-occupied with other pressing tasks, he must relinquish the position and allow another capable and trusted hand to take full responsibility.
Even with the above, it is very painful that Nigerians will still have to live with and bear the regular fuel shortage, so long as the country imports fuel (as it happens now) and the Federal Government is unable to achieve (an above average per cent) – of having fuel distribution facilities and sales outlets.
Finally, like many Nigerians, I feel the pains and agonies suffered by the perennial fuel supply, which unfortunately is gradually coming to stay. Like many compatriots, I feel the pinches and stress of living with the lack of the two essential life subsistence. And like our publisher lamented and asked in a recent phone conversation with me; ‘are the Nigerians jinxed to live the type of unbearable life’ we have for long found ourselves? Did I hear anyone exclaim, God forbid bad thing! Yes, it is good to be religious and reject such omen; but more importantly, is that Nigerians (leaders and followers) must be ‘godly’ in their daily conducts. This is only by the way. Also, very essential, is that President Buhari must urgently come up with an all inclusive and clear socio-economic policies, in particular; to have a second look at our FOREX market; stimulating social life by providing various public services; long and short term employments; community services and more; ultimately, to cushion the biting effects of some of the economic policies so far taken by the present administration. I so much believe that, there is ‘no pain without gain’. Still, people and economy must survive, amidst the hard and laudable measures being put in place by the present government. Certainly, it is still a long journey to tread.
The JAMB and Its Repeated Wahala
Admission into the Nigerian Universities has always been a tough exercise. But of recent, writing the JAMB’s Unified Matriculation Examination (UTME) has turned to another Yoruba proverbial saying: ‘Ijoba Orun ti di afi agabra wo’ (salvation becomes more tougher). I still recall the controversies which trailed the Computer Based Test (CBT) conducted by JAMB last year. Then, candidates alleged the body of conniving with the various schools’ authorities of manipulating admission of the candidates. This prompted the admission seekers and their parents to stage a protest, for instance in Lagos State against what they described as coup against them and an attempt to meddle with their future. UNILAG was among the Universities so accused. This year, the same story has been repeated. This week, many UTME candidates again, with their parents in Lagos, trooped out and protested against among other manipulation, swerving of their scores and posting of wrong results (subjects) to them. Although, JAMB has denied accusation of wrongdoing and has even gone a step further to counter the protesters, claiming they were being instigated by the school proprietors “whose examination centres did not receive accreditation for the test”. Does this position really hold water? I doubt if yes.
My take is that the recent wahala (trouble) with the JAMB has become one too many. Therefore, I hold that when a system is rotten, the head (s) must be called upon to answer questions. In the light of this, I subscribe to the call that the JAMB Registrar, Professor Dibu Ojerinde should be made to step aside. The past and recent contradictions in UTME results under his watch are disturbing, disgusting and embarrassing. If Professor Ojerinde remains the JAMB’s Registrar and the current irregularities persist, the blame is not only his, rather, the present administration and Mr. President. For sure, the latter will be held more responsible! Can the present Government afford this?
Rivers Rerun: Wike, Supreme Court’s Litmus Test
I have always argued with folks who posit that if the Rivers State’s last general elections were to be peaceful; the PDP would have still won. Up till the moment, my position remains. And the reason is very simple. If a candidate is sure of his/her popularity, why fomenting trouble or instigating violence? The stories of last Rivers State polls were very clear not only to Nigerians, but the entire world. So, the skirmishes – killing, intimidation and threat that have again trailed the today’s State’s House and National Assemblies polls were gory and appalling. I agree pointing accusing fingers at anyone will be mere allegations. Happily, the public has the clear knowledge of the sources of most of the barbaric acts recorded so far. It was so amusing to me when the ‘Supreme Court’ Governor, Nyesom Wike declared Thursday and Friday this week as public holidays for the State’s public servants to fully prepare for the rerun polls.
Honestly, I do not have problem about this; this is Nigeria; we are known for wasting human capital and declaring many needless public holidays. Still, where my stress lies is the inclusion of Banks in the declaration. So, of what relevance are these institutions in the State’s elections? Wike, his party, his godfathers and backers wherever they may be, can deploy many tactics, but that would not change the outcome of the litmus test he, who claims to be so loved and popular among his people, as well as the Supreme Court which recently rail-roaded and allowed him to stay in power with the so called ‘judgment of peace’.
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