Fuel scarcity: A thorn in the flesh of the masses
The menace of fuel scarcity in Nigeria calls for the urgent intervention of the Federal Government. The Nigerian situation could largely be described as one with a strong petroleum industry superimpose under an underdeveloped industrial base. The essence of a good government is in the interest of the masses which fuel scarcity has truncated. The persistent fuel scarcity is constituting ernormous challenges for the citizens. A lot of Nigerians are confronted with untold hardships.
There are long queues in our filling stations: the precious time that should be engaged in useful and productive ventures is expended at the filling stations. Also, there is increase in transport fares (both intra and inter city) occasioned by the outrageous increase in pump price. It is disheartening to observe that prices of essential commodities and daily needs including foodstuff are skyrocketing due to the sudden scarcity of fuel. It is an eyesore to see a lot of commercial buses and cab drivers fighting on the long queues and vandalizing their cars and sometimes the property of the filling stations. What of the mammoth crowd struggling at the bus stop to board vehicles to their various destinations?
Another devastating effect of the fuel scarcity is the avoidable inferno caused by illegal storage of premium motor spirit by panic buyers. Due to the hike in price of the transport fares, some frustrated commuters trek several kilometers to their homes because they could not afford the exorbitant charges imposed on them. The fuel scarcity is traceable to the anticipated and purported increase in price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) which is peculiar to the December of every year. It was envisaged that the Federal Government of Nigeria will increase the pump price.
In order to maximize profit, some marketers created artificial scarcity by hoarding the fuel with the selfish motive of selling at a higher price to the unsuspecting members of the public. It is quite unfortunate that every retailer of the petroleum product sees scarcity as an avenue to make more sales and get increase in earnings. All these sharp practices are inimical to the interest and wellbeing of the citizenry.
In order to nip the persistent fuel scarcity in the bud, it is urgently expected of the Federal Government to take proactive steps to manage the avoidable crisis. Similarly, it is expedient to identify some of the causes of the fuel scarcity in Nigeria. The challenges of acute fuel shortage are traceable to deliberate hoarding of the product by the marketers to maximize profit.
The marketers believe that the government should not regulate the price of the petroleum products, considering the fact that they are in position to determine how much is to be fixed as the pump price at any given time.Not only this, inadequate refineries is a major factor responsible for the shortage in supply of fuel in the country. We have four archaic, obsolete and functionless refineries. They have been in existence for the past 30 years. We need new and functional refineries that can effortlessly produce at least 80 per cent of our energy needs.
Another knotty issue that should be addressed is the inadequate storage facilities to take care of the perennial shortage of fuel in time of crisis. My investigation also revealed that the loading and distribution of petroleum products across the country has also been identified as one of the causes of fuel scarcity. This leads to the problem of vandalism of pipelines. Some unscrupulous individuals take delight in scooping fuel to make a living. This unwholesome act of bunkering most often result in inferno that destroyed lives and properties.
There is need for the government to employ technology against the pipeline vandals, like installation of CCTV cameras and aerial surveillance. It should also employ more security men to checkmate vandalism. It is observed that the present administration under the leadership of Muhammadu Buhari struggled very hard to save Nigerians from harrowing experiences of fuel scarcity, long queues at filling stations and accompanying high cost of petroleum products but the unfolding circumstances or events in the last few weeks is alarming and calls for urgent intervention by the government.
While the Goodluck Jonathan regime paid heavy petroleum subsidies to keep scarcity at bay, the Buhari dispensation summoned the political will in May 2016 to further deregulate the downstream sector, thus eliminating the subsidies. However, the government still pegged the price of premium motor spirit or petrol at a price not above N145 per litre up from N97 it sold under Jonathan.
It is baffling that the sudden return of uninterrupted supply has little to do with lack of adequate supply in our reserves, as the NNPC has informed. The fuel marketers are complaining bitterly of difficulties in sourcing bank facilities and the Depot and Petroleum Marketers Association is grumbling that the government still owes its members foreign exchange for importe they delivered before the current regime took off. Also,(IPMAN) Independent Petroleum Marketers Associations of Nigeria is complaining of exorbitant charges by DAPPMA which allegedly collects N142 per litre of fuel even after paying the NNPC N133.28 per litre.
This led to some fuel stations arbitrally adjusting the price to N150 per litre without the authorization of N.N.P.C. Other issues worth mentioning include perennial situation of bad roads nationwide, worsened by the failure of the Federal Government and the Lagos State government to clear the Apapa gridlock, which keeps thousands of tankers a kilometers of long queues on daily basis.
A school of thought believes that the challenges of scarcity in Nigeria would be resolved totally if the government can allow the marketers to sell at their own price discretion. It was assumed that if government continues to fix prices for the marketers, the scarcity of fuel will worsen.
However, I believe that this may be abused by the marketers who could take undue advantage of little crisis to maximize profit at detriment of innocent members of the public . Similarly, the government needs to provide alternative sources of energy purposely to explore other areas to generate power e.g. nuclear, solar, wind and other renewable sources.
Ajibike is of the Oyo State Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.
Source: Nigerian Tribune.