The Lingering Fuel Crisis

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This has continued to be a recurring decimal. Every December, Nigerians are made to experience excruciating hardship occasioned by the scarcity of petroleum products. This always makes the Christmas and New Year celebrations painful and agonizing.

At every petrol filling station in the country, long queues of vehicles waiting to buy different kinds of petroleum products are witnessed. They will spend several hours waiting for the products, while some will even pass the night there.

This will create room for black market operators and other illegal dealers of petroleum products to have a field day and hike their products to rooftops. It will equally be the opportunity for transporters to increase their fares. Many travellers will be stranded or forced to pay through their noses if they must travel.

This will be the time for blame games. The government will accuse the petrol marketers of sabotage by hoarding the products and thereby create artificial scarcity. The marketers on their turn will deny that they were hoarding the products and will even accuse the government of owing them some staggering amount of money for the products they had imported.

At the end of the day, the government will claim that they had all along been subsidizing petroleum products to some particular amount of money and that the only way they could guarantee continued availability of the products was to effect increase in their prices. The people will shout and make some noises, but they will capitulate and be forced to live with the increases.

What is particularly painful is that this usually happens towards the end of the year and the beginning of a new year when most people are fagged and trying to start life afresh. It is also when some particular set of people would be travelling to felicitate with their kindred.

When, at the dawn of the present administration, the President announced himself as the Oil Minister, everybody thought it was going to be the end of the petroleum crisis in the country due to his enormous experience in the oil industry, considering the fact that he had held that portfolio in the late 1970s. Even when later the administration, claiming to have removed fuel subsidy, increased the pump price of petrol from N87 a litre to N145 a litre, everybody thought it was going to be the final solution. But this was not to be as evidenced by the current fuel crisis.

The government is now claiming that the current pump price of petrol at N145 a litre can no longer be sustained because it, sorry, the NNPC, had all along been subsidizing the products. Hope nobody should ask the difference between the Federal Government and the NNPC, which is solely owned by the Federal Government since the National Assembly had denied ever appropriating petroleum subsidy in its budgetary estimates?

What therefore is the way out? The only way out will be for the government to reactivate all its refineries which have not been working to their installed capacities, or concession them out to private entrepreneurs. How can a country that is a major producer of crude petroleum be depending on imported refined fuel for its local consumption?
The problem is that those in government are the major players in the oil industry who also have their private intetests to protect. Some of them have private refineries in some neighbouring countries and will never allow the government refineries at home to work, else it will injure their interest.

Is it for fun that the railway system in Nigeria has failed to work, when they are people making huge profits from land transportation industry? Or, why has the government refused to fix the electricity sector if not the fact that some people are making billions of naira importing electricity generating sets? Same goes for the petroleum industry.

About Dons Eze

DONS EZE, PhD, Political Philosopher and Journalist of over four decades standing, worked in several newspaper houses across the country, and rose to the positions of Editor and General Manager. A UNESCO Fellow in Journalism, Dr. Dons Eze, a prolific writer and author of many books, attended several courses on Journalism and Communication in both Nigeria and overseas, including a Postgraduate Course on Journalism at Warsaw, Poland; Strategic Communication and Practical Communication Approach at RIPA International, London, the United Kingdom, among others.

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