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OPINION: Change and untold hardship of an oil producing country

The lingering case of fuel scarcity is grave and pathetically telling on all Nigerians. Motorists and vehicle owners now practically live at service stations to get fuel at as much as N200 per litre.  It is an understatement to report that people are sick and devastated. The gloomy faces Nigerians are wearing is an instant demand for solutions and an end to this perennial misery. Productive man hours are wasted on fuel queues and the economy is worse for it. Whenever this trend rears its ugly head, it is imagined the high level stress Nigerians go through while concerned government officials seem more clueless and in disarray.

The ripple effect of fuel scarcity has had negative influence on other sectors of our national life. Transport fares have tripled while prices of food stuff and other essential commodities have sky-rocketed. This is also coming on the heels of intense heat waves and low capacity generation of power supply. Nigerians are steadfast and can persevere in the face of numerous odds.  The nation has year in year out endured this vicious cycle and many Nigerians are running out of patience. This is a direct consequence of long time failure of leadership. The negative effect of the absence of refineries and refining capacity is the consequence of this man-made problems.

This ever recurring problem was government’s penchant to giving a few privileged individuals rights to importation of petroleum products. The nation should discourage over- pampering of major importers with forex incentives. Give as many capable importers as possible licences to import freely and independently source for forex. Nigeria is blessed with uncountable astute businessmen who are major importers of other products and services.

Biofuel policy of the nation if any should come alive. Genuine attempt aimed at introducing the use of ethanol must be taken seriously.  Ethanol is the most widely used biofuel in the world. Over 64 countries now have active programmes promoting the use as mainstream fuel. United States, Brazil and the European Union are leading the change in fuel usage. The US has mandated 164 billion litres per year of ethanol in petrol blends by 2022. In Brazil, consumption is growing by 10%, China has mandate of 10% ethanol usage by 2020 while Thailand has a national biofuel policy of 20% of its fuel by 2017.

Patriotism and the sincerity of purpose of players and stakeholders in the petroleum industry is suspicious and worrisome. Some deliberately hold the nation hostage to frustrate every administration. Some has to do with outright sabotage of a correctional process by the old order who have been benefiting from the crisis at our detriment. These occurrences must be critically reviewed and punished as well. It does not take rocket science for one to understand that functional refineries are the answers to the perennial scarcity of petrol in Nigeria. Effective refining capacity and functional refineries will permanently nail the antics of the so called “Cabal.”

The removal of subsidy which allows market forces to determine the prices of this commodity should be clear and seen to be in force. Investors’ confidence is lacking as nobody is sure if there is subsidy or not going by official government utterances which contradicts the other.  We have endured the vicious cycle of this scarcity for too long. Fuel scarcity is not new in Nigeria. It lives with us and actually formed part of the campaign issues of this administration. But government officials still sound like old broken records in a matter which needs practical and urgent solutions. The answer to our problem is not far-fetched and this government must be ready to implement actionable policies that will end this scourge.

Nigerians will pay for petroleum product provided they are available. The ministry of Petroleum Resources, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the department of Petroleum resources should for once prove their competencies. Why run after fuel vendors selling along the roads to eke out a living when those who sell the products to them are well known filling stations. The idea of allocating fuel to only major marketers should be discouraged and investigated.

The scenario is that of a nation paying for improper or adequate planning. The nation is reaping the soured fruit of a monolithic economy. This is a case of a short-sighted nation unwilling to set achievable goals and visions.  “Suffering and smiling” was a popular rendition by Fela Anikulapo Kuti which vividly captured the typical innate ability of Nigerians to endure in pathetic situation and mood of the nation long time ago. In this age and time, the reality of that song is manifest.


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