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Nigerians just want fuel

By Morenike Taire
LAST week, news broke  and was reported in virtually every Nigerian newspaper of how, as a result of the on-going Delta crisis or the exacerbation of it, crude oil supply to Nigerian refineries would cease.

On the whole, reactions were cool, or at least muted from the public. In spite of copious explanations, it remained unclear how this was going to affect the ordinary Nigerian person and the drudge that has become his life.

His life, which has, since the conspiracy that has ensured he is continually denied basic necessities of modern life such as electricity, become and remained a constant struggle to obtain various fuels for cooking, travelling, transporting food and operating generators in order to maintain some semblance of an existence.

Nor did it appear that he cared, this ordinary compatriot, who has been told so many stories over the years of imported fuel that he had no idea refineries in Nigeria contributed anything to his fuel supplies.

Things became even more hazy, as they had obviously been designed to be, when NNPC spokesman Livi Ajuonoma, denied that anything was wrong with the fuel supply and food chains.

Nor, according to him, were there signs of such chains being terminated in the near future. There was no cause for alarm, he was happy to declare, as if there had been any in the first place.

He that is down needs fear no fall, and Nigerians are down. On the whole, it is this kind of untransparent and game playing attitude that has plagued_ and threatens to see the end of our fuel supply and power sectors from time immemorial.

Knowing that the life of Nigerians, or anyone for that matter, are almost totally dependent on these, successive governments both military and  civilian, have made hearty promises of fixing electricity and fuels supply/pricing when looking for acceptrance from the people.

These promises have never been kept, and people have never been told why. In fact, it has become virtually impossible to obtain consistent facts or to verify them, about these things.

In an almost desperate bid to privatise all things privatisable and even those not privatisable, the Obasanjo administration’s advisers on privatisation and oil matters had come up with this very gullible theory of how  selling licences for private refineries to be built will solve the twin problems of pricing and supply forever.

“My administration will pursue with vigour”, the President had said at the time, “the opening up of the sector through facilitating the set up of private refineries, pipelines and depots”.

These, the administration believed, would put a stop to “monopolistic inefficiencies” which had created bottlenesks in the supply of refined petroleum products. This was in 2001, eight years ago. Nigerians looked forward to a day when there could be one refinery in every local government.

Petrol would be in such great supply that it would finally be cheaper than water, and NEPA, which itself was to be privatised, would never again complain of lack of fuel. The licences, eventually issued with great optimism to 18 companies in 2004, have never been built.

That dream had never become a reality. It turned out the privatisation Obasanjo had in mind was the building of a cartel. Power changed hands  in the dark and nothing changed.

There were excuses, but no one has ever been told the real reason why it has been so difficult to get things going. Were the failure factors not foreseen and the risks for them managed? What does it all say about the Nigerian foreigner.

Obasanjo brought to  manage our economy?

The present administration has complicated things even further, shrouded the whoile thing in more mystery and confusion, cancelling licences and signed deals and then spending great deals of money cleaning up the resultant mess.

The days of fuels scarcity have returned, and NNPC and its spokesmen have proved only efficient when it comes to boastful speeches and empty reassurances. Nigerians don’t want Livi Ajuonoma to tell them enough imported fuel is coming.

What they will like to hear is that they live in a sovereign country that offers them enough security as to be able to refine it’s own crude and keep its teeming masses in fuel supply and out of poverty.

Michael Gone?

Michael Jackson was larger than life, but it turned out he was not larger than death. He succumbed to the grim reaper last week, and the world has been denied of his comforting existence forever.

Even in Nigeria, the weird Michael had been a fact of life for a whole generation. His coming had coincided with Nigeria’s oil boom and television era and had formed the way Nigerians view music and, for that matter, America. Strange as he was, there was more good than anything else about Jackson.

He was a loving friend and a perfectionist who always gave his best. This time, it became his undoing. Like my little nephew said: “Adieu, Michael, teach them how to do Moonwalk in heaven!”


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