By Dele Sobowale
We have met the enemy and they are ours â€”Oliver Hazard Perry, 1785-1819 (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS p. 48).
CONTRARY to what many people think, the culprit is not NNPC.
As far as importing and making fuel available is concerned, the corporation had done its duty. There is sufficient fuel in Nigeriaâ€™s territorial waters to ensure that we do not experience any scarcity throughout the yuletide. The imminent deregulation of the downstream sector is not even the issue.
The government had announced and it is not going back on that announcement that deregulation will not occur until after the holidays when travel fever would have subsided. So the manic impulse by some to hoard fuel in anticipation of sudden price increase is misguided.
The major cause of scarcity is sabotage and the arrow heads of this are the tanker operators – which includes the owners, the drivers and the unions. In fact 80-90 per cent of the current fuel scarcity can be attributed to their nefarious activities. Let me provide some examples to support that statement. The minister for petroleum recently announced that government will be probing the disappearance of 90 million litres of petrol which occurred recently.
The NNPC actually ordered and loaded tankers with fuel for certain designations but the fuel and tankers vanished between the loading points and the final destinations.
One tanker owner, with a fleet of 180 tankers, which had been parked unused, was contracted to deliver fuel to several destinations and to return for repeated operations. His tankers actually collected the fuel but each and everyone failed to deliver to the right destination.
The fuel was sold on the black market and the proceeds pocketed by the owner. The tankers, of course, failed to return to reload at the time expected. That was when the diversion was discovered by NNPC. Meanwhile, those to be served had gone to the media to lodge complaints. Because the matter will soon end up in the courts, the reader will forgive me if the culprit is not named.
But, this tanker ownerâ€™s case is only one example multiplied several times across the country. The NNPC cannot possibly procure enough tankers to supply the entire country. Thus, for it to succeed, a public-private-partnership is indispensable. Unfortunately, its partners had proved untrustworthy – when most needed.
Then there was a mild altercation between tanker drivers and the staff of Folawiyo tank farm resulting in tankers refusing to load from that depot for days – even though the depot was filled to the brim with fuel. Still about the same time, fight broke out between a tanker driver and Naval ratings resulting in the death of the tanker driver. So far nobody knows what led to the fight.
But, it was sufficient reason for tanker drivers to stop loading nationwide. Then there were those who refused to load for the north and Abuja in particular. What was their grouse? Bad roads, which, they claim, damaged their vehicles. Yet on the same roads trailers, luxury buses, private cars and company vehicles loaded with goods manage to reach their destinations. But, because the other road users donâ€™t have what I call â€œtyranny of tankersâ€ they cannot strike and disrupt anybodyâ€™s Christmas holidays.
There is no need for me to list seriatim the number of ways that this sector of our economy has been using its enormous powers to punish fellow Nigerians, every year, secure in the knowledge that all the blame will be directed at government.
Granted, the Federal government has failed us in many ways -Â 6000MW, education, health, insecurity, jobs, water, and yes, bad roads (no road project was completed in 2009). I am aware of that because I travel those roads as much as anyone else. But is that the reason tankers should be pulled off the roads? Should all doctors go on strike if one is assaulted by a soldier?
A young lady was stripped almost naked by Naval ratings in Lagos. Would that have been sufficient reason for all women to withdraw their services – whatever those might be?
To me the matter is very clear. Those blaming government for the willful acts of sabotage of a few are being unfair to government and to those gallant men and women at NNPC who have worked hard to ensure that we had a hitch-free yuletide. Let us start to pay attention to the saboteurs for a change.
Judiciary and corruption (3)
Where thereâ€™s law, there is injusticeâ€”Leo Tolstoy, 1828-1910
YOU have probably heard the old fallacy that the courts are the last hope of the common man. If you believe that about Nigerian courts, then you will believe anything.
You have also heard that former governor James Ibori was discharged by the judge who had been playing hide and seek with the verdict. Fortunately, Ibori was not acquitted; which means the EFCC can still arrest and prosecute him.
Incidentally, the EFCC under Mrs Waziri inherited the shoddy job done by Malam Ribadu when he investigated Ibori and left enough room for ten camels to pass through the eyes of the judicial niddle.
The case is not over yet though. But, the way the case was handled presents another instance of how the judiciary has failed to recognize that corruption is a monster that must be tamed if Nigeria is ever going to have a chance to advance.
But all these will be deferred until 2010. Also deferred is the tantalizing case of the $3.1 million found on a staff of Bank PHB â€“which has released an official statement titled â€œFOR THE RECORDSâ€. Take it from me; it should have been titled â€œFOR THE MORONSâ€. Wait until I tell you a few things that the bank has failed to disclose – before the EFCC moves in.