By Mike Ebonugwo
THE recurring decimal of fuel scarcity in Nigeria was the issue that occupied the attention of parliamentarians at a bus-stop gathering in Ikotun, Lagos on Tuesday.
This was the fallout of a complaint by a commuter about the high fares being charged by commercial bus operators in recent times. â€œI donâ€™t know what is wrong with these transporters, they think somebody has a place where he plucks money from so that any time they increase their fare he will pay without asking question,â€ began the parliamentarian who gave his name as Felix Odion. He did not stop there.
â€œI think what passengers should do any time they start their nonsense by increasing fare without any justifiable reason is to ignore them and not enter their buses,â€ he suggested with feeling. But another parliamentarian by name Oliver Okon thought otherwise.
â€œThat one will not work O because itâ€™s not many people that have the patience to cooperate in doing that kind of thing. Once thereâ€™s bus scarcity, people donâ€™t usually cooperate when you tell them to refuse entering buses that the conductors are demanding for high fare,â€ he explained.
But as far as parliamentarian Sam Amadi was concerned: â€œThe conductors have a very good reason for charging high fares this time. Iâ€™m sure weâ€™re all aware that fuel scarcity has come back again. At least since last weekend up till now there have been long queues at the few filling stations that still had fuel to sell. If you ask these danfo drivers they will tell you that they did not see fuel to buy at the filling stations but have been buying fuel to fill their vehicles from the black market where it is very expensiveâ€.
This has prompted parliamentarian Sola Adigun to ask thus: â€œBut come O, what is causing the scarcity again? When will this fuel scarcity stop in this country for goodness sake?â€ And by way of an answer, Sam had said thus: â€œAh-ah, havenâ€™t you heard about governmentâ€™s plan to deregulate the petroleum sector?
Government plans to allow the private sector to control the importation and sale of petroleum products, meanwhile the Nigeria Labour Congress are saying no to that because it will lead to fuel price increases and create more hardship for the massesâ€.
However, parliamentarian Ken Otabor believes that oil marketers are solely to blame for the development, saying:
â€œThe people we should blame for this present fuel scarcity are the oil marketers; they are the people who are taking advantage of the situation to hoard fuel in the day time so that they can sell it at an exorbitant price during the night.
In other words, what weâ€™re experiencing now is artificial fuel scarcity caused by these greedy peopleâ€.
In response to this, Felix had charged thus: â€œWell, itâ€™s not really their fault. When you have a government that does not care for the people, what do you expect? These oil marketers are doing what they like because government has not bothered to do anything to sanction or punish them. In fact, the last time anybody bothered to sanction these greedy thief-thief people was when Abacha was ruling. At that time, when government said sell at a particular price, who born you to do otherwise.
If you try it they will seal your filling station and sell all the fuel there to the public at a give-away price. It was when Obasanjo came to power that everything changed and the oil marketers startedÂ behaving anyhow. And it has been carried over to this Yarâ€™Adua government and weâ€™re all suffering the consequenceâ€.
Most of the parliamentarians nodded their assent to this submission.