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Where is the Petroleum Minister?

The current spate of fuel scarcity, which started like a joke about three weeks ago, is about to hit the one month target with no apparent end in sight. If anything, petrol is getting scarcer by the day all over the country, with prices ranging from N150 to N500 per litre depending on the location around Nigeria.

Official sources blamed this on the activities of speculators, hoarders and saboteurs; a story we have always been told since fuel scarcity became a normal part of our lives from the early 1990’s.

Petrol dealers apparently sensed that the continued lowering of crude oil prices in the international market could lead to a drastic cut in the official price of petrol and thus decided to hoard the stock at hand. Things were not helped by the federal government’s delay in paying the N413 billion owed importers of the product.

Buhari-leaving
President Muhammadu Buhari leaving Nigeria for Malta, on Thursday, November 26, 2015, to participate in the 2015 Common-wealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM)

Though the federal government sent officials of the Directorate of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to indentify the hoarders and dispense their products free of charge to the public, this has proved incapable of easing off the scarcity because DPR can hardly do much in terms of coverage.

The effort of the federal government to get the National Assembly to approve the N465.5 billion supplementary to enable it pay the importers was a step taken only when the scarcity had started biting, a fallout of the generally slow and non-proactive attitude of this regime to governance in general.

We call on the National Assembly to jettison partisan nit-picking and approve the fund to enable Nigerians have a smooth Christmas and New Year season devoid of fuel scarcity and its attendant mass suffering and over-the roof personal spending on energy.

With the onset of the dry season and the sudden drop of electricity supply below 3,000 megawatts, Nigerians need easily available and affordable fuel to cope with the heat and conduct their businesses this end of year season.

Even as the subsidy fund is eagerly awaited, we call, once again, on the federal government to come forward with its holistic economic blueprint, especially as it affects efforts to ensure stability in the petroleum energy sector.

With President Muhammadu Buhari as the substantive Petroleum Resources Minister and Dr Ibe Kachikwu, a respected technocrat in the sector as the Minister of State, Nigerians are full of hopes that the perennial problems bedeviling the sector will be brought under control. We expect the so-called “cabals” in the sector be smashed and Nigerians freed from their stranglehold. We do not want this banality of business as usual.

The ongoing fuel scarcity is a personal burden for President Buhari. Nigerians are eagerly waiting for him to come forward with permanent solutions.

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