By Mike Mbonye, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
Nigerians have been expressing varied views and opinions on their plight during the recent fuel scarcity.
To some, the lessons have been bitter and hard to swallow, while to others, the lessons were food for thought and a call to guard against future occurrences of fuel scarcity.
For Mr Chima Akobundu, a 34-year-old retail shop owner, the fuel scarcity was a very bitter and hard experience.
“While the scarcity was on, I once needed fuel for my car and generator. Unfortunately, I bought adulterated fuel by the roadside. When I got home, my car engine was smoking seriously.
“It took the intervention of my mechanic to stop the smoke. While that process was on, my children had emptied the remaining fuel into the generator.
“The engine of the generator got knocked and we could do nothing about it. The main lesson here is that one should be wary of buying fake or adulterated petrol during fuel scarcity. I was forced to buy a new generator for my house because it helps us a lot,” Akobundu said.
Sharing similar sentiments, Mr Innocent James, a 45-year-old dry-cleaner, said that on one occasion, he bought adulterated fuel for his generator.
“Initially, the generator worked for about 30 minutes and all of a sudden, it started smoking and stopped working.
“It never occurred to me that the adulterated fuel had affected the generator. I thought the fuel had finished and I repeatedly tried to re-start it until a generator mechanic confirmed that the engine got knocked by the fake fuel.
“It was a painful experience and a bitter lesson for me because I had to meet the needs of my numerous customers but unfortunately, I disappointed them. I had to complete the day’s job in a colleague’s shop and I paid for it,’’ he said.
James appealed to the Federal Government to ensure that oil marketers sold purely unadulterated fuel.
“I am making the appeal because when I confronted the lady who sold the fuel to me, she claimed to have bought it from a petrol station and at that point, I became helpless,” he said.
For Barine Kpobari, a 25-year-old owner of a barber’s shop on Ada George Road, Port Harcourt, the story could have been similarly bitter but for the quick intervention of a customer, who perceived the smell of the adulterated fuel.
Kpobari said that just as he prepared to pour the fuel into his generator, a customer stopped him and requested that it should be tested.
“At that point, we poured the fuel on the floor; we tried to light it and immediately, we noticed the difference. I thank God that I did not pour the petrol into my generator because it would have been extremely difficult for me to buy a new one now.
“In any case, if there is fuel scarcity in the future, I will be more careful in buying fuel. One major lesson I learnt during the recent scarcity is how to detect fake fuel,” Kpobari said.
Chief Nengi Brown, a businessman and philanthropist, said that he would have had a harrowing experience during the recent fuel scarcity, if not for God’s mercy and intervention.
He said that his warehouse containing bags of cement and building materials was almost razed by the fire ignited by a burning generator.
“Luck was on my side, as my neighbours rushed here and put off the fire, which obviously came from the generator,” he said.
“At home, our small provisions store also caught fire, which was caused by the adulterated kerosene in a lamp.’’
Brown said that the kerosene in the lamp was probably mixed with some combustible material like petrol, making it inflammable.
“I then ordered my family not to use kerosene bought from the same spot again because the kerosene could cause explosion and wreak havoc on our house and belongings,’’ he said.
He, nonetheless, advised the people to always test the fuel they bought, particularly during periods of fuel scarcity.
“People should always sniff the fuel they want to buy; if the smell is awful, please don’t buy it. That is the lesson I learnt from the recent fuel scarcity; I can now detect fake or adulterated fuel through its strange smell,” he said.
Mr Chinedu Iroegbu, a Port Harcourt-based economist, said that greed was the rationale behind the adulteration of petroleum products.
He, nonetheless, stressed that the consequences of such devious behaviour could be grave and disastrous, particularly if the adulterated products were stored at home or in unsafe places.
“Some unscrupulous persons employed Machiavellian tactics to exploit others so as to make quick money. They mix petrol with kerosene or diesel to maximise their profits, not minding the consequences of their criminal behaviour on the end users.
Iroegbu, however, urged the Federal Government and its regulatory agencies such as the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to punish marketers who adulterated petroleum products.
“This is because adulteration of fuel is a very risky venture; it can cause colossal damage to man and the environment,” he said.
All in all, analysts insist that the only way out of such problems is for the government to make pragmatic efforts to ensure steady availability of petroleum products at all times.