Viewpoint

May 3, 2024

Fuel scarcity: When greed, corruption and sabotage form an alliance

Fuel scarcity: When greed, corruption and sabotage form an alliance

By ABDULLAHI GAMBARI

NO matter how well intentioned a policy may be and no matter how patriotic and proficient those saddled with implementing such a policy may be, an alliance of greed, corruption and sabotage will always bring it down to its knees and defeat the very purpose and essence of the policy at any given time.

The fuel scarcity that is currently ravaging the country and subjecting hapless Nigerians to extremely harrowing experience can only be rationally explained in the light of the scenario painted above.

Without a doubt, there exists in the country today an unholy alliance between the trio of greed, corruption and sabotage. And they are wreaking monumental destruction on the economy by inflicting needless psychological trauma on the people’s psyche, strangulating productive processes at micro and macro levels, and entrenching a regime of doubt and a sense of rebellion in the people’s mind against their government and leaders.

 There are a few things that many Nigerians don’t know and which they should be told so that they can make informed decisions.

The first thing is the fact that logistics challenges are largely responsible for the current shortfall in fuel supply and not necessarily acute scarcity. It has nothing to do with scarcity of the product all. The problem is getting it to the consumer; that is he issue.

Then, there is the big elephant in the house which has defied all entreaties. And that is the case of diversion, hoarding and other sharp practices orchestrated by greedy marketers and other unpatriotic Nigerians.

How can a marketer jerk up his pump price from N600 to N1,200 in just one fell swoop? In most cases, the product being sold now at cut throat price was probably procured way back and might have been in his filling station’s depot for three or four months. That is just crazy. Viral videos on the internet testify to this claim. There was even one hilarious short clip where a man could be heard lamenting loudly what meat-pie has to do with buying fuel. The customers who wanted to buy fuel had apparently been directed to go and buy meat-pie first before they could be attended to. It is that ridiculous. And you ask yourself what has meat-pie got to do with fuel? These are some of the absurdities Nigerians have been made to cope with by insatiable marketers.

The established fact is that the issue is not lack of product. The latest report on its stock by the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, NMDPRA, as at 28th April 2024 stands at 1.547 billion litres, equivalent of 30 days or a whole month’s sufficiency.

Yet another national albatross is the fact that people engage in needless arbitrage. By now, buying of fuel in jerry cans and selling or hawking the same on major roads ought to have been outlawed. This is a major driver of hiking the price of the commodity as people take advantage of the situation to make quick huge money at the expense of the poor in the society.

Closely related to the above is the question of panic-buying. Once there are about four or five filling stations in an area that are not selling, the only one available would be besieged by the people in a frantic effort to get the commodity and probably buy and keep in the hope that they will not be stranded the following day if the situation remains the same.

The truth, however, is that key downstream stakeholders are working assiduously round the clock to resolve the issues and ameliorate the situation on ground. 

Nigerians must also learn to disregard rumours and orchestrated lies aimed at dragging government’s image into disrepute. There is no single foreseeable plan on the part of the government to increase pump price of fuel, none.

However, it is very important that the NMDPRA, especially the Downstream Regulators, go into immediate synergy with security operatives, work together and address the unwholesome practices in the supply and distribution value-chain.

It will interest you to read that on Monday this week, the Kwara State Government Task Force raided some filling stations within the Ilorin metropolis, cautioning them against hoarding of fuel which the government says imposes needless hardship on the masses.

The government said the raid was part of the government’s measures to address fuel scarcity in the state. The government clarified in a statement that Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq set up the committee to quickly fix the problem of fuel shortage in the state. The statement quoted the leader of the task force and Chief of Staff Government House, Prince Mahe Abdulkadir, as saying that: “As a responsible and responsive government, we cannot be folding our hands watching. We have to see that the majority of our people enjoy the dividends of democracy.”

What those orchestrating this artificial scarcity are doing is simply to deny the masses the dividends of democracy.  

And we must lend our voices to that of the Kwara State Task Force, that Nigerians should avoid panic- buying and that those responsible for sabotaging the system cannot hold on forever. They flourish and derive a sense of fulfilment when they see people falling head over heels and scrambling for the available product out of the artificial scarcity they have created. 

“We want to call on the people of the state to be patient and avoid panic-buying, government is not trying to increase the prices of fuel. We will make sure our people are not short-changed,” the statement added. More states need to do this in the interim.

In like manner, the House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream and Midstream) has also called on security agencies to pick up hoarders of petrol across the country or those engaged in smuggling across the borders.

While assuring Nigerians that there is enough petrol available from its findings, the Committee stressed that logistic challenges have made the product scarce and such challenges are being addressed.

The co-chair of the committee and Chairman, House Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Ikenga Ugochinyere, stated this during a press conference at the National Assembly Complex, Abuja, on Wednesday. 

Ugochinyere, added that: “We strongly frown at the activities of middlemen who have taken advantage of the short disruption of supply, to maximize profit and generate an inordinate gain for themselves, at the detriment of our people.”

The bottom line is that the current traumatic situation in the country is largely orchestrated by greedy, corrupt saboteurs who are only profit minded and not because the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited failed to supply enough fuel for the nation’s consumption.