Fuel Crisis (In 2018); May Your Road be Rough.
Today marks the 54th anniversary of the celebrated article of the most celebrated social activist, Tai Solarin (1922–1994) of the famous Mayflower School, Ikenne Ijebu-Ode entitled “MAY YOUR ROAD BE ROUGH”. The master of printed words. Tai Solarin wrote the classic 1000 words-count on the 1st of Jan, 1964. It was a rude awakening for all Nigerians, daring them to take risks in the knowledge of life’s “plenty of sunshine and rough weather” (his words!), a refreshing departure from the trite mantra; “happy new year”!. Little did the great columnist know that, almost 60 years, in metaphoric and literal senses, his compatriots’ (Nigerians’) road remains ever rough, with more of “obfuscation”, “plenty of tears”, less of laughter, plenty of unhappiness, less of happiness, “plenty of failures” and less of successes. As at the time of going to press, most Nigerians remained petrol-pessimists, instant hunters and gatherers of petrol in cans as hundreds of thousands of filling stations shut refusing to sell to willing buyers. According to the media “Situation report Investigations.. in Lagos, Abuja and other parts of the nation showed that the fuel supply situation has not yet shown much remarkable improvement. Long queues were still observed in many parts of the nation, including Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Uyo, Benin and Calabar. While many stations were completely shut, others that had the product sold at different prices between N145 and N250 per litre, depending on location. Officials of the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, were seen making frantic efforts to monitor and sanction culprits, but ….their efforts may not yield much fruits because of limited personnel and resources to police activities in all parts of the nation”. As a traveler my self, at weekend I bought petrol on my return trip to and from Kano to Kaduna, at prices other than Buhari-N145 per litter! In 1964, there was only “Old’ Port Harcourt Refinery with negligible production, but Nigerians never slept at filling stations as it is today in 2017, (sorry 2018!) with four refineries, endless Turn Around Maintenance (TAMs!), hundreds of filling stations but few drops of fuel to buy. It is refreshing that, worried by the prolonged fuel scarcity in all parts of the Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari has, for the first time, summoned stakeholders in the sub-sector of the economy to a major engagement in Aso Rock today.(Monday). Does it mean that the president who also doubles as the Petroleum Minister is just aware of the month-long products supply crisis? Why would the President not act promptly given the agony of Nigerians at filling stations? It is a sad commentary that Buhari administration is proving to be a reactionary administration that reacts belatedly, in many belated token ways to issues of national importance. As important as today’s meeting of Stakeholders is, what Nigerians need urgently is product to fuel their movement to work, children to school in the new year not new words of lamentations. What Nigerians need is ease of living as well as ease of living. Sadly with blames and counter blames, it seams Nigerians’ road remains ever rough in the new year. The point cannot be overstated; petroleum downstream sector is in crisis manifested in a number of ways namely; sector capture by corrupt private and public officials, scandalous and criminal collapse of the four national Refineries (100 per cent of our petroleum products needs come through wholesale corruption ridden products imports with all the attendant pressure on foreign exchange), corruption ridden import parity-pricing model Import which makes products prices unacceptably prohibitive, Poor infrastructures/ pipelines insecurity, irregular turn around maintenance (TAM), TAMs, pipeline security, non-metering, non-upgrading our old (Brownfield) refineries, and urgent need for building new (Greenfield) refineries. Nigeria never lacks retail outlets of ever hoarded products. On the contrary, it is an open knowledge that many filling stations in the country are inversely proportional to products availability. Nigeria should adopt production cost pricing method instead of the current import parity cost pricing to ensure appropriate products pricing. But there cannot be production cost pricing method without first domestic production through revival of the domestic refineries. Nigeria needs functioning refineries. Nigeria should learn from countries like Algeria, India and South Africa which are promoting beneficiation, industrialization, value addition, decent mass employment through domestic refineries. Our refineries must just work. We should stop the current shameless wastage of scarce foreign currency on something which we should produce in the country, thereby generate employment and stop the fraud perpetrated in the name of subsidy. NNPC should champion the campaign for local production not retail of imported products. The one month-long fuel shortage has further worsened poverty, puts productivity on hold. We must be liberated from the sector abductors that include some NNPC chieftains and marketers alike. Until then, all Nigerians must heed the advise of the legendary Tai Solarin; “I am not cursing you; I am wishing you what I wish myself every year. I therefore repeat, may you have a hard time this year, may there be plenty of troubles for you this year! If you are not so sure what you should say back, why not just say, ‘Same to you’? I ask for no more.”