Fuel Crisis: The Untold Hardship Of An Oil Producing Nation
The lingering case of fuel scarcity is grave and pathetically telling on all Nigerians. Motorists and vehicle owners now practically live at service stations to get fuel at as much as 200 Naira or more per litre. It is an understatement to report that people are sick, terribly worried and devastated. The gloomy faces Nigerians are wearing is an instant demand for solutions and an end to this perennial misery. Productive man hours are wasted on fuel queues and the economy is worse hit in the long run. Whenever this trend rears its ugly head, it is imagined the high level stress Nigerians go through while concerned government officials seem more clueless and in a state of disarray.
The ripple effect of fuel scarcity has had negative influence on other sectors of our national life. Transport fares have tripled and it may not come down soon. The prices of food stuff and other essential commodities have sky-rocketed as a result. This is also coming on the heels of intense heat waves and low capacity generation of power supply. Nigerians are steadfast and can persevere in the face of numerous odds. The true resilience of Nigerians is manifest in times of trouble like this. The faith of that man who is in a fuel queue of about two kilometres from the filling station for hours believing that he will be served is amazing. The nation has year in year out endured this vicious cycle and many Nigerians are running out of patience. This is a direct consequence of long time failure of leadership and unfathomable predicament of an oil producing nation lacking in capacity to refine crude locally. The negative effect of the absence of refineries and refining capacity is the consequence of this man-made problems and hardship levied on Nigerians at the moment.
Strengthening weak institutions and regulatory frameworks hampering international best practices in the petroleum industry is desirable. This ever recurring problem facing the nation was government's penchant to giving a few privileged individuals whose personal interest overrides that of the nation rights to importation of petroleum products. The nation should discourage over- pampering of major importers with forex incentives. Why must the nation give forex buffer to businessmen? Give as many capable importers as possible licences to import freely and independently source for forex. Nigeria is blessed with uncountable astute businessmen who are major importers of other products and services. Is it fuel importation that will demystify them?
Biofuel policy of the nation if any should come alive. Genuine attempt aimed at introducing the use of ethanol must be taken seriously. Ethanol which is produced from biomass mostly through fermentation using glucose derived from Sugars (Sugar cane, sugar beet and molasses), starch (corn, wheat, grain) or cellulose (forest products) as raw materials which are in abundance here in Nigeria and should be a priority. Ethanol is the most widely used biofuel in the world. Over 64 countries now have active programmes promoting the use as mainstream fuel. United States, Brazil and the European Union are leading the change in fuel usage, producing and consuming approximately 80% of the world's total. The US has mandated 164 billion litres per year of ethanol in petrol blends by 2022. In Brazil, consumption is growing by 10%, China has mandate of 10% ethanol usage by 2020 while Thailand has a national biofuel policy of 20% of its fuel by 2017. What about Nigeria?
Patriotism and the sincerity of purpose of players and stakeholders in the petroleum industry is suspicious and worrisome. Some deliberately hold the nation hostage to frustrate every administration and portray it as having failed while others do so to financially line their personal pockets. Some has to do with outright sabotage of a correctional process by the old order who have been benefiting from the crisis at our detriment. These occurrences must be critically reviewed and punished as well. It does not take rocket science for one to understand that functional refineries are the answers to the perennial scarcity of premium motor spirit in Nigeria. Effective refining capacity and functional refineries will permanently nail the antics of the so called “Cabal” whose only duty is to ferry crude out and bring in refined products. Therefore, the return of long queues will never disappear now or in the near future without taken account of this factor.
The removal of subsidy which allows market forces to determine the prices of this commodity should be clear and seen to be in force. Investors' confidence is lacking as nobody is sure if there is subsidy or not going by official government utterances which contradicts the other. If the nation had boldly removed the entire subsidy, in 2012, she would not be in disarray as it were because stability would have been restored in the sector. We have endured the vicious cycle of this scarcity for too long. Fuel scarcity is not new in Nigeria. It lives with us and actually formed part of the campaign issues of this administration. But government officials still sound like old broken records in a matter which needs practical and urgent solutions. Therefore, this government must be prepared to do things differently because Nigerians are tired of old stories and grammar which have found their ways back again into this old problem. The answer to our problem is not far-fetched and this government must be ready to implement actionable policies that will end this scourge.
Nigerians will pay for petroleum product provided they are available. The ministry of Petroleum Resources, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the department of Petroleum resources should for once prove their competencies. Why run after fuel vendors selling along the roads to eke out a living when those who sell the products to them are well known Filling stations. The idea of allocating fuel to only major marketers who will not like to dispense all in their service stations but sell to the independent marketers at more than 100 naira per litre should be discouraged and investigated.
The scenario is that of a nation paying for improper or adequate planning. The nation is reaping the soured fruit of a monolithic economy. This is a case of a short-sighted nation unwilling to set achievable goals and visions. “Suffering and smiling” was a popular rendition by Fela Anikulapo Kuti which vividly captured the typical innate ability of Nigerians to endure in pathetic situation and mood of the nation long time ago. In this age and time, the reality of that song is manifest. There is God oh!
Written by Sunday Onyemaechi Eze, a Media and Communications Specialist.