Fuel Scarcity: The Economical Truth

By Usman Mohammed

Most people of the current regime are totally economical about the truth about the current fuel scarcity plaguing the nation. Reasons are not far fetched. The truth is indeed bitter and can cause an already faltering economy to slip into oblivion. But hard as it maybe the analysis before Nigerians is as clear as crystal. While the NNPC boss Ibe Kachikwu is lost in a quagmire this is one problem that his eloquent pen that graced the pages of Hints Magazine as the boistrous "Fatherhood with Ibe" syndicated column, is not going to wrangle him out of.

The challenges may appear like a legion of Demons but the simple truth will be incomprehensible to many. And the truth is Fuel Scarcity will remain a recurrent decimal in Nigeria until 2019. That is the pungent analysis of the situation on ground and there is nothing on the horizon to dispute this. In multiple breaths designed to douse tension but encased in deception, Ibe Kachikwu the NNPC oil czar has said fuel scarcity will end in 24hrs then 1 week and now the ever shifting time table has been set at two months.

Meanwhile the usual "there is adequate products" announcement has been superceded by the latest tale of a "depleted reserve" and the need to divert local refining capacity's production towards filling the empty cans in the Nation's strategic reserve. These are dark days in Nigeria as the black gold that fuels the nation has doubled in price and the spectre of the official price has become as scarce as an almost extinct white Rhino. Meanwhile power cuts and blackouts that were on a decline have returned with venom as the wheels of The nation grind slowly to a halt.

This is the crisis that has taken centre stage and the options to avert a total shut down are limited and exasperating. But how did we get here and why will it take us Two years to get out of this calamitous mess? The reasons are easily traced to over 30 years of corruption and misrule that reached its zenith in the dying days of the last administration that succeeded in hammering the final nails into the coffin of the Nigerian State. For 30 years not a single new refinery was built as a phantom subsidy fueled an evil cartel that grew fat on the spoils of corruption.

Round tripping, ghost shipments and divertion delivered a deadly blow on a Nigerian economy that became solely dependent on imported fuel as our old dilapidated refineries got stuck in the corruption induced quicksand called "Turn around Maintenance "a gold mine for the fat pigs whose gluttony looted the commonwealth". It became such a lucrative enterprise that the cartels big wigs took out Billions of dollars in loans to build diesel tank farms in Lagos to store their imported treasure hence with facilities that are to be paid over 10 to 15 years, these men have an invested interest in ensuring Nigeria remains import dependent to meet our fuel needs.

Hence is it a wonder that when electricity starts to peak so called vandals and economic saboteurs attack Gas pipeline in a bid to deny vital supply to the nation's power stations hence ensuring the diesel mafia continues to persist as an indispensible tool for the nation. These men have no interests in building refineries until they have milked their cash cow until its udders are dry and empty. Therein lies the dilemma of going up against this powerful cartel that has the dangerous trio of money, power and influence. But in a subterrean assault against the cartel, President Buhari has made it his mission to end the grip of the cartel using his main tool in his Arsenal.

Currently all the over 200 jobbers who benefitted from subsidy and import licenses have been expunged. It was indeed the height of corruption when the Occupy Nigeria Protests of 2012 led to the discovery of a sacriligious scam of paying subsidy to phantom companies that included garbage collectors, fish merchants, tailors and hairdressers. But despite this heart stopping revelation nothing was done to stop this madness until Buhari came along.

Firstly, NNPC has become the sole importer of product as the over 200 importers employed by the former regime have been expunged from the scene. But even with this the nation's foreign reserves can not sustain the continued importation of product while President Buhari's secret weapon is under going construction. This is the basket in which Buhari is placing all his eggs as most of the nation's foreign exchange is being diverted to support this project. Truth be told the diesel mafia is not ready to support this administration and will use every tool in their arsenal to frustrate this regime's plans to make Nigeria fuel sufficient by 2019. These men are so indebted to the old order that their vast wealth is only existing on paper for it will vanish once their creditors come calling.

The case of Mr Uba Of Capitol Oil readily comes to mind who was set to be a pauper once AMCON (Asset Management Company Of Nigeria) took over his business due to his failure to service his debt, only for him to be saved by his quick thinking of forming an organization called Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria which turned out to be his saving grace as his support for ex-President Jonathan ensured his sins which were as crimson were washed away as funds were infused to oil the wheels of TAN, hence his books which were all in the red miracilously all became black overnight.

Likewise his fellow journeymen are in a similar boat; angry and fuming at the new order. President Buhari has only one strategy to end this fuel crisis and since he has chosen not to buy his way out of trouble like the last administration that borrowed heavily to fund the devilish twins called the phantom subsidy and the importation of refined products, his options are limited to only one.

This $12 Billion facility is the only hope of his administration hence he has entrusted it to his friend from Kano State since he feels less likely betrayed by his kinsman than the nest of vipers who are prepared to kill Nigeria in order to harvest its vital organs like a transplant traffiking ring. Once Dangote the richest man in Africa suddenly became boistrous and vocal over his plans for Nigeria I knew the man had been in secret talks with the President and was charged to be the private hand of the king whose assignment was to use his private enterprise and clout to save Nigeria from imminent financial ruin.

And there in lies the only option. To build a new ultra modern Refinery to be run by a Private conglomerate assisted by the Government. It was not a mistake that both Ibe Kachikwu and the CBN Governor visited Dangote in quick succession with a promise that they will ensure his demands for forex and techincal support to complete the Largest Refinery in the World in Lekki Lagos are met thus forex is sold in large quantities to Dangote at the official rate as this $12 Billion facility is a colossal investment.

And once it comes on stream in 2018 it is hoped that all the nation's fuel woes will end in a flash. That is the game plan and the only analysis one can make out to solve this fuel crisis on the long term. The diesel cartel is watching closely to see if the Lekki Refinery will succed but once it does they too will have no choice but to join the train to expand local refining capacity as well.

This is the big gamble of Buhari but alas he must be reminded that Nigerians are not a very patient bunch and this is due to the fact that most Nigerians live vitually from hand to mouth. Millions take home pay can hardly eek out the bare necessities of life. And there is a limit to what a people can take due to the intense sufferings this fuel crisis has inflicted on the nation. Hence Buhari should be a little flexible and allow Major Marketers and some trusted Independent ones to enter into a pact to honestly import Petroleum to supplement the inadequate supply from the NNPC.

Foreign exchange should be made available to this marketers with a view to easing the scarcity while the Lekki Project continues unimpeded. The thrust to recover our looted funds to fuel this recovery must not relent. It is hard to say the truth about this fuel crisis for this opens the regime to harsh criticism from many quarters who will term it clueless and directionless. However the analysis of what needs to be done cannot change hence Ibe Kachikwu and his principal should end their routine of being economical with the truth.

Say the whole truth and expunges half truths. Say the truth that the truth might set us free! Nigerians deserve the right to know the truth. And it is simple. Until 2019 fuel scarcity will remain a recurrent decimal in Nigeria. That is the painful bitter honest truth. Usman Mohammed. Mass Communication, IBB University, Lapai-Niger State. 07060815443

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