Sin no more – The Nation

By The Citizen

Many must have received the news that the excruciating pain caused them by scarcity of the Premium  Motor Spirit (PMS), commonly called petrol, will soon end with a sigh of relief. Coming from the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, it suggests that the government is concerned about the plight of Nigerians.

The minister who had earlier received flaks for suggesting that the scarcity would linger for about two more months told  our federal lawmakers that it would take, indeed, less than two weeks. He explained that vessels bringing in the product in sufficient quantity were already on the high seas.

We find the humility of the minister in apologising for talking down to his compatriots a welcome departure from the haughty disposition of senior government officials. The barrage of criticisms he received following the unguarded comment which he later claimed was expressed in the lighter mood was deserved. Our public officials must develop a thick skin to criticisms.

While commending Dr. Kachikwu for quickly retracting the statement, we hope he has not boxed himself to a corner by categorically promising that the scarcity would end this week. Already, another statement from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is giving the impression that it might take a little longer than the minister's deadline. It does not appear that all issues related to importation of the product and the supply chain have been addressed.

Is the NNPC now in a position to solely tackle the problem? Or are the independent marketers who are needed to shore up NNPC's capacity now in position to overcome the difficulties involved in accessing foreign exchange? It would have been better appreciated if the minister came forth with steps taken to support his deadline.

Public servants should realise that they are elected or appointed to resolve crisis such as we have in the petroleum sector. Dr. Kachikwu, in particular, came to office well recommended; he must learn to take criticisms in good faith. If he has to be a magician to render the needed service, he ought to quickly learn on the job. Otherwise, he must realise that snapping at newsmen and the public is not an option.

His apology which is rare in this clime, is taken for now, but a repeat could be sad tale. He has a duty cut out for him and he is doing no one a favour by performing the task he swore to undertake.

Any suggestion that fuel scarcity has become a permanent feature of our national life is unacceptable. When the All Progressives Congress sought the support of voters to unseat the Goodluck Jonathan administration, it promised change. And, one of the critical sectors it promised to revamp is the oil sector. It is too late in the day to change the story. Anything short of delivering on the campaign promise would amount to a betrayal of trust.

Ensuring that new refineries are built either by the government or the private sector should not be too difficult for a government that was swept into office by an avalanche of support. It is too early in the day to throw away the goodwill by lackadaisical attitude to handling issues. If smaller countries could ensure steady supply of fuel to homes and individuals, Nigeria should, without the usual excuses.