Deputy Editor, UMAR ABUBAKAR reflects on how Nigerians have been contending with series of fuel scarcity sessions in months, with its attendant hardship and inconveniences
Although for well over about two years now, no news of fuel scarcity was heard of, the dreaded queues have suddenly reappeared in filling stations across the country and sometimes the queues will just disappear, not because the commodity is available, but because the fuel is not just available at all to be sold.
The recent fuel scarcity situation in Kaduna in particular has been on since January, 2014 and it still lingers on with no sign at all that its end is near.
Since that time, when the ugly situation was first noticed in Kaduna, Abuja and many other cities across Nigeria, officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC); Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and the Federal Government have all come to explain what they called `an ephemeral’ shortage. They said the scarcity is only temporal as it was actually caused by the action of some pipeline vandals who broke some major oil pipelines and stole oil to unknown destinations.
The officials went further to hint that normal fuel supply will be restored as some as repair works are completed on the vandalized oil pipelines through which crude oil is transported to various destinations in the country.
It is sad to note, however, that the repair works, which the NNPC officials wanted to make Nigerians believe have already commenced since January, are either not yet completed or that they are completed but they couldn’t yet come up with some other excuses, no matter how flimsy, to explain why fuel is till scarce four months after.
Consequently, Nigerians have come up with varied explanations regarding the persistence of fuel scarcity for this long period of time despite the assurances of early completion of repair works and bringing an end to fuel scarcity, long queues at filling stations and the hardship associated with both.
Pundits believe that the Federal Government has since made it a habit to purposely and deliberately hoard the commodity and cause artificial scarcity for the citizens to suffer untold hardship before coming out to announce hikes in fuel pump prices.
“They usually create this artificial scarcity whenever they want to increase fuel pump prices. When they realize that the citizens are buying a gallon for almost N1000 and the fuel is still nowhere to be found, they will increase the price. That is when the citizens will be saying it is even better to see the commodity and buy with ease at exorbitant prices than to still be looking for fuel to buy at exorbitant prices and it is not available.
“They are actually using the psyche of the people to further trample on them until they get to the ground”, said a respondent in Kaduna who doesn’t want his name in prints.
Others, however, see the whole thing “as a stunt pulled by the Federal Government and aimed at hoodwinking the populace into believing that the fuel scarcity as experienced is real and that the government is doing everything within its powers to bring the situation under control. In the real sense, however, it was only meant to be tactics aimed at diverting the attention of the citizens from some other equally or even more important national issues.”
“Mark you, it may be that the Federal Government is trying to hike the fuel pump prices once again and the intention was pre-empted. If this is the case, then both major and independent oil marketers may decide to hoard the product in anticipation of higher profits,” said Mosood Samaila, a trailer driver.
On the whole, the fuel scarcity situation is here while its effects and hardship are biting harder.
Accordingly, pundits are of the view that the issue of fuel scarcity is not only affecting the motorists who have to buy at exorbitant prices, but it also affects negatively other economic activities. It has, for instance, affected the cost of transportation when transport fares charged by commercial motorists have doubled and even tripled in some cases. This, according to the pundits; elicits a rise in the prices of goods in the markets and makes life generally more difficult for everyone.
Interestingly, a senior staff of the DPR, who pleads for anonymity, told this reporter that there is actually no reason for the fuel scarcity currently experienced in the country, adding that there is enough fuel supply to go round but that even the DPR could not understand what is going on.
He observed as surprising that “if you drive away from the city center towards Rigachikun to the North or towards Rido and Gwanin Gora you see several filing stations selling to customers but the commodity is just not seen in the town. This is really surprising”.
Meanwhile, Kaduna residents have continued to live with the attendant hardship and general inconveniences as occasioned by the fuel scarcity in our midst. So when will the commodity be readily available for motorists to simply drive into any filing station, fill up at government controlled price and drive away? Only time shall tell.