By Nkasi Kolie
When the scarcity of petrol started about a month ago, people thought the problem would soon be over, but for over one month now the shortage has persisted, and is biting harder daily.
Most Nigerians are really worried, as the scarcity has subjected people to severe hardship, ranging from inflation, rising cost of transportation and goods, especially foodstuff. To worsen it all, it happened a few weeks after the Christmas and New Year celebrations and a period when parents had just paid their children’s school fees and when families were trying to recover from heavy expenditure.
Official reports said the fuel shortage was occasioned by the importation of about 100 million litres of premium motor spirit (PMS), commonly known as fuel or petrol, with methanol quantity above the nation’s specifications. The contaminated fuel was discovered when motorists who bought it complained of damage to their vehicles. The Federal Government promised to correct the anomaly in a few weeks, but the “few weeks” is turning to months.
Investigations have shown that cost of transportation has tripled, while the cost of food has risen in geometric proportions. For instance, a journey from Lagos to Delta State in a minivan that used to cost N7,000 is now between N10,000 and N12,000 depending on the driver and the motor park where the passenger boards the vehicle.
The fare from Iju to Ogba, Lagos, which used to cost N200 is now N400. The same problem is affecting many towns and cities.
Following the excruciating hardship being inflicted on Nigerian masses, members of the public have raised alarm that they foresee danger, if the fuel scarcity is not stopped in the next two weeks, as the country is heading towards anarchy.
Foremost security professional and Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Strict Guard Security, Lagos, Dr. Bone Efoziem, warned that, if the fuel scarcity persists in the next two weeks, Nigeria might drift into anarchy.
He said: “The fuel scarcity is a serious issue that needs urgent attention from the Federal Government.
“Government, as a matter of urgency, should expedite action and see that there is fuel everywhere, as I foresee anarchy. Prices of food have skyrocketed beyond the ordinary man’s reach. The masses cannot afford what they are witnessing.
“Government needs to address this issue urgently because, if this persists, in the next few weeks, the country will be in anarchy. What happened during #EndSARS protest may be a child’s play because this time adults will join in the protest. You know, during #EndSARS, only youths came out to protest, but this time around the adults, even if they don’t join the protest, will be supporting the youths because there is hunger and anger in the land.
“The youths are converging every day on fuel stations with empty jerry cans searching for fuel that is not available. When their patience is worn through, those who were into crime but have repented and taken to driving, conducting, commercial motorcycle riding or commercial tricycle operation as their profession will go back to crime for survival and they will lure other idle youths to join them. We are sitting on a keg of gunpowder ready to explode. The One Million Boys and Awawa Boys and No Salary Boys gangs that have been crushed will soon resurface in Lagos.
“Have you noticed that there is a serious traffic situation in Lagos that the police and Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LATSMA) are not able to control? This is because people park their vehicles along the road while they use jerry cans to go looking for fuel.
“Crimes, especially armed robbery and kidnapping, will increase. Imagine a road where hoodlums usually see 15 vehicles passing almost at the same time but they start seeing only two vehicles, the hoodlums will resume operation, kidnapping and robbery will come back.
“A hungry man is an angry man. People are really hungry because the fuel scarcity has affected virtually everything. The cost of living is so high. The cost of transporting farm produce to the market is too much and an average Nigerian cannot afford food. That is why I am advising the government to expedite action in tackling the issue of fuel scarcity.”
Efoziem urged the Federal Government to urgently refurbish or build new refineries and start producing fuel locally.
“It is a shameful thing that we are importing processed fuel from foreign countries when we can do it in Nigeria here. We sell raw oil to foreigners and they refine it and still sell it back to us. Do you know that the cost of production is different from landing cost? That is why we pay heavily, because our market is determined with the dollar, but when we refine the fuel here, our prices will be determined by our local currency. So, that a foreign country is sanctioned does not concern us nor should the price of the dollar determine our price.
“If a single individual like Dangote can afford to build a refinery that is waiting for inauguration, why can’t the Federal Government build refineries? Let’s refine our fuel in Nigeria and all the problems of fuel scarcity will disappear.”
In his contribution to the discourse, renowned journalist and consultant, Mr. Alliu Mohammed, took to his Facebook page, saying, “I had to pinch myself this morning. Nigeria is experiencing a terrible fuel scarcity in 2022? How did we get here? An oil-producing country without functional refineries? This is an abomination in a clime where all oil-producing countries have shifted from the ownership of gigantic and expensive refineries to functional and manageable modular refineries built across their countries. Is it not sad and embarrassing that, as the giant of Africa, we still rely on imported petroleum products? Why is it difficult for the government to allow private ownership of modular refineries? I have been told many times that licences have been approved for modular refineries. If yes, when are they coming on stream? I have been told of the near completion of the Dangote 650,000 barrels-per-day refinery in Lagos and it seems that is the only and last hope of the government for a solution to importation of petroleum products as at today. But my fear is that Dangote Refinery may not be a complete solution. I am waiting to be proved wrong. For now, government must bring succour to Nigerians who are paying through their noses for scarce petroleum products for over three weeks now. Worse still is the fact that Nigeria still doesn’t have regular power supply after years of the so-called privatisation of the power sector and, today, the only alternative means of individual generation of power, petrol and diesel, are not easily available despite promises by many government officials to ensure that the fuel crisis is resolved as soon as possible. Government should wake up to its responsibilities and stop inflicting unnecessary punishment on the people.”
For an environmentalist and activist, Mr. Tony Osadebe Oji, Nigeria will soon explode as it happened during the #EndSARS saga, “The Federal Government is testing the patience of angry and hungry youths who are willing to work but there is no work for them to do. When I drive or walk past filling stations and see mammoth crowds of youths carrying jerry cans, hustling for fuel, I weep for this country. What a wasted generation. One who sold fuel to me, who was speaking impeccable English, told me that he read Industrial Chemistry but there was no employment.
“I think it is a shame that the government has neglected the youths who have become willing tools in the hands of unscrupulous people, especially politicians who use them as thugs and abandon them after elections. This fuel scarcity has availed them the opportunity of making money again, but if the scarcity persists more than necessary, there will be serious riots by the youths. Outside from riots, very soon, there will be house-to-house raids by hoodlums in search of food. The worst of it all is that security agencies will not be able to contain what I foresee. Where will the police get the fuel to move their vehicles in times of distress calls? When I see some faces, I know that danger looms. The government, as a matter of urgency, should do something drastic to make sure that there is immediate fuel supply.”
Some of the youths that spoke with our correspondent were of the opinion that the petrol scarcity was artificial, with the intention of the Federal Government to increase fuel pump price. With that idea on their minds, the youths will resist any increase in fuel pump price.
However, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Ltd, has pledged an end to the impasse with the promise to commence 24-hour loading of fuel.