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It beggars belief how an oil-producing country like Nigeria has been enmeshed in a fuel crisis that has now spanned four months. It has been four months of pain, weeping, and gnashing of teeth for Nigerians who count for nothing in the minds of their leaders from every indication.
Africa’s most populous country and one of the largest producers of crude oil has been grappling with an economy-shattering scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit otherwise referred to as ‘PMS’ since the last quarter of 2022. Nigerians have simply lost count of the number of excuses that have been provided by different actors in the industry to try to rationalise why queues of motorists stretch kilometres at fuel stations in major cities across the country. This has been the worst of times for Nigerians whose only crime was physically being present in what could be described as the largest open-air prison in the world.
The fuel scarcity expectedly has given rise to the attendant traffic snarls slowing down commercial and social activities across the country. As this issue persists, Nigerians are painfully losing numerous productive hours while their savings are getting ruthlessly depleted. As the number of Nigerians groan daily at filling stations increases, the stark irony of their predicament is that citizens of the country which is supposed to be the seventh largest producer in the world cannot even afford to seamlessly find oil for their vehicles. This is not only confusing, but it is also quite frustrating and one can only imagine the level of pain Nigerians are currently being subjected to by the same people who are meant to be easing them.
Over the past few weeks, Nigerians from all walks of life have continued to lament the hardship caused by the scarcity of petroleum products across the country. Given the epileptic power situation in the country, one can only imagine how businesses and households that depend on generators for power supply manage to groan in darkness. Commuters and other road users, on their part, have continued to lament the ripple effects of the scarcity which has ensured that the cost of transportation has skyrocketed. Of course, this will always be reflected in the prices of goods and services, hence it is safe to conclude that every Nigerian is feeling the heat.
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In response, the grossly inept government of President Muhammadu Buhari has continued to claim that it had enough petroleum products in stock and one will only continue to wonder why the scarcity has persisted despite these claims. Rather than offer its citizens hope, the government of the day has continued to ruthlessly offer hopelessness.
The whole petroleum industry has been a complete joke under Buhari. One will recall how he overlooked the country’s vast array of accomplished energy industry professionals back then in 2015 and somehow saw himself in their midst and named himself as petroleum minister. His excuse back then was that he needed to be personally involved in the petroleum for things to get done properly. Well, Nigerians have continued to pay a heavy price for even allowing him to occupy the office of the Presidency in the first place.
Many Nigerians will indeed remember that, before deceiving gullible Nigerians to elect him into office in 2015, Buhari had at different times described the payment of subsidies as a scam and something government shouldn’t be doing, One will only begin to wonder what changed exactly as seven years after getting into office, under Buhari’s watchful eyes, petroleum subsidy claims have finally outgrown oil and gas revenue receipts from crude oil sales. In 2022 for instance, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited recorded a gross revenue of ₦2.39 trillion from oil and gas revenue only to incur a whopping ₦2.6 trillion in subsidy claims. What a country!
Last year’s outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion severely impacted the international oil market with the drop in supply due to production loss and boycotts forcing crude oil prices to 7-year highs. While this has continued to push up the prices of petroleum products in the country, the increase in the price of Nigeria’s highly in-demand crude oil has not reflected these realities in the receipts accruable to Nigeria over the same period. Under Buhari as Petrolusem minister and head of government, over 40% of Nigeria’s crude oil has continuously been stolen since August last year. Oil theft has caused production to drop to a 1.18 million barrels per day figure that is well below Nigeria’s 1.8 million BPD OPEC quota and yet, the government appears clueless about the whole situation as Nigeria bleeds.
As part of the failed promises Buhari made to Nigerians, Buhari had promised Nigerians that he will be doing everything possible to improve local refining capacity. He had promised to build at least one refinery yearly for Nigeria. Rather than attempt to fulfill that promise, he only ended up dashing the hopes of Nigerians as his tenure only led to the NNPC assuming an even broader role as Nigeria’s importer of the same petroleum products it was supposed to produce.
The refineries in the country have continued to fail in terms of satisfying the essence of their establishment, given that the importation of petroleum products has become a major and running routine in the economic management of the country. The refineries have failed to serve Nigerians because they are either all broken down due to poor maintenance culture or because the installed production capacity cannot meet the ever-growing local demand for petroleum products. Yet, sadly, hundreds of billions of naira are pumped into them every year. If this is not wickedness, one will only wonder what it is.
This is even more painful when one considers the fact that Nigeria’s absurd lack of local oil refining capacity has left it exposed to the vagaries of fuel price changes in the international market which of course always leaves devastating impacts on public and private sector finances. It would have been bearable if the public or private sector had benefited from the rise in prices, but it has been an equal-opportunity plague. What has happened over the last seven years is that Nigerians have continued to pay for the gross ineptitude of her leaders who do not give a hoot about what they are passing through.
One will wonder why the government of the day has continued to ignore the crisis brewing in the country due to the poor supply of petroleum products in the country. When one considers the fact that in terms of economic impact, fuel prices are influential enough to push inflation to the roof, it leaves big question marks on what exactly Nigerians did to their leaders that will warrant that manner of wickedness.
It is another election year in Nigeria and one would expect some degree of remorse and an attempt at placation from the government currently in power, rather than appear sober and apologetic, the All Progressive Congress has opted to campaign with enough eagerness and aplomb to suggest that it believes it is governing a country chock-full of gluttons for punishment who cannot wait to be tormented even more than they already have been. Of a truth, they might be right because when one considers the differences in reactions that Nigerians have put up to the Buhari administration and how they reacted when his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan had shown signs of similar failures. It remains to be seen if Nigerians will be rewarding their oppressors next month by renewing their subscription to pain and agony.
The failure of the energy policy and its impact on the lives of almost 200 million Nigerians have been harrowing. Businesses are shutting down. People are losing jobs. Families are losing breadwinners. Insecurity is growing. Buhari and the APC talked a good game, but when the time came, they had nothing to give, so something has to give. Nigerians must prepare to hit the streets when it becomes necessary to prove that they are not zombies.