INDEED, these are bad times for Nigeria. For a country to suffer perennial fuel scarcity, near zero electricity supply, terrorist attacks and bloodletting by cattle herdsmen, among others, all at the same time, is really a burden. It’s a trying time, a time when the ordinary people, in particular and all Nigerians, in general, are passing through the crucible, paying for something they do not have a hand in. It’s a time when failure of government is manifest.
Yes, Nigerians have seen hell in the last couple of weeks over the cumulative fuel crisis, which has left them panting. These days, motorists sleep at petrol stations, as they struggle to buy fuel. Others queue the whole day, to buy petrol. Sometimes, all their efforts yield nothing, as there will be no petrol to buy. And where fuel is available, the confusion and struggle at selling points, with motorists, commercial motorcycle/tricycle operators and those buying in jerry cans to power their private power generators struggling, are better imagined than experienced. Whenever I see queues at petrol stations and the suffering of people therein, I wonder how a country blessed with oil is in this sorry pass.
I agree with President Muhammadu Buhari and others, who have said that Nigeria is suffering fuel crisis because of the failure of governments of the past. It baffles me why a government of an oil-rich country cannot provide simple fuel, something taking for granted in other countries. How could anybody justify the tragedy that Nigeria is importing fuel when it has the potentials to refine its oil, produce petrol, diesel and aviation gas for domestic use and export? It is scandalous that Nigeria cannot make three refineries work, when individuals are running refineries effectively.
However, inasmuch as Nigerians appreciate the fact that the current government inherited many problems, I must say that lamentation, excuses and buck-passing cannot provoke sympathy. Governments are elected to solve problems. And nobody cares about who caused the problem. By surrendering their sovereignty to Buhari, through their votes, the citizenry looks forward to seeing the president solve the problems therein in order to make life meaningful in the country. It’s inexplicable that fuel scarcity not only keeps recurring but also lingering for two months and government could only offer excuses and blames for it when a solution is expected. That the refineries are being fixed is good news. However, a government that would be one year in office by next month and whose Minister of Petroleum is President Buhari himself, who had been Minister of Petroleum and military head of state earlier, in my thinking, has had ample time to outline and execute the maintenance of refineries, for instance, with the view to making them to work. If the refineries are, therefore, not working, the government should be ashamed of itself.
The refineries must be fixed and given periodic Turn Around Maintenance (TAM). As they are being fixed, Nigerians expect the short-time measures the government has put in place to solve the fuel crisis to be pursued to logical conclusion Indeed, when the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, promised that queues at petrol stations would disappear by yesterday, April 7, 2016, to end the terrible fuel scarcity that has bedeviled Nigeria, I had prayed that his promise would come to pass. I did tell myself that if the minister solved the fuel crisis within the nine days he promised, he would have established himself as a miracle worker. Incidentally, by yesterday, queues had not disappeared at petrol stations, which confirms my position that Kachikwu made a mistake in giving such a short timeline to end the crisis. Granted that he was under pressure, but I think that he needn’t give any deadline while working to solve the problem. Now that queues have not disappeared, what Kachikwu has done is to demystify himself, which is not good for a hard working professional. Be that as it may, Kachikwu still deserves our commendation. That he is doing something shows his determination and audacity to get the problem solved.
Going forward, the minister should not rest on his oars until the coffin of fuel scarcity is permanently nailed. No doubt, part of the solution to the crisis is to make the refineries work. We have no excuse not to make them work. Related to this, government should ensure those who have been given licences to establish refineries do so or the approval withdrawn. There have been talks about refineries being unprofitable if prices of fuel are regulated. This may not be totally true. President of Dangote Group Limited, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, said a refinery could be run profitably in Nigeria at the prevailing situation. This would explain why he’s building one. Knowing who Dangote is, with his pedigree in business, I believe he would not venture into what would not bring returns on investment. Other people who have licences should act now.
Related to the refineries, government may consider looking into the technology employed by illegal refinery operators in Niger Delta. Those behind it, though criminals in the face of the law, could serve as pivot for the building of made-in-Nigeria refinery. By not looking into the technology behind the illegal refineries, Nigeria will be making the same mistake made after the civil war when those who made the famous “Ogbunigwe,” the Biafran warfare invention, were neglected and hounded. I am sure that if the Biafran engineers were accorded recognition after the war and given support toward the refining of their “crude technology,” Nigeria would have been manufacturing lethal weapons today, which would be a source of foreign exchange.
The abysmal electricity supply, as being experienced at present, is also damning. I am still wondering how Nigerians are surviving, when there is no fuel and no electricity. To be sure, in the last couple of weeks, electricity supply is near zero, as national blackout is now the order of the day. The situation is unacceptable. The excuses being given as regards destruction of oil pipeline and no gas situation, may be good, but Nigerian won’t buy it. This is the same excuse the Goodluck Jonathan government gave, which Nigerians did not accept.
If we rejected such excuse during the last administration, we reject it today. Just as the government took the glory, when, between May, 2015 and September of the same year or thereabout, the pro-change elements boasted that Buhari had ensured stable electricity supply, a few days into his government, it must take the blame for no electricity now. The Federal Government should stop humouring Nigerians with the promise of generating 10, 000 megawatts by 2019. It should, first, manage well the about 4, 000 megawatts being generated at present. If the government is sounding helpless that vandals are disrupting gas supply, making the full supply of the 4, 000 megawatts of today impossible, we can’t trust it would stop vandalism of gas pipelines when 10, 000 megawatts are in place. Besides, we know that while generation is one thing, the transmission/distribution of the electricity is another. We have to see the programme for the upgrade or replacement of transmission lines across the country before we dream of generating about 10, 000 megawatts.
With the way things are going, at at time of fuel and electricity crisis, insurgency still a problem, ranpaging armed cattle herdsmen, one cannot help but fear for our country. It does appear that perilous times, which Apostle Paul talked about in the Bible, are here in Nigeria. As Paul said in 2 Timothy 3: 1-5: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come; For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy; Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good; Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.”
These are things happening in Nigeria. Those in government are covetous (they want to be in position always and have what belongs to others), boasters (pretending to be messiahs and best things that ever happen), proud, unthankful (for our votes), traitors, fierce in their selfish struggle and lovers of pleasures. And there lies the main problem of Nigeria.