This time of the year is peculiar in its weather and the the Christmas holiday, which may well be be the most popular in our clime. It is characterized by movement, busy market arenas and reunions of family members and friends, who take a break from the hustle of looking for daily bread, to be with long-seen friends and family. It is in the tendency for people to move across and around the country that they feel pained when these movements are disrupted. To garnish the dish of Nigeria’s harsh economy with the rather bitter condiment of fuel scarcity is to move the general hardship in the land several notches higher. There seems to be an incoherent explanation, except for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s regular assurances that they are on top of the situation, which my friend, Pat, would rather they were below it, if that would make the Christmas a merry one rather than the meek one that has forced Nigerians into the symbolic manger, where Jesus Christ, whose birthday we celebrate, was born. Joseph and Mary, his human parents,could not find space in any known inn or may not have the wherewithal to go for higher ones, which was why they settled for the available manger. Preachers, like yours sincerely, do say that his place of birth is symbolic of humility. We also preach that in that humility he took away our burden and sin and made us royal. This is no pulpit, just that our lives are going into the manger by an economy that has yielded loss of jobs in millions at a time the people expected a turnaround. Reports say jobs were lost in their millions even when the economy is said to have left the woods of recession. There is no sign of light at the end of this tunnel. The reality that stares us in the face is that Nigerian people are hungry, more parents are out of jobs and thus unable to pay fees for their children in school. Several companies are forced to lay off staff to stay afloat but still stand on shaky feet even after layoffs, forcing some to do the unpleasant exercise twice in this past year. The layoffs have not guaranteed survival, an indication that the exercise may continue. The new year had better not continue with this trend.
The buck stops at the President’s table, which is why no one should better explain the fuel scarcity and the attendant consequences but him, more so when he held on the the position of Minster of Petroleum. I hear the nation has produced more power this year than it has ever done. The President has ordered payment of promotion arrears for workers. That is good news but they affect a tiny fraction of the people. I got the following from someone’s social media wall.
“On Monday, 23rd October, 2017, was the 530th day that the Buhari administration increased the petrol pump price from N87 to N145 per litre. As a country, we consume roughly 40 million litres of petrol per day. The implication of this is that from 11th May, 2016, (when the pump price was increased) to 23rd October, 2017, the consumption amounts to 21.2 billion litres. [That’s simply 40 million litres per day multiplied by 530 days].
“When you subtract N87 from N145, you get N58. Now, multiply that N58 by 21.2 billion and you will get N1.2296 trillion. Let me write it in full – N1,229,600,000,000.00 That is the EXTRA amount we have paid above the N87 per litre price.
“When Buhari was campaigning to become President, we were told he had built refineries before and would build more refineries again. Every attempt to correct this fable was rebuffed. Today, however, after paying the government an EXTRA N1.23 trillion, we still don’t have the refineries and the dead ones are yet to come back to life. Fuel is still being imported.
“What’s more, when crude oil was $120 per barrel, we were buying petrol at N97 per litre. Now crude oil is $55 and we are buying at N145 per litre. If crude were $120 per barrel today would Buhari retain petrol at N145 per litre or move it to N300 per litre? Well, that’s speculative. What’s not speculative is that we have paid this government an extra N1.23 trillion in 530 days and they still have 583 days until May 29, 2019.
“Over the next 583 days, we would add another N1.35 trillion to the N1.23 trillion already collected. I don’t want to ask what the government has done with the N1.23 triillion it has squeezed from us. I believe you don’t want to ask either. But I want you to write it down somewhere that between May 11, 2016 (when fuel became N145 per litre), and May 29, 2019 (when Lying Mohammed would have made you give Buhari a second term), the cost implication of changing N87 to N145 would add up to N2.58 trillion. Actually, N2,582,160,000,000.00 It’s NOT a small ‘change.’
“Those figures looked scary to me. I believe that, someday, we will see things that justify the foregoing. That may be wishful thinking, given that we have not yet exited the vicious circle of subsidy.”