Last week was a horrible week in the life of our country. It was the week in which the country came to the very brink of shutting down totally, not because there was a civil war or an unavoidable natural disaster, but because of the wilful negligent and callous attitude of the immediate past administration, which simply sat back and watched as the nation ground to a halt because there was no fuel in supply to cater to the critical needs of the country.
If the country had shut down, virtually the whole population (both the rich and the poor) would not have been able to make calls, go outside their neighbourhood, or even get news to know what was happening elsewhere. Even the police would not have been able to do its job of enforcing the law. It was that bad and it was that scary. This country should never be allowed to go so close again.
As a result of the incompetence and callousness of the outgone administration, all of a sudden, there was scarcity of fuel all over the country.
There were no petrol supplies in the filling stations; there were no gas supplies to power PHCN plants; there were no fuel supplies to power the airplanes. Banks began to cut their services, a situation which if it had escalated any further would have meant that no matter how much money one had in their account they would face the possibility of not being able to use it.
Premature babies clinging to dear life in the hospital incubators also faced existential threats as hospitals could neither get PHCN power, nor fuel to power their generators. Patients who faced operations also had their lives hanging in the balance, not because of the incompetence of the medical personnel in their hospitals, but because of government aided fuel scarcity.
It was hell on earth. It was the intervention of the Senate that forestalled what would have become a total disaster. Already, the population had started to exhibit unbridled anger. For instance, it was reported that in one filling station, dissatisfied customers who couldn’t get fuel took out their frustrations on a dog, stoning the dog in anger until the dog fell down and died.
The immediate past administration issued statements alleging that the whole issue of scarcity was a ploy by opponents to sabotage the government. While that could possibly be true, there was a lot they could have done to prevent the situation from becoming a full blow crisis –like just paying the fuel marketers what they owed. But rather, government’s inaction gave the public the impression that they were being punished for voting out the Jonathan administration.
It also gave the impression that then incoming administration was being set up to fail, with refusal to pay fuel marketers being one of the banana peels. It is telling that it took former President Goodluck Jonathan three weeks to make a statement on the fuel crisis and his only statement was to announce to the world that he was being sabotaged. Too little too late.
The Buhari administration should pay the fuel marketers the N200 billion owed them as a short term solution but the long term solution is contained in this quote by Obasi Lawson, National President of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN).
“We are calling on the Federal Government to give licenses to investors to establish modular refineries; small refineries to eradicate scarcity of [petroleum] products and bring down the cost of the products as it will engender stiff competition, like what is happening in the telecoms industry.” No administration in this country should ever allow fuel scarcity to shut down one of the largest exporters of crude oil in the world.
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