Just at the tail end of Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, Nigeria is witnessing a kind of fuel scarcity that would definitely make history. It started like a joke but metamorphosed into a scary nightmare for all Nigerians, especially the average and below average residents. This has in turn, resulted to untold hardship and misery for Nigerians.
This current predicament is the topic of discussion at all areas and corners of the country, with every Dick and Harry spitting venom concerning the situation.
One of the frequently asked questions is the real cause of this sort of scarcity and high cost of fuel in the country. The main and known cause of the scarcity is the outstanding monies owed to oil marketers by the government which made the oil marketers to refuse to supply oil unless the debts are fully cleared.
Yesterday, the out-going President Jonathan gave directions to the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to pay with immediate effect all outstanding monies owed to oil marketers so as to make the marketers call off the strike and put an end to the current grueling fuel scarcity.
Despite this direction given, the fuel scarcity has grown worse such that in some parts of the country, especially in the west, petrol is nowhere to be found not to talk about the cost. If one manages to find some, the prices are really heart-rendering, ranging between N150 to N350 per litre, as of today, being Monday, the 25th. The situation at the gas stations are horrible as the owners have seized this opportunity to hike prices for their own selfish interests. Transport fares have increased in most major cities by 100% or even more. Some firms, both private and public also closed down in protest to this unpleasant situation in the country.
However, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala tried to explain the reason behind this while addressing journalists in Abuja yesterday. This was what she said:
Government is very concerned about the fuel queues which have appeared in Lagos, Abuja and other parts of the country. As Nigerians can attest, the Petroleum Ministry and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, have worked very hard to give out the message that there is no need for panic buying and that it is trying to reduce the queues to the barest minimum. We are working with them and in fact, the marketers are coming to meet with us tomorrow (i.e, today). We have also agreed to pay the interest rate and foreign exchange differentials. Tomorrow (i.e today), we will be making part of that payment when the marketers are here and on the outstanding balance, we will be issuing SDN (Sovereign Debt Notes) to them so that the banks will know that the government has undertaken the obligations.”
Meanwhile, it was reported that one of the oil bosses in Nigeria, Mr Ifeanyi Uba has made a promise to help end the fuel crises by releasing 13 million litres of fuel, approximately 400 trucks of petroleum products including premium motor spirit, popularly called petrol, to ease the scourge of the endemic fuel scarcity that Nigeria had been plunged into. Additional 53 million litres will also be released in a few days, making a total of 70 million litres from Capital oil.
Also, oil Marketers have decided to begin lifting of Petroleum Products in the next few hours to end the fuel crises in the country. According to Magnus Abe, chairman of the senate committee on petroleum resources, the resolution was reached after a meeting of MOMAN and the committee with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, minister of finance and coordinating minister for the economy; Joseph Dawha, group managing director of the Nigeria national petroleum corporation (NNPC) and major stakeholders in the oil and gas sector.
At the meeting, the oil marketers agreed that the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) should immediately revoke the license of any oil marketer that refuses to lift petroleum products across Nigeria.
Abe, who read a communique duly signed by the stakeholders after the session, explained that all parties unanimously agreed to call off the strike, in the interest of the nation.
“We have agreed on the following: first is that the Minister of Finance will give an undertaking to the Major Marketers and Depot Managers that the work of the committee being headed by CBN and PPPR, on the outstanding claims, would be concluded and be reflected in the hand over notes to the incoming administration”, he said.
Nigerians are seriously praying, and hoping that things get back to normalcy else, the situation would turn out to become unbearable.