There is trouble in the land. Anywhere you look there is consternation. The people of Nigeria are unhappy. Government seems to be failing in its critical responsibilities to the citizens. Many Nigerians had very difficult Christmas and new year celebrations because of a suffocating fuel scarcity. President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) threatened to find out the so called saboteurs who caused the terrible fuel scarcity that disrupted the peace of most Nigerians over the Christmas / New year celebrations and to punish them severely. He made this threat in his new year address to the Nation on the 1st of January 2018. Firstly, I was not minded to take him seriously as it is common for government officials to manufacture " enemies" to explain away their failures. Sometimes the threats are merely empty threats, just made to give the citizens false comfort as nothing happens thereafter. For example, look at the several threats issued by government after each orgy of violence by marauding Fulani cattle herdsmen and practically nothing happens until the next round and then new threats are issued.
In the last two weeks, Benue State has been boiling because the Militant Fulani Herdsmen  invaded Guma and Logo LGAs, killing over 70 men, women and Children while razing down homes and destroying other property. Before the furore could die down, it was reported that the Militants hit  the Lau LGA in Taraba State and about 55 lives were taken in the onslaught.Rather than display integrity and humility and accept blames for their failures, the government will always look for a fall guy or some one or group to blame. Every government does this but this particular government in power has excelled more than previous governments in manufacturing enemies and bulk passing. Nearly 3 years after coming to power, they have seldom ceased from blaming the past government or PDP for every of their failures.

Now they seem not to find a way to pin this embarrassing fuel scarcity on the past government, hence they have come up with imaginary saboteurs. Soon, to prove their point, they will arrest some 'powerless' fuel distributors perhaps by EFCC in the usual theatric manner, parade them,charge them to court, and then after the drama of arrest and the imposition of ridiculous bail conditions by the compliant judicial officers, the case will die down till the next crisis and we look for another set of fall guys or enemies! 

True, we have watched this drama, long enough and many of us are getting bored. This art of pursuing shadows instead of substance has reached a crescendo.Let us be sincere to face the real issues and stop playing games with Nigerian citizens. Where are the saboteurs? The first are those we have elected or selected to run our government that have failed, refused or proven incapable of taking simple but bold decision to fully deregulate the downstream petroleum sector. If that decision is taken today, Nigeria will finally say bye-bye to this nagging and actually annoying perennial problem. I do not know what else anyone needs to say to PMB and his team to convince them to let go. They stubbornly refused to let go, even when a pricing parity was achieved following the drastic fall of oil prices in 2015/2016 time frame, only to allow a drastic price adjustment that dislocated the economy and helped to fuel inflation. They are holding on again, and dilly dallying, seeking unsustainable options, till the pressure becomes unbearable and then they  will be forced to allow another precipitate price adjustment, that will add insult to existing injury. Why we can not allow the market to determine the price of PMS as it is determining the price of diesel, Rice,  yam, Garri, sorghum, millet, medicines, cars, books, air tickets etc etc, leaves me perpetually perplexed.

Recently, the Minister of State for Petreolum resources- Dr Ibe Kachikwu announced to a bewildered Nation that the NNPC had wasted or lost N85.5 billion of our commonwealth in subsidizing the importation of PMS. This same subsidized PMS was what most of us paid for again at N250 per liter at different locations in Nigeria outside Lagos and Abuja and those who paid N145 per liter lost many productive hours in long queues at filling stations in the two towns, which meant that all most all paid economic prices that were in excess of the official price. What a double or even Tripple jeopardy for Nigerians! This is the same story for years, so much so that in 2011 or so this Nation wasted nearly two trillion Naira in questionable subsidy payment. How long must we suffer these avoidable wastes or losses? If we were looking for economic saboteurs, should we not first ask these government policy makers why they are wasting our scarce resources, resources that can be used to provide roads, railways, modern security and quality education amongst other critical needs crying for attention in Nigeria. Is there an addiction somewhere that is proving impossible to break?

If we are looking for saboteurs, the second place to look is NNPC. We are sure to find many who are either directly sabotaging government's wishes or collaborating with others to do so. It is commonly alleged in the Petroleum down stream sector that no one gets to lift PMS from many NNPC depots in the Country without paying premium to the depot management in normal times. At abnormal times as we are just passing through, the premium is multiplied by factor 'x'. Even at that, not all retailers are able to even buy directly from these depots at these elevated premiums. The scarce commodity is preferentially allocated to some well connected marketers who now resell at an additional mark up to other retailers. After buying at these inflated prices, the jobless DPR officers now start parading the streets to force the hapless retailers to sell at official prices and even go further to confiscate the fuel of some retailers, selling them off for free to Nigerian motorists. What a travesty of Justice!

Yes, there are a few retailers and marketers who can get extraordinarily exploitative and I fully support that they should be punished but the real problem is not with such. The real problem is that the NNPC and their officials make it impossible for many retailers to sell at the official price of 145 Naira per litre, for the simple reason that their cost of purchase is above N145 per litre. According to NNPC, the current landing cost for those who import directly is N177 per litre. It will therefore be economic suicide for such retailers to sell at 145 per litre. It is becoming clearer to many that some of the NNPC and DPR staff like this situation of monopoly of supply and price fixation. Many of them will become poor and some jobless if the down stream is fully deregulated and full supply is established. Any where in this whole wide World, that you create monopolies, corruption will thrive and distorted pricing regime will reign. Any where in the World that demand exceeds supply, prices will rise and if supply exceeds demand, prices will fall. And when the demand for an important utility like Petrol exceeds supply as we have recently seen, no force ( all the army plus police , plus DPR, plus NNPC) can stop prices from rising. May be some day, Nigerian policy makers will come to accept the reality of this Economics 101.

PMB sounded angry and serious when he was making this threat to arrest the saboteurs  who caused the recent fuel scarcity. I pray he will stop playing the ostrich. He should live up to his famed courage and integrity and take actions to dislodge the cabal at the NNPC depots who trigger the problem and as National Patron to the Herdsmen, call them to order and punish the the culprits and the security personnel who are collaborating with them and bringing this great embarrassment to the Nation. When some renegade policemen or military commit crimes in the society and they are then asked to investigate same crimes, often nothing happens,which is why many crimes remain unresolved today just because the enemy is inside. Let us stop pursuing shadows otherwise things may get out of hand.

Mazi Sam I. Ohuabunwa OFR


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This has led many Nigerians to allow the local and State governments get away with With 'blue murder' while holding only the federal government to account,even if feebly. While it is justifiable to blame government for poor infrastructure, poor education, poor healthcare, high unemployment, high insecurity, and even for hunger, corruption and traffic hold ups, it is beginning to look to me that this is an orchestrated ploy by some Nigerians to take a permanent flight from being held responsible for our individual and group conducts. In the first place, the governments we blame so frequently for failing us are run by Nigerians. Indeed the irony is that some of those who blame government for everything are in government themselves! Sometimes, it looks like that there is a mystery man called 'government'. But no, government is no mystery man, but a collection of persons who are first citizens and who run the government on behalf of and for the good of all the citizens. 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Some how, you get the impression that the President or the State Governor alone is the government and everybody else is either the governed, observer, bystander, supporter,complainant or critic. Perhaps this may explain why there is a woeful failure of the"government " to satisfy the expectations of Nigerians. It is practically impossible for only the President to satisfy the 170 million Nigerians or the Governor to satisfy all the over 12 million people in Lagos for example. Everywhere you go,you meet people who work in the government institutions who act as if they care very little about the success or citizen perception of the government they serve in. When you complain about the poor service you are getting,the same people who are part or agents of the government turn around to blame the 'government', absolving themselves of any blame and often the complaining citizen seems to either agree or empathize with the government employee that the problem is with the mystery ' Mr Government ' Early this year, I wanted to make a trip to the United Kingdom and applied for the UK Visa. Few days after submitting my visa application, I received a call from the British Embassy that there was no space left in my passport to affix the visa. I quickly collected my passport and ran to the passport office in Ikoyi Lagos to get a new one. It took me six visits to the passport office over a period of six weeks to collect a new passport.Reasons ranged from missing file to long queues, mismatch of finger prints, the absence of the engineer and late approval from Abuja. It was an ordeal. Mean while I missed the trip to the Uk and was almost missing a trip to the USA because my subsisting US visa was in my old passport which had been 'quarantined' in the passport office. At the end of this rigmarole I was still expected to show 'gratitude' In August last year, I went to renew my driving license and I was told to fill out forms and make payments. Thereafter I was asked to come back one year after in July this year at the FRSC camp in Ojodu, Lagos for what they called 'capture'. I wondered why it would take a year to come for the 'capture'. I was told that many people were on the queue and their 'capture' equipments were few. I was told that a photocopy of my form on which the July date had been written would serve as my temporary driving license until that date. I shook my head and left. On the assigned date and at the stipulated time of 7am, I arrived. First, it took a lot of pleading to let me drive in through the gate. With one year scheduling, I had expected few people but was shocked by the large crowd milling around the place. I moved from place to place and after several hours when I arrived in front of the 'capture' machine, I was told that my name had not dropped. 'From where ?' I asked. I made three other visits over a period of five weeks, because either, my name was still traveling from wherever to the 'capture' machine, or because there was no 'network' to capture me. I finally got another temporary driving license. And so I will have to return to Ojodu in 60 days when it expires or wait to be called to come and collect the permanent driving license when it is ready and who knows how many more trips that will take, because I saw People who had been called to come and collect, and they came, only to be told that the license was not yet ready. I do not know of any other country in the World where citizens are subjected to this kind of torture just to obtain a driving license. When my son-in-law heard my story, he sympathized with me because he went through an 'agent' and got his with ease! I suffered the same fate in trying to renew my plate numbers as demanded by FRSC. I have completed my registration for the National Identity card at a special unit set up by the National Identity Commission at an interaction in Lagos. I was given a temporary National Identity card. I do not know when I will get the permanent one. Now I have been asked by the Central bank to go to my bank and obtain another Universal identity card. I do not know how many trips I will have to make to obtain a temporary card before I struggle to get the permanent one. I will still go for my voters card and do biometrics and for my Pension, another set of biometrics and identity card. How many Identity cards is a normal law-abiding Nigerian expected to carry?.Why the National identity card can not suffice for all these is what I am asking. I am searching for Mr Government to ask him, because that is what I am asked to do. Can't these government agencies and officers who are asking for these many identity cards share information ? Or is it the fault of Mr government ? Why do we relish in making life difficult for fellow Nigerian citizens and then blame government. Any where Nigerians are to receive service from a government agency, the story of misery and denigration of human dignity is repeated. Who is government? What can be the problem? Is it a matter of lack of a compelling vision, or lack of motivation, or lack of empowerment or plain lack of commitment. What ever it is, I believe that something must be done urgently and in a holistic manner to remedy this anomaly which is creating a lot of problem for the citizens in Nigeria. The unnecessary suffering to which Nigerians are subjected to at every point can not continue this way. What is worse is that the pains intensify when people are doing their best to obey the laws and be responsible citizens. This backlash may seem to promote deviant behavior or corner cutting. Some are 'compelled' to 'settle' police on the highway than go through the torture of trying to get a driving license. All those who are part of government at all levels will need to undergo a fresh orientation to make them understand that point, that a chain is as strong as its weakest link. That Government is not about a single person but a chain of persons who deliver service to the Citizens and that the best President or best Governor will achieve little if all other parties are not playing their roles with the same efficiency and consistency. The leaders of our Governments must therefore take appropriate initiatives on building this consciousness in all persons in government. For empowerment and motivation, the leaders must ensure proper skilling up and motivation of all those involved in the governance process. The right persons must be put in the right positions to ensure the integrity of the chain.For commitment,the leaders must demand evidence of performance down the line. This must be measured and rewarded so that the unskilled for the assignment, the unprepared and the indolent are weeded from the system, so that the impact of good governance can be felt by citizens leading to improved quality of life and the reduction of the misery index. It seems this is perhaps the most critical responsibility of the leaders of the different tiers and arms of government and may actually be the differentiating characteristic of the effective government leaders. Sitting at the capital and hoping that all the 'beautiful' policies, projects and programmes are yielding the desired result will not do. If those who are part of government are blaming the government,one can then understand why some other Nigerians make a past time of blaming government for every problem. If the gutter overflows, it is the government that must be blamed and nothing to do with the citizens who throw pure water satchets and sundry rubbish into the gutter. When the road is blocked, it is the government and nothing to do with the indiscipline of citizen drivers who refuse to give way to each other. In those Countries that we admire and aspire to be like, most Citizens regulate themselves and accept responsibilities for the good order of the society, thus allowing the regulatory enforcement agencies to effectively contain the few deviants. If everybody is a deviant, no government can effectively manage public order. That is my point and it does not in any way absolve the government in power from its statutory responsibilities. There is a role for the government and there is a role for the citizen. Any dereliction on either side will create problems for the society, just as we are having,Period. Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR