FUEL SUPPLY SABOTEURS: THE ENEMY IS INSIDE
|President Muhammadu Buhari|
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, just as happened last week, after new round of killings in the Benue 'valley of blood'. Rather than display integrity and accept blames for their failures, they 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.
They blamed Nigeria's recession on the past government but took credit for the recovery, though both happened on their watch. They blamed the past government for not routing the Boko Haram insurgents but claimed early victory only to recently ask for $1 billion dollars from the Excess Crude Account to fight the 'technically degraded, decimated and defeated" militant group. 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. It is therefore in an effort to stop this boring drama this time around, that I am providing this intelligence to PMB pro bono. 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.
|Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu|
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources
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 common knowledge in the Petroleum downstream 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 innocent Nigerian motorists. What a travesty of Justice!
Yes, there are a few retailers and marketers who can get extraordinarily exploitative and 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 145 Naira per litre. According to NNPC, the current landing cost for those who import directly is 177 Naira per litre. It will therefore be economic suicide for such retailers to sell at 145 per litre. It is becoming clearer to many that many 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 downstream is fully deregulated and full supply is established. Anywhere in this whole wide World that you create monopolies, corruption will thrive and distorted pricing regime will reign. Anywhere 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 consider the intelligence report above and dislodge the cabal at the NNPC depots who trigger the problem, otherwise his threat may end up like many, previously made without any visible result. 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.
Mazi Sam I. Ohuabunwa OFR