Fuel scarcity – The Nation

•Is this a ruse to remove subsidy?

Could the excruciating scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) that has for weeks been putting motorists and commuters in the country in avoidable dilemma be another surreptitious official plan to increase the pump price of petrol? We consider as disturbing, an inimical trend, whereby petrol scarcity is increasingly becoming an ingrained part of Nigeria’s daily life.

We ask: Why should PMS be scarce in a country that is blessed with crude oil and, shamefully, four refineries? Obviously the intractably moribund state of the refineries is a major avoidable reason why the nation has over time been consistently relying on refined crude importation to service domestic consumption of petrol. It is sad to note that for three consecutive weeks, PMS scarcity has been ravaging the land with a litre pump price of the product jumping from its official price of N97, depending on the state, to between N105 and N160 per litre. More worrisome is the nauseating silence from the government.

This is happening despite repeated denials by Diezani Alison-Madueke, Minister of Petroleum Resources and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) that several millions of litres of petrol have been dispatched to states across the federation. Yet, the impact has not been felt by motorists that have to endure long queues to fill their vehicle tanks at payments above official price. Not even assurances from the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) could deter the few operational filling stations from selling at the moment above N97.

The silence from official quarters in the past few days has gone a long way in inflicting serious hardships on Nigerians who, due to this avoidable situation find it difficult to commute. The fact that virtually all households depend on PMS to power their generators because of epileptic electricity supply has not helped matters. This development is further reinforcing insinuations that the on-going fuel scarcity is merely a rehash of old policy increment method through the back door; whereby government deliberately precedes PMS price increment with fuel scarcity just to lay the foundation for such price hike.

We are aware of labour union’s admonition to government on the consequences of any fuel price increment at this period. Even the petroleum minister has confirmed that fuel subsidy would be removed.

We agree with labour and the opposition that the current scarcity bears the imprimatur of officialdom, judging from the infamous patterns of previous increments. However, the Federal Government must realise that to increase fuel price, again, would demonstrate crass insensitivity and an admission of government’s inability to nip corruption in the bud in the oil sector. The neo-colonial strategy of inflicting hardship on the people through deleterious policies of which furtive PMS price increment is one will further provoke negative reactions against the government.

A continuation of this PMS scarcity is rather confirming our genuine concerns that this administration has a pathological inclination for unduly punishing Nigerians. We hope the Federal Government is not trying to confirm to Nigerians what the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) said, that: ‘… The truth is that with the elections approaching, the PDP-led FG is desperately seeking all possible avenues to raise funds for its usual electoral shenanigans, and increasing fuel prices has always been an attractive option to the government, not minding what the impact will be on the same people it has impoverished since 1999.’ And, as the opposition party said, does the deterrent lie in letting the “government know Nigerians will resist any price hike’? We hope it won’t get to that stage.

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