Untenable excuse – The Nation

•Fuel scarcity symptomises an incompetent govt and corrupt NNPC

It a time Nigerians were stridently seeking for answers to the riddle of the $20 billion unremitted oil earnings by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), it would seem ordinarily unthinkable that the Jonathan administration would dare to inflict a punishing regime of petroleum products shortage on the populace. But then, that was exactly what happened. Days after what started off as rumours about an imminent scarcity – which was swiftly denied by the NNPC – the nation would be thrown into another spiral of fuel scarcity.

To start with, we consider it unfortunate that this is again happening to an economy that continues to suffer massive haemorrhaging from sources as diverse as the industrial scale theft of its oil and criminal misappropriation of various shades. Now, add to these the needless fuel scarcity-induced spasm directly traceable to the failure of the leadership, compounded by the failure to invest in critical infrastructure necessary for economic growth, a holistic picture of across-the-board meltdown in governance emerges.

As would be expected, Nigerians have been, and continue to be served with harebrained rationalisations to explain the factors behind the latest round of scarcity. Initially, hoarders were blamed when the first signs of fuel queues were noticed across major cities in the federation. To make the charge believable, the NNPC and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) actually went as far as blaming the situation on panic buying by motorists. Days after, and only when it seemed unlikely that Nigerians would swallow the yarn about the imaginary hoarders seizing the fuel supply chain, or the other fable about panic-buying motorist allies diverting products into their overnight dumps in the situation that the situation actually got worse, did government come near the point of admitting that it not only had a hand in the horrendous scarcity, but that its bureaucratic tardiness was in fact responsible for the mess.

The truth is that nothing of the rationalisations by the NNPC and its co-traveller in infamy, the DPR, comes anything near the factors behind the current scarcity. And just as we are not surprised at the attempt by the NNPC – a corporation that is not only irredeemably corrupt, but one that has long lost its rationale – to rationalise its legendary ineptitude, we are equally not taken in by the antics of its co-traveller in infamy – the DPR with its new pastime of chasing after so-called fuel hoarders. Together with their principal – the Federal Government, they symptomise the appalling failure of governance for which they all should ordinarily bury their heads in shame.

But then, the NNPC more than any other body, must carry the can for the current fuel scarcity. Is it not both shameful, and criminal, that a corporation which claimed to have maintained, in the course of the investigations into the illegally expropriated $10.8 billion from the federation account, an extra-constitutional charge of $0.37 billion for strategic reserves could not guarantee flow of products at all times?

The greatest shame however is that the leadership of OPEC’s sixth largest producer of crude oil continues to treat the matter of local refining with levity. For how long will the nation continue to endure episodic spasms in fuel supply? And whose interest is being served by the current regime of importation? Why has the NNPC not been able to finalise on the three new Greenfield refineries it promised Nigerians several years ago? And why must Nigeria continue to depend on imported fuel, given the associated corruption and rent?

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