By now the federal government and, in particular, the security agencies must have figured out why is it that the supply and distribution of petroleum products become a very touchy issue during festive periods, Sallah and Christmas especially. Year in year out, during those occasions, Nigerians, who must travel to be with their families and relations, are subjected to a most harrowing experience just trying to source the product.
It is embarrassing enough that an oil producing country is dependent on outside sources for her supply of petroleum products. Nigerians have reconciled themselves to that oddity. However, it is to be expected that someone should have the presence of mind to think proactively and anticipate the increased demand for the product in those special periods and make arrangements for seamless supplies.
And that arrangement, we insist, must necessarily include monitoring and checking the nefarious activities of marketers intent on sabotaging the system. If that was done as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, (NNPC) made us believe they did and are still doing, and the problem persists, then they should investigate and find out why there is scarcity of the product and the resultant long queues at filling stations. It will be proved that it is all contrived.
We do not intend to revisit the argument about rehabilitating the refineries. That is an over-flogged matter that has become part of the problem as billions of naira had gone down the drain in the pursuit of that line of action. Also, the issue of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) which was touted as the lasting solution to the problem has been so politicised that it is almost rendering itself irrelevant.
Assessing the situation that has to do with the unpatriotic disposition of some Nigerians who take delight in benefitting from the pain their actions create among the populace, we have come to the conclusion that the marketing and distribution chain of the petroleum products is faulty and ought to be better managed. Something drastic, in our view, needs to be done to address the issue in a manner that will make it near impossible for any Shylock businessman to take advantage of hapless Nigerians who are ready to buy the product at any price and yet are made to go through personal sacrifice to do that.
The Independent marketers, in our opinion, should not be allowed to be laws unto themselves. They must not be at liberty to do what they like, inconvenience everybody and get away with it. We knew that there was going to be this problem when the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) started flexing muscles threatening to go on strike and had to be assuaged.
NNPC is blaming black marketers for the scarcity. That is no news as it is very obvious. The question is what are the regulatory agencies, including the security agencies, doing to break their back and free the rest of us from their stranglehold? Except there is a collusion somewhere, there is no way black marketers can successfully hold the entire nation to ransom.
In the course of investigating the situation for information on this editorial, we visited some petrol stations. In all of the ones visited, we met tankers discharging the product and motorists waiting patiently in queues in the hope that they will be attended to. But it never happened as the wait became endless. In one of them, a staff of the company approached this writer and said with a sad mien ‘Oga we are not selling yet. Don’t waste your time waiting’. The problem has nothing to do with scarcity in the real sense. Otherwise, how do those boys who sell in ten litre jerry cans on the highways get their supplies? There is no doubt that what is going on is more of hoarding to create artificial scarcity with the evil intention of raking in huge profits.
We are concerned because this has been the modus operandi of these racketeers. It is the same thing they do every time. They are having their way because nobody has taken it upon himself to do something about it. The amusing aspect of it is that when this happens, assurances are given that it will be the last. Somehow the vicious cycle continues.
We are persuaded to restate that the supply and distribution chain needs urgent reassessment to make it work efficiently. In doing that, we urge the regulatory authorities to be more firm in applying the rules, break some bones and teach others how not to make gains from the sufferings of consumers.
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