Fuel scarcity: Our eerie way of life -Femi Adeoti Column

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FEMI ADEOTI COLUMN
All the vows, all the threats, all the orders, all the warnings, all
the prescriptions, all the directives! Tragically, all came crashing.
Just like a house of loose cards. They came to nothing, brought to
naught.
Even their promises failed them. Woefully too! They collapsed on their
heads. Worse still, instead of things getting better, they’re getting
worst.
Reason: Their intentions stand on fallacy and fantasy. They never
meant well for us. All their policies, plans, blueprints were geared
to scheme us out of existence.
They hit us hard on all fronts. And they do it with reckless affront.
We have become pawns in their hands. A chessboard for them to
manipulate at will.
They switch us on and off. Depending on their moods. We’re explored,
exploited and violated. In line with their whims and caprices.
Flashback: Perhaps, fuel scarcity first happened to us in 1974. That
was the year it debuted and reared its ugly head. General Yakubu Gowon
held sway then. It was barely four years after the bloody 30-month
civil war.
The nation was bewildered. Unusual long queues sprang up in filling
stations. It was stranger than fiction. When the scarcity faded out.
We jumped for joy.
We thought it would be first and only. How we erred! There was a
deadly comeback scarcely three years after. General Olusegun
Obasanjo’s junta ruled. And the then Colonel Muhammadu Buhari
supervised as Federal Commissioner for Petroleum.
So? That 1977 fuel scarcity fell on his laps. And this was how he
confronted it. Daily Times, Tuesday, June 7, 1977, reported in its
banner headline: “Fuel crisis ‘may be over next year.’”
Energy crisis has become our albatross but a cash cow for them. They
feast on it with relish. They won’t wish it away. That’s why they keep
bringing it back.
Each time they engineer fuel scarcity, they go to their situation
room. They stay glued to their nefarious crystal ball. All night long.
We groan. They celebrate with all their wicked hearts.
The more we moan, bleat and wail. The more they roister, revel and
rave uncontrollably. They are in their best elements. The queer
character in them comes out into the open.
They begin to roll out uncommon strategies. They vow and swear. They
speak from all sides of their loud, dirty and ugly mouths.
The energy sector is clearly in the messiest mess. It’s in total
disarray. Things have completely fallen apart. The centre can no
longer hold. The situation is under alarm. And there is no need for
control.
Multiple orders, directives are being churned out indiscriminately.
Almost on a daily basis. All sorts of claims and counter-claims. Some
are laughable, some are unenforceable. They are like the biblical
Babel of voices.
One such was fired on Thursday, December 8, 2022. The strange salvo
came from the unexpected. The Department of State Security (DSS) was
it! It was like a kite, novel in approach.
We were puzzled. The curious salvo jolted us by no small means. We
became sceptical, dumfounded. DSS spokesman, Peter Afunaya, sounded a
strong warning: “It is no longer going to be business as usual in the
petroleum supply system.
“Anyone who is obstructing the distribution of fuel will be made to
face the full weight of the law.” Not only that: “Such elements will
be treated as enemies of Nigeria.”
Going forward? Afunaya was quick to respond: “DSS is to carry out
operations across the country to deal decisively with those
obstructing the distribution of petroleum products to Nigerians at
approved official rate.”
The intelligence agency gave reason for its action: “It is our core
mandate to detect and prevent threats to national security. We’re also
charged with the responsibility of investigating national crimes and
economic sabotage.
“If that is established, we will go all out to fish out those involved
and deal with in accordance with the laws of Nigeria.”
To walk its talk, DSS gave a 48-hour deadline to oil dealers. They
were to restore normal supply of petroleum products at officially
approved rate or face the consequences. The order covered every nook
and cranny of the country.
Close to two months now, what happened to the order? It has gone the
way of its predecessors, down the drain. It was a tall order,
extremely difficult to enforce. It would take even Hercules to
execute.
Then came insult upon our injury. It’s ridiculous and amusing.
President Muhammadu Buhari suddenly birthed a 14-man committee. He
chairs the body as Minister of Petroleum Resources.
And guess what! It is to “immediately end the nightmare and return
tranquillity to the rancorous downstream sector of the petroleum
industry.” Just imagine. What do they take us for in this clime?
Anything in any form or mode?
Minister of State, Timipre Sylva, doubles as alternate chairman.
Others include, Minister of Finance; Permanent Secretary, Petroleum
Resources; National Economic Adviser; Director-General, DSS;
Comptroller-General, Nigerian Customs Service (NCS); Chairman,
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and
Commandant-General, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).
Its engine room is the steering committee. Sylva heads it. Members:
Chief Executive, Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission;
Nigerian Midstream and Member Downstream Petroleum Regulatory
Authority (NMDPRA); Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN); Chief
Executive Officer, NNPC Ltd and Special Advisor (Special Duties) to
the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources. Technical Advisor
(Midstream) to the Minister of State Petroleum Resources is its
secretary.
Sylva swore to high heavens: “The Federal Government will not allow
misguided elements to bring untold hardship upon the citizenry and
attempt to discredit government’s efforts in consolidating the gains
made thus far in the oil and gas sector of the economy.”
Great doubt. This is huge deceit. Na today we dey hear this! It is
ludicrous and absurd. This committee is almost dead on arrival. It may
go the way of those before it.
There have been excuses and blame games since ages. That shameful
style is wickedly sustained till date. Nothing has changed to change
their approach. And it’s deliberate.
For all intents and purposes, fuel scarcity has become legendary. It
has refused to let us be. It continues to defy all known and unknown
solutions.
And those at the helm are not helping matters. They are fretting away
golden chances. And carelessly too.
Buhari holds the ace. He remains the longest serving petroleum
minister. He served Obasanjo as one. That was between 1976 and 1979.
Close to eight years now, he has been serving himself as one. Isn’t
this quite intimidating? It is!
His records are equally frightening and terrifying; unbeaten. What do
we get from all of this? Sorrow, tears and blood.
Even more than that. What we have at hand are scary and alarming:
Incessant and endless energy crisis aka fuel scarcity. It’s triggered
by its unkind cousin, subsidy.
That’s our own eerie way of life. Like it and live it. No viable choice for now.

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