Media reports at the weekend had it that Nigeria would this week begin to experience another round of fuel scarcity. Although in the last one month motorists in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory and some major towns in the country have been living with gruelling experience of spending long hours on queues to purchase the essential commodity from few fuel stations that had product, the looming scarcity would definitely worsen the already bad situation.
Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) said it would from this week stop further importation until the federal government pays them the sum of N256.2 billion debt.
According to the Executive Secretary of MOMAN, Obafemi Olawore, “Federal government is presently owes us N256.2 billion and our members are finding it difficult to continue its operations. The debts are rising. MOMAN is fed up with stock today, no product tomorrow. Soon we may have to rely on NNPC for supplies. This could be a problem because NNPC has issues with its suppliers over debt also.
“The industry is bleeding. Our suppliers are at our neck. As at April 22, what we have in our Apapa depots will only last for three and half days, which shows that our members are finding it difficult to bring in products.”, he concluded. If the association makes good its threat, it would definitely affect the country and further cripple the already weak economy. And this should not be allowed to happen especially at this period of transition from one administration to the other.
Indeed, it is a sad commentary that over the years Nigeria has not been able to find solution to frequent scarcity of petroleum products in the country.
Efforts have been made and are still being made to tackle the canker worm called fuel scarcity, all to no avail.
Previous ministers of petroleum have severally embarked upon turn-around maintenance without positive result. The question now is: how do we as a country solve this perennial problem of scarcity of petroleum products permanently/. History has shown that the more effort Nigeria makes in solving this problem, the more complex it becomes.
The fact is that no matter the strength of drugs on an ailment, as long as the medication is not the right one, such illness can never subside. This is the case of Nigeria that has been visiting the wrong drugs to treat the petroleum scarcity disease.
There cannot be relief no matter how long we continue with the approach.
History has also shown that no nation has developed with foreign technology as Nigeria has been trying to do.
We have said time without number that technology is evolved locally or stolen, adopted and refurbished.
What has been happening with our leaders is that they have not understood this natural fact that technology must be developed from within. If they (leaders) ever understand this simple logic, they are bound not to be spending fabulous amount of money on the so-called turn around maintenance on our ailing refineries. Why do we have universities if not for research and learning?
What we are saying is that solution to the problem of petroleum products scarcity in Nigeria is the ability to build new refineries with local technology, instead of spending this whopping sums of money importing petroleum products from outside the country. The startling funds used in paying ‘experts’ to come and service our refineries that have outlived their existence would have been better channelled into research or encouragement for the operators of illegal refineries. Evidence abound that crude oil has been locally refined in the Niger Delta by the people we derogatorily referred to as ‘oil thieves’. What that means is that it is indisputable that local refineries exist in Nigeria and if that is the case, why can’t we count on that to build refineries to save the country, the embarrassment of importing fuel?.
Refining crude oil locally will not only make available enough products for local consumption, but will provide employment for our teeming population of unemployed youths.
It also stands to beef up our external earnings, as foreign exchange rate will naturally rise.
We have said severally that Nigeria has the capacity to refine crude oil and enjoy full benefits accruable to a fifth oil producer in the world.
The problem perhaps has been lack of political will.
Government must build new refineries as well as encourage private sector participation by creating the enabling environment. The National Assembly should expedite action on the Petroleum Industry Bill by passing it before the expiration of the present administration. These measures will not only solve the problem of petroleum product scarcity but will create large number of jobs, empower the citizens economically and promote local content in the oil and gas industry.

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