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Christmas: Before fuel price spikes again

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CHRISTMAS is in the air, painting everywhere red! Four days from today, Jingle Bells will chime all over the world for  Santa Claus who comes to town to preface the two-week yuletide festivities tailing up this annual religious ritual. Already, people are crossing the “Ts” on their preparations for another swell season. But reports of impending increase in pump price of petroleum products brings to mind again the snag that ends Christmas celebrations in anti-climax in Nigeria in recent times.

BY THIS time last year, in most parts of South East zone for instance, a litre of petrol sold between N300 and N350 at black markets. Kerosene went for as high as N1, 500.00 per gallon. Taxi, Tricycle and okada operators cashed in to make brisk business.

But the ripples resonated so tellingly in bus fares for long distance journeys as people paid through their noses to come home from other parts of Nigeria. Not even private car owners were ensconced as they chose between more holes in their pockets or long nights in endless queues at petrol filling stations.

Of course, it took no time for jitters of this ripple to serenade in market places where prices of goods shot up within a snap of finger. From Aba to Abakiliki, Enugu to Enugwu-Ukwu and Owerri to Owere- Ezukala, Christmas generally became a harvest of hardship to largely reflect what people passed through in Nigeria.

By the time the festivities were drawing their curtains, not a few wondered what economic dynamic weaves this uncany nexus between Christmas and  fuel price somersaults. Is there any unseen hand, stronger than forces of demand and supply, that quadruple the nearly 12 million motor vehicles plying Nigerian roads at Christmas, to rationalise this culture of racketeering that mars the season almost always?

WHILE many fingers point to artificial scarcity that forces people to resort to black market created by routine hoarders, unsubstantiated claims in some quatres advance a conspiracy theory whose aim, they say, is to strip Christmas of its traditional shine by making people groan under needless hardship that hinders them from full compliments of  the season, each time it’s Christmas  in Nigeria.

BUT according to National President of Association of Mega Filling Station Owners of Nigeria (AMFSON), Anthony Amitaye, this trend may not be tracked until their members are adequately engaged in the distribution process of petroleum products.

“Concentrating petroleum products at NNPC stations alone would not help adequate supply that would in turn run black marketers out of business,” he said while fielding questions from newsmen recently. Chairman of Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) Lagos Chapter, Alanamu Balogun takes the issue in similar vein.

According to him, there will be no scarcity – whether real or artificial — this Christmas if there is an improvement in supplies to IPMAN members across the country in the next few days.

“IF NNPC can improve on the current tempo at which they are supplying us now, there will be no  fuel scarcity both during and after Christmas. This is the only way to remove the fear of going through what people suffered by this time last year,” Balogun says.

WHATEVER it is, we say enough is enough. And it is more so given egregious bills incurred for Nigeria under fuel subsidy regimens of successive federal governments since May 29, 1999. Only last week, the figure was put at $15billion yearly by Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr Maikanti Baru.

FOR now, there is no need to ask why fuel is still being massively imported even for domestic consumption nearly 20 years after Chief Olusgun Obasanjo’s regime floated a Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) project of revamping the four main refineries in Nigeria, which reportedly funneled over $300 billion into private pockets at the expense of local production of petroleum products.

NNPC in its latest report for November said the three refineries in Warri, Port Harcourt and Kaduna collectively incurred an operational deficit of N10.79 billion, making them the largest loss-making subsidiaries of the corporation. The report explained further that the refineries’ production in August amounted to 21.51 million litres of petroleum products as against the 38.64 million litres produced in July, 2018.

But leash or no leash, all hands must be on deck to see that sanity prevails this time around as we say touch not fuel price to black marketers!

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