Nigerians are writhing in pains of a senseless and avoidable petrol scarcity. Everyone complains about the condemnable scarcity of a product that Nigeria should be exporting to boost its dwindling foreign reserves.
Motorists spend hours at petrol retail outlets to fill their tanks. Curiously, there appears to be a grand conspiracy between petrol and electricity suppliers. Nigeria’s most grueling petrol shortages often occur when power suppliers have thrown the country into dense darkness.
That has been the situation in the last five weeks. Only the fortunate ones have power for 10 hours in a whole day. Most communities are in prolonged darkness for reasons known only to power suppliers.
The darkness in the land has escalated the pains of the petrol scarcity. That is because Nigeria’s economy runs on some 164 million micro, medium and large power generators while public power supply remains on stand-by. Millions of the micro power generators run on petrol. That explains why the pains are deep-seated and plaguing almost everyone.
Ironically, the federal government maintained a studied silence for weeks as the petrol scarcity plagued the land. It was only last week that the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) belatedly announced that it has well over one billion litres of petrol which is enough for more than a month’s consumption. NNPCL complains that the current crisis emanated from distribution bottlenecks rather than supply deficit. Despite those assurances, there are fears that NNPCL, Nigeria’s sole importer of petrol, is rationing petrol because it can no longer fund imports.
The company believes that the situation would soon be resolved as normal supply resumes. However, Nigerians have learnt to take NNPCL’s promises over petrol supply situations with nauseating suspicion.
The company has a penchant for saying “yes” when it is supposed to say “no”. No one trusts NNPCL.
The strange thing about the petrol scarcity crisis is that consumers now have options. Those who have money to spend and no time to waste, would simply walk into the exploitative hands of the retail outlets operated by members of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), pay anything from N300 per litre and walk away.
The more patient and less affluent of the consumers wait at the mile-long queues at the few retail outlets operated by members of the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) and buy at the pump price decreed by the federal government.
The wait at MOMAN retail outlets can be agonising but one is sure of getting the product at the appropriate price. The truth, however, is that either way consumers lose.
Those who stray into the exploitative hands of IPMAN members lose huge sums of money. Most IPMAN members sell petrol at N300 per litre. At that rate, N5, 000 would give you just about 15 litres.
The same amount at a station operated by MOMAN members would give you well over 30 litres of petrol. The impatient ones lose close to 15 litres of petrol from the same transaction.
Conversely, those who are patient enough to patronise retail outlets operated by members of MOMAN lose some man hours. On Wednesday, November 30, I was in dire need of petrol and no MOMAN retail outlet in my community was selling. I strolled into an IPMAN station and bought at N260 per litre. I got about seven litres for N2, 000.
The next day I spent two hours in a long queue at a MOMAN station in Abule-Egba, Lagos and got almost 36 litres for N6, 000. The pump price at the Mobil station was an incredible N170 per liter.
The acronym MOMAN has often been mistaken for the synonym of the biblical word “mammon” which connotes idolatrous attachment to wealth. MOMAN was bad news to petrol consumers. Those days are gone.
MOMAN is now the protector of consumers. It has curiously shunned mammon and sympathised with exploited petrol consumers. The magnanimity of MAMON members has tremendously eased the merciless grip of IPMAN members on consumers.
The Almighty God will definitely bless operators of Mobil, Total and the few retail outlets operated under NNPCL’s franchise. Mobil and Total have religiously stuck to the pump price of N170 per litre while NNPC outlets sell at N169 per litre.
Those who contend that MOMAN members sell cheap because they buy cheap have ignored the fact that under Nigeria’s gratuitous lawlessness, nothing would happen if MOMAN members buy petrol at N148 per litre and sell at N300 like IPMAN members.
Besides, a handful of IPMAN members curiously sell at N185 per litre thus challenging the claim that IPMAN members buy at different rates with MOMAN.
The regulator is just not there to whip detractors into line. Under normal circumstances, no retail outlet tampers with its pump price until the regulator is there to adjust the pump. IPMAN wantonly disobeys that rule.
IPMAN members adjust their pumps with obdurate criminality. No one lifts a finger in protest. If MOMAN does it, nothing would happen. We are just fortunate that they have been compassionate enough to operate by the rule despite the attraction of the massive gains of cheating.
The pain inflicted on Nigerian motorists and power generator operators is the consequence of decades of criminal negligence by the federal government and wanton treasury looting by NNPCL.
Nigeria’s four refineries have not refined even one barrel of crude oil in the last two years despite billions of dollars washed down the drain in phantom turn-around maintenance (TAM).
The federal government is spending trillions of naira in mysterious petrol subsidy bills as consumers buy petrol at N300 per litre.
The impoverished women eking out a living by grinding pepper and tomatoes have all abandoned electric-powered grinders for those with petrol engines because of the worsening power supply.
That situation makes the current petrol scarcity the concern of everyone even at the lowest rung of the social strata. Ironically, no one in the federal government knows the way out of the quagmire.