Ember Months Fuel Scarcity: Why Is This December Different?

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File photo of massive queue at NNPC Mega station as a result of the fuel scarcity.

By; TIRMIDHI IMAM Nasir

One of the bitter experiences of the nation’s oil industry Nigerians would not forget in a hurry was the trauma caused by artificial fuel scarcity in the ember months. According to experts, the losses brought about by the periodic man-made fuel scarcity had variously been calculated in billions and consequently, this has had a chilling effect on the national economy.

There were numerous reports about corruption in the oil industry and the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was once squarely blamed as giving cover to the theft in the Oil and Gas industry. As far back as the year 2014, Nigeria according to Senior Programme Officer at Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, “could have been losing 300, 000 barrels per day; about $12 billion (£8 billion) annually”. And that was a sizeable part of this country’s budget at that time.

An indepth report by the foreign news channel, the BBC in May, 2015 revealed that on account of the corruption-induced fuel scarcity Nigerian banks had “shortened” their opening hours, even as commercial airline businesses were operating at the lowest ebb – with delayed or canceled flights in many cases due to the artificial scarcity. When things reached a head, the three notable mobile telecom companies, Airtel, MTN and Etisalat had warned that the fuel scarcity could affect their services as they were finding it difficult to supply diesel to their base stations. As a consequence of the scarcity that year, some Nigerian radio stations reportedly went “off air” for the first time in history.
Bigger investments like the Nigerian private airline companies, in July 2016, during another round of corruption-induced scarcity recorded heavy losses. The Guardian newspaper reported that year, that the nation’s airline operators were grumbling over the loss of N500 million daily, for the period the scarcity lasted. Indeed when the heat was on, the airline operators sought Federal Government’s “urgent intervention”.

By November 2015 as usual, while people were preparing for Christmas the following month, it was yet another opportunity for the corrupt ones to make life difficult for innocent Nigerians by creating a new rip-off style. That was reportedly “the biggest fuel shortage” in the nation’s recent history. One motorist in Kano recounted to newsmen, amidst tears, how he spent 12 hours, (while passing the night at the fuel cue) for his turn to get the PMS in his car tank.
The challenge of official corruption in the oil industry that gave rise to smart criminals who were creating artificial scarcity was so pervasive that Nigerians almost lost hope in witnessing the end of it. But the anti-corruption strategy of President Muhammadu Buhari made it very difficult for the architects of this evil business to operate smoothly. It was a big, protracted battle that snowballed into a war to make or break the fuel scarcity cartel. At some point, the former Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mr. Maikanti Baru had to abandon a function in Europe, where he was about to be honored with an international award, to return abruptly to Nigeria because of embarrassing fuel scarcity. In another development, Mr. Maikanti Baru has had to be going round fuelling stations in Abuja and other areas to try and stop the cartel from making Christmas miserable for innocent Nigerians. He was able to reduce it substantially in the Federal Capital Territory. But it was hell in other parts of the country; but Baru couldn’t be everywhere, even though some Nigerians thought the cartel outsmarted him.

The last straw that broke the Camel’s back was the emergence of a new NNPC management led by Malam Mele Kolo Kyari, who marshaled the plan to crush the Cartel once and for all. He introduce a new regime of transparency and accountability in the NNPC to break the chord linking the corrupt oil industry cartels and their collaborators on the system. This made it difficult, if not impossible for those who were allegedly Conniving with members of staff of the corporation for the ember month rip-off. TAPE, as it later came to be known, was an acronym for Transparency, Accountability, Performance and Excellence. This reorganization almost immediately put the staff on their toes, as they worked extra hard to meet the target of the new mantra and build career credibility.
The result of the efforts of the NNPC’s new management could be seen from the prism that with just 13 days to Christmas, there is an abundance of petrol and Gas all over the country. Moreover, there is a contingency plan, with extra barrels of refined crude on standby. This scenario has made the new NNPC management’s strategy a case study in the workability of a corrupt-free operation in the corporation and the comfort of all Nigerians that Kyari once described as the ‘shareholders’ of the NNPC.
Analysts are insisting that fuel-scarcity-free Christmas coming up in less than two weeks from now was quite exemplary.
Now even the masses, who were (before now) badly hit by the oil industry cartel can heave a sigh of relief. Kyari’s masses-friendly approach could be said to be truly paying off and the man is operating quietly in bringing succor to the poor Nigerian. This is indeed a good start for the Kyari team, at the very least, and a thing of pride for me as a Northerner who was discomforted by the chaotic recent past history of the industry.

Tirmidhi, a public Commentator wrote from Anguwan Kaji, in Kaduna State.

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