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Emeka Obia: Why Nigeria Needs a Fuel of Change

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I was having a conversation with a friend the other day and he told me of his resolution to magically move his meetings with clients and prospects to happen all in one day. His reason was that it would be a complete waste of fuel to do otherwise. I was amazed at his creativity and how he quickly crossed the Ts and dotted the I’s to magically make that happen all in one day, which I think he wouldn’t have done typically. In the past few days you could drive in some usually busy areas in Lagos and feel like you’re cruising at the wee hours. The roads are surprisingly free.

Nigeria consumes about 40 million litres of petrol per day, an amount far above the capacity of its dysfunctional refineries, which costs the government about N914 billion ($4.6 billion) in a year.

Just a few weeks ago, carriers of petroleum products into Nigeria embarked on a week-long strike action over the non-payment of fuel subsidy arrears amounting to about N158 billion ($790 million). This caused severe shortage of petrol in Nigeria’s major cities, which has resulted in stretched queues and a significant disorder to normal living. Although the Federal Government responded by claiming it had paid off the marketers, petrol is yet to be accessible and available.

Recently, I jokingly put up a post of Facebook saying that at this time, Nigerians would really not mind receiving petrol as wedding gifts or birthday present; and then a friend from India expressed shock and confusion as we wouldn’t understand how an oil rich country would experience scarcity. But what he does not know is that, even though Nigeria produces oil, it still cannot adequately meet up with its local consumption of petroleum products considering that our four refineries are producing below capacity and so, Nigeria has to depend on the importation of the short fall to adequately service its local consumption.

Imagine the life of a typical Nigerian who wakes up in darkness, cannot use his car because he got tired of queuing up at fuels stations, cannot run his back-up generator for the same reason, decides to take a bus to work and is greeted with outrageous hike in transport fares. It is just unimaginable what many Nigerians go through every day. I think it is safe to say that Nigerians are the most resilient people in the entire world. I mean, despite the adversity, Nigerians manage to go about their businesses serenely.

The President has restated his commitment to resolve the protracted issues saying the Nigerians do not deserve to bear the burden of needless bureaucracy. I still cannot figure out how a group of people can afford to hold the entire nation to ransom – it is preposterous.

Some persons have blamed the current administration for the chaos, claiming it is a mere ploy to frustrate the incoming administration. Others have simply maintained that it is purely the height of negligence on the part of the current administration.

Nigerians across the states have been subjected to harrowing experiences as they have groaned while spending long hours at petrol stations in search of fuel. Everyone is on the receiving end – car owners, transporters, tricycle operators, motorcycle operators including those under the scourge of constant power outage are all in need to fuel their cars and run their generators. Consumers are now forced to resort to black-market or buy way above pump price. Regrettably, fuel scarcity is almost becoming a common phrase in our socio-economic lexis such that it has become a pervasive phenomenon.

I think that the present and outgoing government has the lion share of the blame for this scarcity and should, therefore, make every effort to set straight the minds of Nigerians, that the initial decrease in pump price was not intended to woo the citizens to support the administration, and that the present deadlock is not a deliberate attempt to punish Nigerians and frustrate the in-coming government.

On May 29th 2015, a new federal government will emerge and a new president, General Muhammadu Buhari will take charge of Nigeria’s driving seat. The president elect has already vowed to kill corruption in Nigeria before it kills Nigeria – saying that tackling corruption is third on his agenda, after insecurity and unemployment. An attempt to crack unemployment would be immensely appreciated considering the fact that according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the rate of unemployment in Nigeria stood at 23.9 per cent in 2011, while urban unemployment was estimated at 29.5 per cent in 2013- Unemployed youth numbered about 11.1 million in 2012.

Nigerians have been advised to manage their expectations, but I doubt how effective that would be – considering the daily ordeal of Nigerians. No matter what, expectations are high; Nigerians want change, no matter how small.

Change is quite ambiguous. I think that Nigerians just want to live a better life and have access to the most basic amenities. That is not too much to expect and demand. Nigerians deserve better. I think that what we need is a fuel of change – That wind of transformation that will ultimately begin to improve the lives of common man no matter how trifling.

How do you think the incoming administration can make life modest for Nigerians?

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Guasor

7 Comments

  1. @edDREAMZ

    May 14, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    a.k.a EDWIN CHINEDU AZUBUKO said..
    .
    Chineke God pls take me out of this country abeg….
    .
    .
    ***CURRENTLY IN JUPITER***

  2. D

    May 14, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    I think any President that is able to tackle the issue of power aggressively will be deemed as doing so much for the country. I know the availability of power would go a long way in aiding the economic growth in Nigeria. However, i am not naive in believing that it will happen over night. Personally, i think first we suck as a society at maintenance and upkeep. That’s why you see Landlord build a house and does nothing to update the house for 20years but still charge a premium for rent saying the house is good, even for those with personal homes. I think our power stations, transmission and distribution offices are past the point of bandaid treatment they receive because they were never maintained to begin with. I would suggest building new generation plants yes it will cost an insane amount of money but really at the end of the day it will be a matter of spending quite a bit right now and getting results as opposed to spending more over time with various bandaid attempts that are not going to yield results anyway. i.e if a tree produces nasty smell, it might be cheaper to buy air freshner to spray the leaves than to get someone to totally uproot the tree and plant a new one, at the moment but over time the cost of spraying the leaves will supersede what it would have cost you to just uproot the tree at the very beginning and just make a fresh start and you will have better and permanent results from uprooting the tree and starting new than you would spraying. Then we can start ensuring that we do things to ensure our power generation, transmission and distribution companies are been kept up-to-date on latest trends and maintenance is high priority. Hiring the right people, people that actually know what they are doing and the proper way to use the equipment. (I know people that are IT heads in government offices and they don’t even know how to send an EMail). Anyway, I apologize for the epistle. The same applies to our refineries but i will start with power because if power was readily available investors would be encouraged to come in and help build refineries.

  3. prince

    May 14, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    If we are to tell ourselves the truth. This present administration is a total failure. All they did with our solid 6years is to embezzle. I am the most grateful to God that PDP lost in the presidential election. It would have been worst that we’re seeing now come 2019.

  4. Ralph

    May 15, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    First, i would lend a voice to D’s position…i perfectly concur with him/her.

    To buttress that, i recall vividly that Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote his currently investing heavily in a refinery with capacity to produce about 70% of local consumption. If this is the case, then we have nothing to fear as a Nation. While we cannot leave our ‘fate’ to a single man, his daringness just goes to show that running an ‘African owned refinery’ is achievable, hence, if a man can do that, then a Nation should be able to do same seamlessly.

    I am not unaware of arguments that may spring from various quarters, most of them bothering on fear of monopoly, but then, i can assure that if Dangote Refineries succeeds, then many other, even if not so big refineries, will spring up. Therefore, my point here is, the government of the day, and the incoming one should support that project. They should learn from it and then take D’s advice to build modern refineries for the Nation.

    Furthermore, i do not know if anyone is aware that a whole lot is happening in the service sector of this Nation. More than ever before, the sector is growing at an unprecedented rate…it will only be wise for the government of the day to tap into this growth metrics by diligently diversifying the economy around it and encouraging further growth of this businessphere.

    Lastly, the incoming administration should focus on one thing at a time. I put it to anyone who cares to listen that GEJ has a good heart, he was willing to succeed, however, he was a jack of all trades, hence became master of none. In my opinion, let the incoming administration focus on realigning and restructuring the power sector, and many others shall naturally fall in place.

    I rise!

  5. Anonymous

    May 15, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    Are you a bus conductor asking for ‘change’?

  6. Miss Magic

    May 15, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    Suffering and smiling has become the average Nigerian’s way of life, it’s just sad…

    I could write an epistle of the many things the incoming administration can do better, but realistically I think they already know what to do. Nigerians are extremely vocal and time and time again, a lot of us have expressed our concerns and possible solutions to the government, which also lead to a new era and dispensation in form of the Buhari lead administration. We can only hope they do the needful and communicate their plans and actions transparently to the people

    In the meantime, I would advise Nigerians to be patient with the new administration and be a little more patriotic to the country. No country is free of problems, If Nigerians believe in this country and do what is right and at the right time, I think our problems will be less

  7. Mr. D

    June 4, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    Nice read Sir. If the incoming government would do better, then the people must support it and not sit back to castigate the government. Good job!!

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