From Uche Usim, Abuja

At a time the Christian world warmed up for blissful and colourful 2017 yuletide celebrations, Nigerians, especially Abuja residents were thrown into what could best be described as the worst fuel scarcity in the history of the country.

The scarcity was worsened by the unfriendly economic environment, epileptic power supply and a glitch in electronic banking. The aforementioned blights naturally drained the joy that usually comes with the Christmas and New Year celebrations.

The crisis began in the first week of December when the strategic reserve of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise known as petrol, of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) warehoused in various private depots was exhausted without adequate replenishment and cooperation of other stakeholders to ensure effective distribution.

Consequently, queues stretching several kilometres have been a common sight since then.

Many people had banked on the soothing assurances of the government that the problem would be addressed before December 25, they were rather shocked that the problem has ballooned and overwhelmed the authorities.

The flipside of the mess is that transportation fares trippled (both intra-city and inter-city), commuters were stranded, businesses groaned, prices of foodstuffs and other goods soared, leaving people with nothing to cheer about.

A lot of people who had planned to travel to various destinations for the yuletide celebrations were forced to cancel such arrangements having envisaged the torture such trips may expose them to in the midst of the horrifying fuel scarcity.

Abuja-Enugu trip which was hitherto N6,000 swelled to N13,000 on December 24, while Abuja-Lagos trip by road also jumped from N9,000 to N19,000.

Local shuttles like Banex-Lugbe which hitherto was N150 jumped to N300, amidst shortage of vehicles.

While the NNPC and the independent oil marketers traded blames over the cause of the scar- city, petrol hawkers took over the enter Federal Capital Territory (FCT), selling eight litres of petrol in compressed jerrycans as high as N4,000.

In the last 10 days when the scarcity worsened, commercial motorists have had to sleep in filling stations, (even on Christmas day) in their efforts to get petrol because patronising hawkers remains commercially unattractive.

Commenting on the bleak yuletide, an importer, Agwu Adighibe said:

“We have no reason to suffer this mess. But Nigeria is a country that is only galvanised by serious crisis. The Federal Government totally ignored the early warning signs of Motorists queuing for fuel a possible bleak yuletide when the independent oil marketers halted the importation of petrol in October, citing a hike in the international market price.

“Should the NNPC not fashion out what to do by then? So, by the time the Corporation exhausted its strategic reserves warehoused in various private depots without a sound restocking and distribution strategy, we were back at filling stations. That is how this year’s Christmas and New Year celebrations in Nigeria was messed up. Everything is grounded. We’re a failed state.

“My goods for the yuletide ar- rived early enough but the buyers are busy sorting out energy crisis. People need petrol for their ve- hicles and generators at home and offices. If you don’t address that, what is your business with wines, vehicles and clothes and all that?”, he queried.

Also lamenting on the scarcity, Sola Oladeinde, an IT expert said: “Aside December being the Christmas day, it’s also my birthday. I was born 43 years ago and this 2017 Christmas and my birthday is the worst. I’ve been here at this Conoil opposite the NNPC headquarters since 5am and this 3pm I›ve not bought. I learnt at a point they stopped selling to enable the offload or something. This is my worst experience. The very worst. No money, no petrol even at N200/litre, no light, no jobs. And they›re showing a human side of the President meaning he has been inhuman. I›ve never seen a nightmare like this all my life», he lamented.

Maxwell Lloyd, a banker also groaned:

“My children were still sleeping when I sneaked out of the house with jerrycans in my vehicle and began hunting for fuel. No sign of Christmas at all. Virtually all men are trapped in filling stations.

“They said we should watch the human side of Buhari, where is the electricity? Where is the fuel to run the generators? Is this life? This is 3:30pm, no fuel yet. I bought N4,000 for this compressed 10-li- tre jerrycan. I’m tired of this promises without action”, he said.

However, the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association (DAPPMA) in giving reasons for the persisting scarcity of petrol that has persisted for three weeks and yet seems to have defied all solutions said it sprang from NNPC’s lack of capacity to distribute fuel efficiently as a sole importer because marketers own 80 per cent of the functional receptive facilities and retail outlets in the country.

He thus said those accusing the body of hoarding were wrong and have shown they have a scanty knowledge of what the true situation was. Meanwhile, the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian Na- tional Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr Maikanti Baru has urged Nigerians to exercise patience as the scarcity night- mare will be addressed before the end of the year.

“We’re back on drawing board to look at what is happening. We’ll do all we can to bring things to normalcy.

“The initial queues was caused by the rumour of a purported planned price hike of petrol and then there was panic buying. From there, there was hoarding and then diversion of products to neighbouring countries for the price increase to materialize.

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