It’s longer news the harrowing experience Nigerians are subjected to daily in the quest to purchase petroleum motor spirit (PMS) from gas stations across our dear nation. It’s a tale of agony and pain to access this product that’s laden in enormous terms in Africa’s most populous nation, yet it’s a tall order to buy it hassle free via the pumps. The elephant in the room therein is the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) Retail which straddles the oil and gas ecosystem like a colossus – It’s books are shouting that it’s a privatized entity based on the passage of the PIA Act much earlier, but it’s output in public reek of inefficiencies, stumbling blocks and a morass of corruption. At this rate it’s not far fetched to state in clear terms that Nigerians are subjected to hell in a land of plenty thanks to no fault whatsoever of theirs.
Where does one start? Like the old mantra that states the Devil is in the details. The much-touted PIA Act legislation by the 9th National Assembly (NASS) articulates on the downstream sector industry framework. Reverse is the case as Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) and the Independent Oil Marketers (IPMAN) who are the largest entities who import and distribute PMS into the Nigeria market are handicapped to access the products thanks to inability to access forex, sky rocketing exchange rate(s) and most importantly the subsidy regime that’s practiced in this part of the world. The subsidy regime has made the importation of fuel no longer attractive and the onus falls on NNPCL Retail that’s so far lacking in this endeavour that has left the generality of Nigerians stranded like rabbits caught in the midst of headlights on a lonely road.
In addition to this huge drawback, it’s been a huge blame game where the MD/CEO, NNPCL Retail, Hub Stockman and IPMAN have been trading blames left, right and centre. It’s been a recurring decimal from the NNPC Towers nestled in the CBD, Abuja that there’s over 1.9 billion liters supply of PMS for the market and that nobody should fret. Alas, all one needs no soothsayer to tell or feel where the pain in the shoe bites with snake like traffic snarls, boxing bouts to fill tanks, night and day vigil(s) at gas station. The body language displayed by Stockman and the GMD/CEO, NNPCL Group, Mele Kolo Kyari reeks with political speak bandwidth where nothing gets done and heads don’t roll.
At this rate, this hydra headed monster has cast the ruling party, APC as a confused calcified curse in the scheme of affairs. The current Minister of Petroleum is the president and C-in-C, Muhammad Buhari with Timipre Sylva superintending as the Minister of State. There’s no gainsaying that Yuletide season was stolen from Nigerians and the New Year has eloped so far based on these unsavoury development. Productivity and output has taken a massive dent, as human capital that ought to be channeled for positive and cash yielding initiatives is wasted with reckless abandon at gas station(s) chasing a product that should be flowing like milk and honey in Canaan land. Ideological necrophilia as espoused by former Venezuelan minister of Finance, Dr. Moises Naim happens to be the bane of the PMB led administration. One does not need to go far or wide, the fixation with dead ideas has brought to where we find ourselves.
The middle ground where Nigeria finds itself is that the current subsidy regime must go by all means. The Bretton Woods institutions and international partners have advised Nigeria that this industry practice is no longer sustainable, as it leaves a huge hole beyond comprehension in the pockets of the government at the centre. The honourable minister of Finance, Dr. Zainab Shamshuna Ahmed stated earlier that subsidy would be removed in the month of June 2023. It’s a bitter pill to swallow to get things working with the successor administration to the PMB tenure will have to give their sweat, tears and blood to balance the books. Based on these lacunae, the scorecard of the ruling APC administration is poor. In holistic terms, nobody so far is insulated from this bedlam from the young, mid age and old to the elites and have not’s.
How long will Nigeria citizenry continue to lobby and beg in a humiliating manner to access PMS daily? It’s a mixed cocktail of pain and backbreaking pain with different price across the Nigeria federation and the FCT, Abuja. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) has shown that consumer prices have skyrocketed amidst increase in transportation costs, while the take home pay of the average Nigerian worker has been pounded like an amateur boxer learning the rudiments of the physical combat sport. The recent drop in inflation figures from 21.41% to 21.36% by latest NBS data doesn’t constitute a moral booster, as the status quo still pervades the markets.
One huge question that must addressed is why is subsidy been paid paid for a product imported by a privatized entity, NNPCL Retail and yet it’s not available for purchase at the pumps. It’s election season with various presidential candidates advocating for support at the forthcoming polls in February 2023. The only shining light at the end of the tunnel is the Dangote Refinery that is reportedly about to come onboard – There’s also speculation that Port Harcourt Refinery will come on stream after the turnaround maintenance. It’s still far from reality though, as the only make believe is when the supply hits the markets.
That will provide succour to the economy, as much cherished forex will not chart the capital flight route offshore. It smacks of barefaced pretension that in the leagues of global oil behemoths like Saudi Aramco, Petronas, Petrobras, Statoil, Sonangal, Qatar Energy, Sonatrach amongst others that Nigeria’s NNPCL cannot hold it’s head high. The glitz and blitz of the brand makeover earlier at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa to announce the new identity of NNPCL and the shiny TVC’s on CNN makes any third party observer to cringe with fear at all these artificial dressage in public domain. The best brand endorsement of any brand is hinged on functionality and availability – It’s old as the mountains and doesn’t need any education from any ivory tower to imbibe these values.
In conclusion, a lean, trim and functional NNPCL is not too much to ask for in the scheme of affairs. They need to get things working to fuel the engines of growth to make Nigeria grow in the comity of nations. The positive news of oil discovery in the Kolmani acreage amongst others should be latched on to make things going forward. The blame games by the Hub Stockman led NNPCL Retail must come to and end to spare Nigerians this agony that’s no fault of theirs.
Ayoola Ajanaku is a Communications and Advocacy specialist based in Lagos, Nigeria.