Fuel Scarcity and Other Curses

If it is true that countries can be ‘cursed’, Nigeria’s most prominent curse will be constantly having “Good Leaders Surrounded By Strictly Evil Men”. It does not matter if these Good Leaders turn out to be thieves or incompetents, they remain Good Leaders. Another prominent curse on Nigeria would be “Political Treachery In High Places”.  The way Nigerian politicians betray each other and the political parties they made their fortunes from perpetually beggars belief. These two curses become rolled into one when considering the fuel scarcity crisis and power supply failures punishing Nigeria at the moment. Egnahc is not helping!

It was an utter disgrace to see the current government last year shamelessly blame fuel scarcity on “hoarders” and sought to impound and offer privately acquired fuel stocks believed to be hoarded to customers for free! (See: Fuel Hoarding and Governance Failure – http://wp.me/p1bOKH-qQ). That was criminal expropriation. However, it is now clear that President Muhammadu Buhari’s “Blamocracy” [governance by blaming others for the government’s very own failures] is running out of scapegoats and excuses. Currently as ever is it the government or hoarders that are responsible for fuel scarcity that blights Nigeria?

Petroleum products such as petrol, diesel and kerosene have supply chains which require proper management on the part of the NNPC if there is to be uninterrupted and sufficient supplies available to customers. Multi-billion dollar deposits have to be paid in advance to secure the inflow of fuel if imported but these deposits regularly get stolen by government officials. In Nigeria, fuel scarcity is a functional of government stealing. Forget the blame on hoarders. Road transport, aviation, private electricity generation, domestic cooking etc. all suffer immensely from the phenomenon of “theft-caused-fuel-scarcity”. Refineries overseas are producing, ships are sailing, ports are functioning, insurers are underwriting, oil executives / administrators are willing and the high seas are permitting.

Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of Petroleum Resources, was sprung on Nigerians as the brightest technocrat in the land and he is a Harvard graduate, after all. This is not to say Kachikwu is not a meritocrat of substance or he is not fit for the job. His approach to the job started quite unusually. Buhari and perhaps Kachikwu himself needlessly but histrionically bombed minor local bunkering / refining assets in the already over-polluted Niger Delta to appear to put an end oil bunkering but lacked the nerve to bomb international assets due to fear. Oil bunkering continues till tomorrow. Who was fooling who? (See: Bombing the Niger Delta Will Not Deter Bunkering – http://wp.me/p1bOKH-qu).

At that same there was also mention of the privatisation the refineries as a solution to the fuel scarcity crisis just before it was expedient to scapegoat hoarders as the cause. We know that if you privatise an opulent mansion you get an opulent residence but if you privatise a small circular mud hut that too is what you get. Nigeria privatised “blackouts” in the electric power sector and still has blackouts. Since then Kachikwu’s world-beating excellence has yet to be heralded again in the Nigerian media.

The second sounding of Kachikwu since his appointment as Minister has been the call by Jagaban for his resignation due to comments he made about Nigeria’s hence this government’s intractable fuel scarcity crisis. When the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the government of the day, publicly calls for the sacking of one of his own party appointed ministers, the man has to be either a saintly person of honesty or an evil embodiment of machinations. To save ourselves the trouble, the latter characterisation has to be correct. The cannibalisation (self-eating) of APC has started.

Why is Buhari not defending Kachikwu? Kachikwu’s crime is simply one of outspokenness if you factor out competence. Buhari’s ministers will not be remembered ever for competency even though it took him half a year to put them together. If the ministers had something to brag about they will scream it untiringly. While Kachikwu speaks out, the other ministers keep mute about the duties they were appointed to undertake preferring to talk in very vague and oblique ways about peace, unity and praying for Nigeria. Prayer for Government has taken over from government responsibility and government investment; it has taken over practical reality. Kachikwu simply said the fuel scarcity crisis may last up to two months and that he was no magician. Though his truth telling is admirable, the two months is actually the time it will take to gather money for the deposit for fuel importation.

Nigeria is now registering 0 MW output in the electricity sector. Zero Megawatts means no production of electricity at all for several hours at a time in Nigeria. This is Guinness Book of Records material and very disreputable for any modern nation. Nigeria’s ‘Grand Minister’ in-charge of electric power is Babs Fashola, the governor that succeeded Jagaban in Lagos State. No calls for his resignation despite evidence of world-beating incompetence. Buhari’s ‘council of ministers’ have come of age; the age of figenia. It is as if every minister knows that they need prayers.

Fuel scarcity and power scarcity in this modern day are also curses if such things actually exist. And if curses do exist, the current Nigerian government seems to be very efficient in providing factors of production for their sustainability and flourishing.


Grimot Nane

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