Nigerians slam Buhari, marketers over fuel scarcity
Many Nigerians, including civil society organisations, analysts and individuals have expressed anger and disappointment over the ongoing fuel scarcity across the country, blaming oil marketers and President Muhammadu Buhari, who doubles as the Minister of Petroleum, for their plight.
Nigerians have had to endure long hours at the few fuel stations that sell Premium Motor Spirit, otherwise called petrol, for about a week, with no end in sight to the problem.
There are also reports that the scarcity is compounded by oil marketers hoarding the product to sell at prices above the official pump price of N87 per litre.
Findings by Saturday PUNCH show that the product sells for between N100 and N150 per litre in most fuel stations across the country, with the product going for as high as N400 per litre in the black market.
Unusually long queues of vehicles and customers with kegs characterise the few stations that sell the product at the official pump price.
President Buhari recently announced himself as the Minister of Petroleum and this seems to have put him at the forefront of public criticisms over the issue.
Civil society groups, among other Nigerians, said that President Buhari, whose presidential campaign had promised to bring change to the country, has failed to deal with the problem of fuel scarcity.
For instance, the Northern Elders’ Council Chairman, Tanko Yakasai, blamed Buhari for failing in his promise to Nigerians to revive the oil sector, saying his tenure as Minister of Petroleum was kicked off on a bad note.
He said, “I’m buying from the black market. The start does not show a good signal for the new minister of petroleum resources. Buhari came to power on the strength of the change slogan. He promised to change what was happening in the country, so what we expected was change and not this.
“But look at what is happening under Buhari as the minister of petroleum resources. He came to power on the platform of change but there has been no change. If the same situation we used to experience has continued, so where is the change? What has he done better? We still have queues at fuel stations all over the country. He has been in power for many months and we are still grappling with fuel scarcity in the country. Is that change? Where is the change?”
Chairman, Civil Liberties Organisation, Bayelsa State, Nengi James, also said that the expectation of people in the Niger Delta was that the welfare of the people in the region would change for the better with Buhari’s government.
He said, “When we say change, we expect the security and welfare of the people to change for the better, but presently, apart from suffering from sea piracy and environmental pollution in the Niger Delta, there is environmental degradation.
“We are really suffering. The fuel situation is biting harder. The artisans who need the fuel to manage their lives are crying. No light and still no fuel. The illegal refineries have been shut down and they are the ones who cushion the effect of such crises.”
James expressed hope that the situation would improve, but warned Buhari that the wait for change should not take forever.
He said, “We are waiting to see what will happen, but we still expect that there will be changes over time but the wait for change cannot be endless. We need action; we are tired of talk with no action.”
A statement made available by the President of the Nigeria Labour Congreess, Ayuba Wabba, also urged Buhari to put an end to the suffering of Nigerians, saying the scarcity had persisted in spite of government’s assurance that it would be resolved within 72 hours.
It stated: “We note that this is happening despite assurances from government and its agencies that there is enough fuel being distributed around the country and that citizens need not go into panic buying.
“That the situation has not visibly improved after more than 72 hours of such assurance means that the marketers and other groups that have held the country hostage over the years for their unearned profiteering from the petroleum sector are still determined to continue as if it is business as usual.”
An environmental rights activist, Alagoa Morris, said he “thought the perennial fuel scarcity would have been a thing of the past,” adding that he was “surprised to learn that the Federal Government was still owing marketers and for that reason, the importers could not release fuel.”
He, however, advised the Federal Government to look inward for solutions, which he said include “encouraging the establishment of modular refineries in our creeks.”
He said, “All the refineries need is proper environmental impact assessment. Then they should be given licences to operate. It will give us enough refined products, take care of unemployment, boost local economy and reduce crime in our creeks.”
However, the National Publicity Secretary of the Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, said Nigeria was facing a huge economic crisis, describing the change mantra of the APC as deceptive.
Speaking on the fuel crisis, Odumakin said, “I will not condemn the President as a person. I would rather indict those around him who have been lying to Nigerians that there will be miracles overnight, and that every of our problems would disappear.
“They said he would do this and that, promising impossible things during electioneering in the name of the President. Anybody who was sober enough would know that there is big crisis in Nigeria because over the years, we have relied on just one product, which is oil.”
Advising government on the way out of the problem, he said, “This lazy culture of governors going to Abuja to share money every month can no longer work. Let every state start looking at its resources; that is the only way out. But we cannot do that without discarding the national constitution, which says that everything belongs to the Federal Government.”
Some citizens, who spoke to our correspondent from across the country, also shared the frustrations of motorists and other fuel users in their various states. Also, on social media platforms, Nigerians have been blaming Buhari and fuel marketers for the ongoing scarcity.
Ismael Ibrahim, a resident of Sokoto State, said a litre of petrol sells for about N140 in the state, adding that its residents have solely put the blame on President Buhari and the marketers.