NIGERIANS woke up last week, panicked so much that they collectively agreed to purchase more fuel than they needed. Before the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation realized the ploy, fuel scarcity had overtaken the country.
Panic buying, according to NNPC, was responsible for the scarcity that hit all parts of Nigeria. In Calabar, the product was available for N250 a litre in the black market.
Nigerians are wondering how a product that is unavailable in the petrol stations is on the streets, for the highest bidders. NNPC sticks to its story â€“ panic buying.
What happened, the ordinary Nigerian thinks, was a gradual drying up of NNPCâ€™s supplies while whoever was responsible was doing something else, or nothing at all. Better still, he did not need to do anything about it than go through files that for almost 30 years had blamed panic buying for fuel scarcity.
Economic and social activities have slowed down. Losses from almost a week of fuel shortages would run into billions of Naira. Small businesses would hurt more. The jump in inflation figures is predictable. None of these affects those who got the country into this mess.
Do they queue for fuel? Do they know of emergency services like hospitals that would shut down if they do not get fuel for their generators? Do they feel the pain of the ordinary Nigerian who needs fuel to provide his potable water? If you do not feel it, you can think excuses would suffice.
What is so difficult about importing and distributing fuel since the official position is that Nigerians cannot refine fuel for their own uses?
Can those who stand against domestic refining of products now argue that they cannot fund product importation? The debate is not the same as increasing the pump price, a pet project of another group that posits that Nigerian refineries can only work, if fuel prices in Nigeria are the same as the international price of the product.
Our country could go down the drain for all that some care. They have no concerns for either the countryâ€™s present or its future. All they want is their welfare, which they seem to have figured out rested mostly on things going wrong with Nigeria.
Government has to address product availability through private investments in domestic refineries. Labour, high volumes of usage, availability of the crude, savings on freight, insurance, port charges and other import-related costs would make fuel refined in Nigeria cheaper, in addition to creating jobs.
If panic buying caused the disruption of economic and social life of the past one week, government has a huge responsibility of attending to it in the same emergency manners security operations demand.