Home ENGLISH VIEWPOINT: Embarrassing Scarcity By Mahmoon Baba-Ahmed

VIEWPOINT: Embarrassing Scarcity By Mahmoon Baba-Ahmed

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Socio-economic problems in this country are recurrent  and often defy all conceiveable  solutions. They may be seasonal or annual, depending on their nature and the conditions facilitating them. The commonest among them are the acute shortage of certain essential commodities which are so fundamental to the basic existence of the people. The scarcity of basic needs have always been responsible for immense hardship to the masses and  gravely injurious to economic development  apart from  causing serious social  unrests and unwarranted upheavals.

These vices continue to rear their ugly heads because government was always unable  to take urgent steps  to nip them in the bud whenever they became evident. In that way,  the spate of  energy crises Nigerians have been baffling with over a long period of time had forced them to re-experience the vagaries of life that bothers their stone-age ancestors who used firewood and charcoal  as means  of energy for heating their environment and cooking.

For quite sometime now, acute shortages of cooking  materials such as Dual Purpose Kerosene DPK and  Liquefied Petroleum Gas, LGP simply called cooking gas  are becoming scarce in the market with attendant spiralling prices which are becoming prohibitive. It is obvious the volume of these vital cooking materials produced locally are currently  grossly inadequate, unable to serve the needs of more than 1 hundred Nigerians. Despite the abundance of such resources under Nigeria’s soil it still imports more than half its total requirements. It can therefore be rightly argued that the poor performance of local refineries and the inconsistent import trend to supplement  insufficient local production have been largely responsible for the acute scarcity of cooking materials.

As a rersult, unscrupulous business men have been embarking on sharp activities especially in places where the commodities are available for sale at more than one thousand Naira per gallon and a keg of  twenty-five kg of cooking gas dispensed at  four-thousand-five-hundred Naira. This is detrimental to majority of Nigerians who could not afford the hiked prices while the well-heeled  and the wealthy one  among them pay through their noses.

Confronted by flood of public complaints over the scarcity of  the two commodities, the  Naigeria National Ptroleum Corporation, NNPC  blamed  the development on the inability of major marketers to continue with the importation of the product and equally supplementing it with local production. However, contrary to NNPC’s claims that has been importing kerosene regularly, available records have shown that the last importation was in September last year while the three refineries  had stopped production since  October. One other reason that  that contributed to the acute shortage of the products in recent times  is the ‘Nigerian factor’  exhibited by Shylock marketers throughout the country  who sell their consignment  wholly to middlemen instead of vending them on their filling stations for the benefit of their consumers.

Six months ago Nigerians have bidded good bye to the acute scarcity of cooking gas but the same scenario is now being re-enacted  with the same propensity and apathy as was experienced before. In July last year acute shortage of cooking gas had hit major cities across the country in the same manner  as the current scarcity is taking the same ugly dimension with the price hitting the fove-thousand Naira  mark. This development is certainly a setback  to the Deseral Government’s target  of discouraging the use of dirty fuel for domestic use and deepening the use of the cooking gas. Another major constraint with kerosene scarcity is the issue of diversion, asharp practice often deployed by  greedy marketers who blend it with diesel  to get higher volume. Nevertheless, the most worrisome of all there problems and contraints  is the  disturbing  decision by petroleum  marketers to suspend further importation of kerosene to their inability to source foreign exchange throught the official window at the Central Bank.

The scarcity of keresene and cooking gas, if left unchecked, will terribly undermine  the expected development  of the Liquefied Petroleum  LP Sector in the country  which  had in the recent past became the  number one energy source  for domestic and related commercial uses. And now, for the Federal Government to adequately address the issues surrounding the incessant scarcity of these vital commodities it has to go back to the drawing board and revatalize its 2007 policy  which helped in generating  some remarkable improvements  in the sector. That will actually make  the commodities relatively affordable to the lower stratum of the Nigerian society.

The cooking gas which had hitherto been the exclusive preserve of the rich is now becoming popular with the indigent  as well as the low-income earners  and those inhabiting the remotest parts of the rural areas. It is, imperative, therefore,  to sustain the improvements  made in  the last ten years with regards to the supply and availability of cooking gas in the country  so that Nigerians could addord to cook their meals in relative comfort devoid of difficulties faced by their stone-age ancestors.  With all said and done, it is still worthwhile to advise that more  gas and kerosene terminals  are to be constructed at the coasts and to also invest heavily  in then transportation of the products  by rail or by trucks. It is also important to supplement all these efforts  by having enough distribution centers across the country.

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