Of recent Nigerians are forced to endure trying times. Two debilitating issues have preoccupied us lately: the fuel crisis and swapping our old Naira notes with new ones.
The scarcity of petroleum products especially PMS which began last October has, dramatically, worsened to unbearable heights, causing untold hardships and long queues at filling stations in many towns and cities across the country. The situation has forced many to abandoned their vehicles as profiteering black marketers rule the rungs. Interestingly enough, the major oil marketers attributed the shortage of petrol to the “exceptionally high demand for the product and distribution challenges.”
The acute shortage of petroleum products is threatening to grind the economy to a halt just as confusion continued to mount with the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) saying that they don’t understand what is really happening.This was as some media reports had suggested that the Federal Government had directed MOM AN and IPMAN to adjust the pump price of petrol up to N185 per litre, a claim the government later denied.
IPMAN had said that the volume of products lifted by oil marketers had dropped by 50% with the independent marketers saying that they do not also really understand what is going on.
After several weeks of customers’ grieving and groaning in despair, President Muhammadu
Buhari seemed to have shrugged off the lethargy as he approved on Tuesday the constitution of a 14-man steering committee to enforce petroleum products supply and
compliance with official prices.
This is coming as Nigerians expressed
outrage over worsening scarcity
of the commodity amidst news reports about wanton smuggling of the products to neighboring countries and ambiguities in the petrol pump pricing.
Nigerians received this new development with mixed feelings. While some lauded the setting up of the committee, others said the president and his lieutenants were simply clutching at the straws and racing against time.
Report said that President Buhari, who is the Minister of Petroleum, will personally chair the steering committee while the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva is the alternate chairman.
Other members of the committee are the minister of finance, budget and national
planning; permanent secretary, ministry of petroleum resources; national economic adviser to the president; director-general,
Department of State Services (DSS); comptroller-general, Nigeria Custom Service (NCS); the chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the commandant�general, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).
The rest of the members are the authority Chief Executive, NMDPRA; governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN); the group chief executive officer, NNPC Limited; special advisor (special duties) to the minister of state petroleum while the minister of state’s technical advisor (midstream) is the secretary.
According to the statement issued by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the president has directed NMDPRA to ensure strict compliance with the government’s approved ex-depot and retail prices for petrol.
The committee is equally expected to ensure stock management, visibility on the NNPC Limited refineries rehabilitation and track daily distribution to tackle smuggling.
Also as part of its term of reference, the
committee will ensure national strategic stock management, visibility on the NNPC Limited refineries rehabilitation programme and ensure end-to-end tracking of petroleum products,
especially PMS to ascertain daily national consumption and eliminate smuggling.
To further ensure sanity in the supply and distribution across the value chain, the president also directed NMDPRA to ensure that NNPC Limited, which is the sole supplier, meets the domestic supply obligation of petrol and other petroleum products in the country.
While hailing the move by the president to end the madness in our downstream sector, I urge all the relevant government agencies should be responsive to this onerous task by ensuring that the interests of the ordinary Nigerians is protected from price exploitation on aĺl products including diesel, kerosene and cooking gas.
The federal government should not allow misguided elements to bring untold hardship upon the citizenry.
Similarly, anxiety is gripping millions of Nigerians who are now struggling to deposit and exchange their old Naira notes with new ones, and are yet to succeed in doing so as the January 31st deadline approaches.
Customers, at their respective banks, are persistently experiencing difficulties accessing the new notes even at the ATM machines. In most cases, the new Naira notes are not readily available.
Market people, shopowners and petty traders are now rejecting the old notes, a move that threatens to freeze the informal sector which constitutes nearly 60% of the country’s economy.
Amid the growing agitation for the deadline extension, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) unwittingly foreclosed that possibility on Tuesday, further fuelling fears by the customers of a currency rip-off.
CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele apologised to Nigerians for not extending the deadline but stated that 100 days from when the announcement was made to the expiration date was enough for Nigerians to deposit their old notes.
On this matter, I feel that the government should do more than simply apologising to agonised Nigerians because the inability to exchange old Naira notes with new ones, within the stipulated period, was never our own making. Putting aside complaints about the stringent measures attached to this exercise in the guise of propelling a cashless economy, Nigerians utterly deserve better. The new Naira notes should be made visible and available. We shouldn’t be made to suffer needlessly.