Many Nigerians still have emotional scars from the fuel scarcity of 2017 where many slept at filling stations in vain hopes of buying Nigeria’s most important commodity – petrol. The queues in some stations were almost a kilometre long, fights broke out; it was a regular bedlam in many filling stations.
Maikanti Baru, the NNPC group managing director was barely a year in the saddle and his inexperience shone brightly. Shylock marketers have since sworn off importation of petrol citing over N800bn debt by the government, the state-owned corporation was reeling. There is nothing that get Nigerians more angry than having anything come between them and cheap petrol.
Suddenly transport costs rose over 500 percent and food prices shot up. In the face of scathing criticism, the NNPC established a war room and officials from the GMD to those filing papers started monitoring petroleum distribution across the nation especially in Lagos and Abuja, the two states with the most potential for outrage. In Abuja, Baru was selling petrol and in Lagos, Yemi Osinbajo, the vice president even came out to sell fuel.
A lot of Nigerians have heaved a long sigh of relief in 2018. The NNPC in December 26 press release said residents of Benin have commended the Federal Government for ensuring availability of fuel during Christmas celebration and said availability of the product made the celebration stress-free for them.
The NNPC quoted residents saying that unlike the previous years where they had to wake very early and queue endlessly for the product, this year celebration proved to be otherwise.
Much of this is the result of early preparation and it helps too that with the general elections only two months away, the Federal government cannot afford to piss off voters. So, even if the heavens had to be moved to ensure that Nigerians are not separated from their precious commodity, the NNPC was willing to do it.
The statement said that the NNPC GMD had effectively put in place strategies to ensure that the unfortunate incident would not undermine products supplies during the festive period.
In another release, the NNPC said it had enough stock of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise called petrol, and other products, adding that the company’s petrol stock would last about 45-days even in the absence of fresh supplies, advising members of the public not to engage in panic buying.
However the corporation is not saying how much this effort to ensure petrol availability is costing the country. According to its published operations and financial report, Nigeria’s daily petrol consumption came to an average of 53million litres per day in the nine months between January and September 2018.
To further illustrate the cost of cheap petrol, between January and August, the NNPC claimed N487bn as under recoveries. The difference between the actual cost of a litre of petrol and the pegged price of N145 per litre is what the NNPC records as under recoveries.
An NNPC document presented to the Senate during a January 2018 subsidy probe obtained by BusinessDay shows that between 2006 – 2015, the NNPC claimed N170.6billion as under recoveries in ten years while it claimed N632.2billion in two years alone (2017 and 2018), a 217 percent difference.
This is more than what Nigeria is spending on the health and education sectors highlight a country and its sense of priorities. While university lecturers are still on strike, and hospitals in the nation continue to morph into consulting clinics, it does not matter as long as the middle class in Lagos and Abuja can get cheap petrol.