Last December, Nigeria for the umpteenth time was plunged into acute scarcity of premium motor spirit PMS, commonly known as petrol. In spite of the obvious dedicated efforts of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corperation, NNPC which adequately supplied the product to the Nigerian market at the government approved rate the ugly situation persisted.
Like a deadly epidemic that defied all curatives, it paralyzed every socio-economic activity in the country and successfully cast a dark shadow on the usual boisterous Christmas and New Year season making it complete opposite of what it is supposed to be.
Characteristic of most challenging times in history, opinion leaders and public commentators took turns in media outlets to brain-storm and suggest solutions. Many wrongly pointed accusing fingers on NNPC, insisting that the answer lies in simply repairing our dysfunctional refineries and building new ones to shore up the nations local refining capacity.
Those in this school of thought fail to take into account the effect of sharp practices engaged by products dealers which includes, diversion of products designated for local consumption to nearby countries where these products sale at much higher cost and frequent industrial action by trades unions in the sector to disrupt supplies to the retail outlets leading to eventual artificial scarcity.
If company profile remains a reliable reference point in rating capacities of organizations to deliver on assigned responsibility, the performance records of NNPC as a world class Nigerian oil and gas company eminently show it has all it takes to solve present and emerging challenges in the sector.
As an organization with the mandate to exploit the hydrocarbon resources of this great country for the collective benefit of the citizenry in terms of providing fuel for economic activities and generating revenue to support the financial needs of the government, the organization has been performing creditably well and several statistical and econometric indicators abound to buttress this fact.
Without mincing words, the corporation has been a leading revenue earner for the federation for decades. This would not have been possible if the organization is not the best in what it does.
In the same vein, human resource capacity and development of the corporation is unrivaled which has positioned it to compete favorably among its peers at international fronts. For example, the current Secretary General of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, Alh Mohammed Barkindo is a former staff and Group Managing Director of NNPC. Similarly, the present Group Managing Director Dr Maikanti Baru in recognition of his leadership qualities was just named Forbes Africa n man of the year, just to mention but few.
Achievement of these feet is as a result of high operational standards the corporation is known for in terms of Engineering, Technology and Management which strictly adhere strictly to industry international best practices in all consideration.
It is therefore based on the above pedigree that resolving a national challenge like scarcity of petroleum product within a geographical entity like Nigeria is a simple project the corporation can easily handle with precision all things being equal.
The truth is that challenge of recurrent fuel scarcity is more complex that people can actually perceive. In fact, experience has shown that supplying products to Nigerian market more than the consumption capacity has not succeeded in stopping the scarcity which indirectly means that increasing the nation’s refining capacity is not the solution too. It is on record that the last time the country witnessed this unfortunate situation, NNPC was supplying the market about 60 million litres of pms per day even when the local consumption was 35 million litres per day, yet the scarcity occurred. What happened to the over 25 million litres? Nothing other than hoarding and diversion took over the market. Indeed, there is enough for us and never for our greed.
The implication is that for fuel scarcity to be exterminated deservedly in the economy of this great nation of ours, all stakeholders in the value chain musty do its best within areas of jurisdiction.
The nation borders must be adequately monitored by those saddled with the responsibility. In that sense, The Nigerian Custom Service (NSC), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) and The Nigerian police must scale up their efforts at ensuring that all act of illegal export of petroleum products across the land and Sea borders are strictly checked.
Similarly, oil marketers, dealer and indeed all class of handlers should abide by the code of conduct governing the sales and distribution of products. Specifically, they must shun those unethical practices of hoarding and diversion of products. Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR should step up their game of enforcement as industry watcgdog.
In addition, all keys players in the downstream section like the storage managers that keep reserves and tanker drivers that transport products should learn to embrace patriotism while discharging their duties bearing in mind that customers and consumers’ satisfaction is the ultimate goal of every business.
Also, Trades unions and market associations should be more responsible in embarking on strikes as this is known to have been catalyst to several products scarcity experienced in the paste.
Furthermore, oil pipelines, storage facilities and other industry infrastructure should be adequately protected from vandalism to ease handling and distribution of products.
And lastly but not the least, Members of the public should cultivate the habit of reporting to the law enforcement agents those engaging in the hoarding or diverting of products.
When all these stakeholders collectively discharge their various responsibilities, NNPC task of making fuel steadily available for economic activities will be pretty simpler to the benefit of all. A tree they say cannot make a forest.