Suddenly, petrol stations across the country have started witnessing either long queues or selling petrol at high prices. With the Yuletide period fast approaching, many Nigerians see the current energy situation as a playing out of what has become a yearly ritual, being that such crisis is usually recorded at this time of the year.
While the Federal Government owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, is claiming that all the depots are well stocked with petrol, with more than enough to go round, and attributing the current situation to panic buying, the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association, IPMAN, is in turn blaming the scarcity and hike in prices to inadequate supply from the NNPC, even as they denied diverting petroleum.
This came on the heels of the industrial action threatened by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN. It was gathered that many petrol stations promptly hiked the price of petrol on hearing about the looming strike, a practice that has come to be the norm.
However, the problem, as has been witnessed many times in the past, is not just hiking the price of petrol, but in restoring same to normalcy after any crisis. The intriguing thing is that most of these petrol stations always rush to increase the pump price of petrol, not minding that what they sell to the public is old stock, while feeling reluctant to bring the price down even after the situation returns to normalcy.
But far more worrying is the seeming coincidence of fuel price hike/scarcity with the Yuletide. When it is recalled that the Yuletide is when there is usually a mass movement of people from one location to another, given that the Yuletide comes at the end of the year, one wonders why such price hike or scarcity always occurs at this time.
Is the scarcity then artificial? Is it contrived to create panic so that some people will make money at the detriment of others?
Being that it is the responsibility of government to ease the burden of the citizenry, the Federal government has not done well in this regard. It should devise means of either sanctioning those who delight in making other suffer or meet with energy stakeholders to thrash out lingering problems and thus banish the ghost of energy crises once and for all.
Rather than the yearly bickering between the federal government and oil sector workers, therefore, we urge all stakeholders to have a round table discussion with a view to ending this problem so that the citizenry can enjoy a permanent reprieve.