Curbing Fuel Crisis In Rivers

740

The Rivers State Police Command recently threatened to clamp down on black marketers of petroleum products in the State. This follows months of nationwide fuel scarcity which has seen the product sold between N200.00 and N240.00 against the official pump price of N145.00 per litre in the country. As it is now, the end to the situation appears not to be in sight.
Despite the prolonged scarcity and its hardship on consumers, roadside dealers have been making brisk business, exploiting the situation to sell the product at their own whims and caprices.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Rivers State Command, Nnamdi Omoni, who issued the threat said that it was illegal to sell petroleum products by the roadside. According to him, the law only permits petroleum dealers with licence to sell such products and at approved spaces and price.
The Tide considers the police threat as a welcome development, though belated, given the fact that fuel scarcity and its attendant hardship have persisted for too long.
While we support the police’s move in view of the inherent danger of selling petroleum products by the roadside, we, however, condemn the Federal Government’s apparent insensitivity and deafening silence in the face of the plight of consumers, especially in the State.
We find it difficult to understand why government and its agencies appear helpless while the excruciating scarcity and illegal sale of petroleum products go on unabated in the country.
It is a sad irony that a country which prides itself as the sixth largest oil exporting country in the world is going through such a harrowing experience, moreso, with President Muhammadu Buhari as the Petroleum Minister. No reason, no matter how cogent, is convincing enough to excuse the acute shortage in supply of petroleum products in the country.
The situation is even more worrisome in Rivers State in spite of its position as the hub of the nation’s hydrocarbon industry. It is an absurdity that while the situation may be gradually easing off in other parts of the country, the State continues to experience the worst situation.
We believe that even in the face of petroleum crisis, Rivers State should not be the worst hit, considering its strategic position in the oil and gas industry in the country. That is why we think that the Federal Government, through its agencies, must wake up and live up to its responsibilities. The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) must provide answers to the persistent fuel crisis in Rivers State.
Furthermore, while we expect the Rivers State Police Command to match its threat with action, the police should know that clamping down on black marketers alone may not resolve the fuel crisis. A situation where most major marketers’ filling stations experience shortage in fuel supply, while independent marketers often have the product in stock and sell above approved pump price calls for investigation. It is unpatriotic for marketers and dealers to continue to hoard or divert products meant for the State for selfish reasons.
We note that the DPR in the State seems to be in the doldrums unlike in Delta State where their counterparts have sealed off over 70 filling stations for sharp practices ranging from hoarding, under-dispensing, over-pricing, diversion and other reasons.
We, therefore, call on officials of DPR and other taskforces in Rivers State to sit up and check the sharp practices in the oil sector. They must resist the temptation of conniving with oil marketers for pecuniary reasons to sabotage the system.
While the extant laws on supply, distribution and sale of petroleum products must be given teeth by the authorities, the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) and major marketers need to synergise to ensure that the lingering fuel crisis comes to an end, forthwith.
We believe that illegal bunkering and black market cannot be stopped if products are not made readily available to consumers, who are often under pressure to source and buy products via any available means.
The incessant fuel crisis in Rivers State needs to be tackled frontally as soon as possible in order to avoid the spiral effects on socio-economic life in the State.