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We Need Petroleum Products

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In recent times, the prices of petroleum products rose to the extent that citizens found it difficult to meet up.A situation where the price of petrol especially, is put at N170, N175 per litre in a country where crude oil is produced calls for concern.
Sometimes the problem may not come from the marketers but the authorities saddled with the responsibility of providing these essential commodities.I think one of the reasons for high cost of the products is the issue of importation and landing cost which according to some marketers make it difficult for them to break even.According to them, the marketers purchase from the major distributors at N161 or N162, and do not make any serious margin selling at N170 per litre.
When the present federal administration came into power a few years ago, the price of petrol was less than N100 per litre. They would always talk about subsidy removal and nothing reasonable to show from funds recovered from that.
How long will Nigerians continue to suffer with high cost of petroleum products? With epileptic power supply available, it is difficult for people to cope buying petrol at high cost to power their generating sets.
The chairman of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Rivers State chapter, Dr. Obele Ngechu, said there was a looming petrol scarcity in the country and explained that high percentage of marketers were unable to get the products at the depots.
Motorists have been advised to avoid panic buying as the issue will soon be sorted out.
According to him, what is happening today in the international market, the rise, the upward review of crude oil is affecting the local market. The cost of gas is no longer the same. PMS is selling at over N170 or N180 in some stations. In the country today, you find out that the supply of petrol is not sufficient. Most petrol stations have run out of stock.
You imagine a situation where all the marketers will be requesting for petrol and only about 25 per cent will be able to get.
Last week, I had an experience of moving up to two or three filling stations in a particular area and none had a product.Cooking gas was also not there as they said they never had supply.  When I finally got one, the price had increased.
I think there is need for Nigeria to fix the refineries and not wait or depend on private ones which may not be able to satisfy users.It is high time the National Assembly took a short-term approach to the situation by making emergency arrangement for approval for subsidy since it was not in the 2021 budget.
Let there be subsidy because it will be difficult for Nigeria to be buying petrol at the initial high rate when she is not paying subsidy.In any port in Nigeria, the landing cost of petrol is N190 per litre from the foreign market, according to the IPMAN chairman.
When these products are refined in Nigeria; for instance, kerosene prices definitely will be minimal for the masses. The kind of kerosene available does not look good.
IPMAN Chairman said adulterated kerosene has taken over the market due to the high cost of refined kerosene in the international market.His words: “All Nigeria consumes now is what they call “Kpo fire”, because kerosene imported from the international market now is very expensive, it will cost N300 to arrive Nigeria and you can see “Kpo fire” is the one refined locally and a lot of people are dying as a result of it.”
The implication is that hike in price of petrol will definitely affect transport fares.  Motorists may want to increase fares to recover the cost and maximise profit, which is the mission of every business operator.
For the transporters who ply inter-state business with more quantities of fuel in some trips may also increase the fares to meet up. The rate at which people travel from one destination to another will reduce considering the high cost and scarcity of the product.
Although from December till now, with the price fluctuation, commercial vehicle operators have maintained their fares.We are aware that each time there is increase in pump price, prices of commodities rise because traders who deal on staple food especially the ones who go to “bush markets” will also increase price due to high cost of transportation.
Economic losses are always associated with high pump price because some commercial motorists can decide to withdraw from the business with the fear of not meeting up the turnover on a daily basis.
Sometimes car owners decide to keep their vehicles at home preferring to board public transport to work.
High foreign exchange is another issue affecting the major distributors from the international market and with high cost marketers find it difficult to cope.
Nigeria’s benchmark in the budget as it relates to sale of crude oil at the international market is pegged at $30 to $35 but crude oil is sold at $62 dollars per barrel.
Even cooking gas of 12.5 kg which was sold at N4000 for sometime now has gone up to N5000. This started gradually and unfortunately has not stopped till now.
As a result, some households have resorted to the use of kerosene and even firewood as their last option which, according to experts, is not advisable.
The government is supposed to subsidise the price for independent marketers and let the four refineries be fixed to function maximally, otherwise this current challenge in the petroleum industry will not do the citizenry any good.
We are not unaware that more private refineries are being established by individuals while some  will be in operation soon, but let something be done as fast as possible because of the masses.
Since the four traditional refineries are not producing at full capacity, the government should set up additional modular refineries that should be able to refine fuel in Nigeria at the price that the marketers can afford and break even.
When this is done, the product will be readily available, the issue of high cost and sometimes scarcity of the product will be a thing of the past.
The Federal Government should, as a matter of fact, repair the refineries so that crude oil can be refined in Nigeria. If they have become so obsolete, then new ones can be built new ones.

 

By: Eunice Choko-Kayode

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Opinion

Private Gains And Public Pains

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The issue of black soot and its effect on pollution of the environment, with specific reference to Rivers State, can no longer be treated with levity because the threat has reached an alarming point. There is hardly anyone living in the vicinity of Port Harcourt who would not have noticed the increasing density of soot emission and pollution in the environment. Great effects usually arise from little causes, and when they accumulate unchecked, irreparable harms usually follow.
It is over six years ago that the observation of black soots settling upon roof tops and living rooms became a sad phenomenon. Expectedly, illegal refining of petroleum products in forest locations, bunkering of crude oil and destruction of such products by law enforcement agents, were fingered as causal factors. In their zeal and macho temperament, law enforcement agents went into action, burning whatever petroleum products they could seize, including boats and vehicles associated with such illegal activities.
Concerned members of the public, particularly residents in the vicinity of the burning orgies, had raised alarm, complaining about the menace and crude manner of burning crude oil. The verdict was that crude oil business had brought about crude lifestyle as well as crude responses to complaints and demand for sanity in the whole business. Oil-bearing communities became the most callously abused and degraded environments in an oil-producing nation.
The time has come for local, national and international agencies and authorities to be informed, if they are not aware already, that soot emission and pollution are alarming threats to humans. Oil business, from the crude to refined chain-link, is a profit motivated activity. The trail of agonies and callousness left behind by the operators of the business are clear indicators that one man’s gain is another man’s pain. Oil-producing environments have borne enough of the pains of crude and refined oil.
The toxic and soporific effects of burnt crude oil products and the soots which have massed up in Rivers State, pose grave dangers, to say the least. If nobody wants to stick out his neck by speaking up on this issue, for fear of offending any authority, let this be a call that soot pollution can be more devastating than COVID-19 pandemic. The soot issue is like a slow poison, building up gradually and whose cumulative effects would jolt everybody up in no distant time. One does not need to be a medical or public health professional to be able to see the danger arising from massing of soots.
Illegal refining of crude oil in the coastal zones of Rivers State had been a jinxed business whose eradication is hard, because of complicity and duplicity. Without wanting to open the can of worms, it is enough to say that the black gold whose effect an Abacha could not resist, would have a similarly soporific effect on Alibaba’s serving men. What if the burnt crude oil products project is a ruse involving less than 5% of seized haul from illegal refiners and bunkerers!
The Nigerian political economy has in-built corrupting components which make it hard for a “clean” man to remain clean in the system. From the nation’s reward system of minimum wage of N30,000 and a maximum one of N30,000,000.00 per month, to the plight of unemployment; who would blame community youths for engaging in illegal crude oil activity. There is no doubt that just as the pollution arises from black soot via illegal refining activities, so also does worsening corrupt practices become intractable via loop-holes in the political economy. There are structural issues!
Apart from physical pollution of the environment via soots through illegal refining activities, there is also a worse aspect of pollution arising from psychological processes. Human psychological environment consists in products of the volition, thinking, attitude, actions and utterances of the people that populate the environment. In the case of Nigeria, it is obvious that there is an excess dose of crudity, callousness and attitude of meanness. It is a true statement that the environment reflects a mirror-image of the people who populate that society.
It is not possible for a corruption-ridden society to show-case integrity and honour, unless through cosmetic measures and pretences. Therefore, the computer programming slogan of “garbage-in-garbage-out” applies in the issue about human environments. Our environment is our image, such that what shows physically are products of what we brew internally through our volition, thoughts and activities. Soots polluting our environment arose from our activities.
Actions and responsibilities of state authorities towards the environmental challenges may not have been adequate enough, which accounts for the continued hazard arising from soot. Those responsible for the emission and spread of soots are a few people looking for gains, but the pains and dangers arising from soot pollution spread across a larger population. Human proclivity to avoid costs also includes the cleverness of passing on the hidden costs of personal gains to the wider public as collective pains. Clever business strategy!
The eternal laws of life operate in such ways that the fate of individuals and the larger public is so accurately woven that the distribution of guilts and pains are without any injustices. To make gains at the expense and pains of other people, would ensure that the gains would be enjoyed with pains at the end. There are many factors which account for how an individual fares in life, all of which ensure justice without prejudice.
Please, let those who know and are charged with the state responsibility of safe environmental and public health take appropriate actions over the issue of black soots. The dangers are glaring enough that it would be foolhardy to wait until the situation gets to the point of uncontrollable crises, before we take actions. To breathe in the soot daily is quite bad enough, but any individual can help himself in any sensible way one can, which would include knowing that there are black soots that are dangerous. Politics of environmental clean-up would not help. Action will!

Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

Addressing High Food Prices In Nigeria

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I went to the market last weekend to buy some groceries and was shocked by the sharp rise in the prices of almost all the items.  When a tomato seller told me that a small basket I bought for N700 days ago had gone up to N1,700.00, I felt it was a slip of tongue or a joke as the man is famous for jokes. So, I asked again, “Customer, I mean the price of this small basket.” And he retorted,  “Madam, tomato i don cos. We no see am buy. The basket wey we dey buy for N7,000.00 before, they don dey sell am N17,000.00. No bi me do am, madam. Things cos”.
Of course, I wasn’t going to settle for that. I decided to check at other places, hoping to get a better price all to no avail. The prices of many food items and other commodities have doubled, some tripled just within one week.
Food as we know is one of the basic necessities of life. Some have even gone further to say that access to food is a basic human right, vital for good health and ultimately for life itself. It, therefore, stands to reason that whatever infrastructure or developmental project any government is embarking on without considering the welfare of the citizens may not mean much to the people who are hungry and who are not sure of their daily bread.
During the 2015 elections, many Nigerians trooped out to vote for President Muhammadu Buhari believing that he was the messiah needed to deliver the nation from poverty, corruption, hunger and bad government and take us to the Eldorado. Incidentally, rather than getting better, the situation keeps deteriorating by the day. Policies that seem to be aimed at deliberately impoverish the people keep springing up every now and then.
When in September last year the price of Premium Motor Spirit (Petrol) and electricity tariff were increased right in the middle of COVID-19 pandemic, many people kicked against it saying it would add to the excruciating hardship in the country, knowing how life in Nigeria revolves around these two key items, government said that the decision was in the interest of the citizens. According to the President, the COVID-19 pandemic, which had affected economies globally, compelled his administration to make some necessary far-reaching adjustments for long-term gains.
He said government’s fixing or subsidising PMS prices would mean a return to the costly subsidy regime with the potential return of fuel queues, adding that there was no provision for fuel subsidy in the revised 2020 budget and assured citizens of the government’s determination to remain alert to its responsibilities by preventing marketers from raising prices arbitrarily or exploiting them.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, on the other hand, explained that removal of subsidy was not a political decision but had become inevitable, especially with the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, the low crude oil prices and curtailing of Nigeria’s production output by OPEC, which had constrained government’s revenue. “We have cut production to 1.412 million barrels, which has halved our earnings,” he disclosed.
Today, great uncertainty still surrounds the issue of fuel subsidy. There is constant anticipation of increase in fuel price from the current N165.00 to maybe N200.00 or more. Some shylock independent petroleum marketers have cashed in on these irregularities to periodically hoard petroleum products thereby creating artificial scarcity which is one reason traders capitalise on to hike prices of the goods and commodities.
The need to urgently and sincerely address the problem of corruption, subsidy, local refineries and other issues around the petroleum industry in the country cannot be overstated. The same applies with the power sectors as experts have repeatedly warned that the abysmal 4,000 mw of electricity generated cannot take the economy nowhere. For a country of 200 people, they say a minimum of 100,000 mw is required to support the economy and increase the purchasing power of the naira.
In a recent article titled, “Nigeria Printing Money: The Road To Zimbabwe”, an economic expert, Nick Agule, observed that if the N60 billion printed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and shared among the three tiers of government as revealed by the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, recently and subtly alluded to by the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, was  invested in the agricultural sector and to bail out the struggling production sector of the economy, it would have been of immense benefit to the nation’s economy.
He asserted that with the new cash, these industries would have been able to fund working capital to bounce back to business and boost production. A boost in production means more jobs will be created as more factories reopen and service centers return to life. The economy will then be jump-started back to life with increased output and jobs.
He, however, warned that continuing on the path of financial rascality will only worsen the already bad situation in the country as the naira will become almost worthless with scanty food to buy.
Should our leaders at both the federal and state levels harken to this and other abundant wise counsels and take necessary steps to address hunger, poverty and economic problems in the country? Can they begin to make investments that will benefit the citizens and make our states and nation at large better places to live rather than for their selfish gains?
Rivers State Government has taken a laudable step at alleviating poverty and hunger in the state through investment in the state-owned $12 million cassava processing project. It will generate massive employment, enhance the Gross domestic Product (GDP) of the state in particular and Nigeria in general and bring, to the barest minimum, uprising and insecurity.
Other states, particularly in the southern part of the country, should take a cue from Rivers State and invest in agriculture to save their people from extreme hunger and starvation.
However, without addressing the heightened insecurity in the country – banditry, kidnapping, herdsmen menace and the likes which hinder farmers from freely carrying out their farming activities, all these investments may not yield the desired results.

 

Byh: Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

Ensuring Food Safety In Nigeria

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When we talk about food safety, we are talking about safeguarding our food in order to avoid risks of being infected whenever we consume them. The way we prepare and handle our food goes a long way in affecting our lives.
Safety of our food lies in our hands. As some persons are careless in life, that is how careless they are when preparing and handling food.  Like drugs, we should not toy with food.We have to take precautions when storing our food so as to avoid food-borne diseases.
As a trader, the way you handle food stuff is very important because if the food were mishandled, you wouldn’t have met it in good condition to purchase. It will be unfortunate if after a particular food item has undergone several processes, it is on your table or custody that such will be declared poisonous.
From time to time, we may have either ignorantly or with negligence purchased and consumed spoilt food. The case of kpomo or kanda meat, that is cow skin, is the one that has given many persons concern in recent time. Many people have testified the experiences gotten from the use of kanda. Some say it looks as if vegetable oil is applied on it so that as you wash the meat, oil will surface on top of the water.
Although there are good ones but there is one particular type that appears thick but no matter the number of times you wash, there must be soapy substance in whitish form. If you don’t wash it well, it will change the colour and taste of the soup.
Severally, I had asked the sellers why that type is always foaming during washing. But they don’t seem to know. This problem may not be from the sellers but from the butchers who roasted and prepared the kpomo. Even if they used soap to wash it after roasting, it should be properly washed. A situation where you are washing kanda and the water used is soapy is worrisome.
There was a time when meat butchers were warned not to use tyres in roasting kanda meat.It was reported that Rivers State Government intercepted a truckload of kpomo meat in Onne Local Government Area.The suspected truck conveying the kpomo, according to report, was accompanied by two men who had been allegedly apprehended.
The Rivers State Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr Fred Kpakol, who confirmed the incident to journalists in Port Harcourt, said that the import paper showed that the product came into the country from Madagascar. He said the containerised truck which conveyed the product came through the Onne Port and added that it was seized and taken to the Police Area Command in Eleme for investigation.
Kpakol explained that the arrest followed a tip-off and the ministry swung into action quickly with the help of the police and assured that the police command would conduct a full-scale investigation into the matter.
According to him, the ministry got a tip-off that the kanda meat was imported into the state and we went in and found out that it was coming from Onne port.His words: “It was a container full of kanda, we were able to intercept it, took it to the Area Command, when it was opened, it was discovered that it was adulterated and stinking. From the import paper, we found out that it came from Madagascar”.
The Area Command said it had begun investigation into the matter. The Police Area Command made clear that those arrested with the truck claimed that the consignment was owned by a man called Alhaji and contained raw materials for making shoes.
Look at the way such thing is brought in. The Police and other security agents who raised alarm about this must be commended as investigation is being carried out. The distance from where the adulterated kanda was coming is something else.
We need food but it should not be poisonous. The importance of good food to the human body can never be over-emphasised but a situation where evil-minded persons will distribute rotten food to be consumed by fellow humans should be condemned.
Who knows the market where it would have been taken to and the victims who would have consumed the meat? Think of a situation where a household prepares meal with such or even in an eatery where it is used in cooking for customers. Does it mean that the kanda meat we have been consuming is imported? And it has come to the extent of bringing in spoilt type?
With all the cows in Nigeria, can’t we have enough supply of kpomo? I may not be able to explain the nutritional value of kpomo but good ones are useful in preparing different delicacies.I don’t want to believe that the kanda meat produced in Nigeria is not enough, the persons involved in that business just want to make their money without minding the implications on humans. If you want to do business, should it be spoilt food? Alarm was raised sometime by meat vendors that unscrupulous elements were bringing in meat from outside. I don’t know how true that was and if relevant authorities did a follow-up.
The food we eat must be properly cooked because we don’t know where it is coming from and how it was preserved. Relevant authorities should ensure that Nigeria is not a dumping ground for food that cannot be consumed in other countries. If we have to import, they should ensure proper check before importation because anything consumed goes a long way to affect the body negatively or positively. At least, the ones prepared here can be consumed if they are declared safe for consumption. For the ones from outside the country, the preparation and chemical used are unknown.
I think the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment should use relevant personnel to carry out more findings on how kpomo meat is roasted and prepared locally. This will help to differentiate between locally produced ones and the allegedly imported ones.Who knows what would have happened had security agents not been given a tip-off to intercept such consignment which would have been deposited into the local markets?
Those who are concerned with preparation of food for households should devote extra time in ensuring that families are served well prepared meals. It is worrisome how kandameat can be imported from such far distance without getting bad. They should not be allowed to kill innocent people because they want to make money.
Those involved in this unwholesome act should be dealt with according to the law so as to serve as deterrent to others. This is food adulteration and the National Agency for Food And Drug Administration And Control (NAFDAC) should do their work in this regard. The Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) saddled with importation duties should intensify surveillance to ensure that adulterated food can never find its way into the country.

 

By: Eunice Choko-Kayode

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