Addressing Petroleum Products Supply Challenges
Nigeria’s Federal Government recently announced that the commencement of operations at the 60,000 barrels per day Port Harcourt Refinery had been moved from December 2022 to the first quarter of this year. In September last year, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, while speaking after a Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, promised Nigerians that the country’s biggest refinery would become functional by December 2022.
However, that was no longer possible, according to Sylva and the Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC), Mallam Mele Kyari. Both men spoke at the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration Scorecard (2015 – 2023) series, anchored by the Federal Ministry of Information in Abuja. The reason adduced by Sylva and Kyari was that the government was buying stakes in some upcoming privately owned refineries in the country because of the need to ensure the nation’s energy security.
Sadly, the Nigerian government, instead of developing refining capacity, waits patiently for the completion of private refineries currently being constructed to end fuel scarcity in the country. This compels the nation to rely on imported petrol for local consumption. This factor robs Nigeria of the gains of the current spike in crude oil prices. The contentious issue of fuel subsidy would not have arisen if Nigeria can refine all its needed petroleum products, as dependence on imported fuel has continued to put serious pressure on the nation’s foreign exchange account at the expense of other productive sectors of the economy.
We reject the reason given by the two government officials for the inability of the Port Harcourt Refinery to commence production last December as originally scheduled. If the refinery had worked, it would have added 60,000 barrels per day of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) to the supply equation at a time when fuel scarcity has returned across the country and prices have skyrocketed to between N280 and N500 per litre at the few filling stations dispensing the product. This would have helped to reduce the burden on Nigerians.
Furthermore, we think that resuscitating and putting other local refineries back on stream will additionally boost the government’s desire to bridge the yawning gap in the demand and supply chain, and reduce the frustration millions of Nigerians are facing in efforts to move around from one place to another or power their homes. Getting more private sector-driven refineries, like Dangote, Waltersmith, and others to contribute to enhancing the volume or quantity of refined petroleum products available to consumers will help address the excruciating pains the people are experiencing.
At a time when inflation has risen to an all-time high, the Naira’s capacity to compete at the international market (exchange rate) is so weak, the purchasing power of the average Nigerian has been drastically whittled down, and economic opportunities are near zero. Hence, addressing the fuel supply hiccup is key to refocusing the nation, and returning it to a functional state.
Petrol shortages have been recurring for several decades in Nigeria. The present scarcity resurfaced about four months ago and has defied all logic and solutions. The government and its agencies are clueless, making disconnected statements and uncoordinated moves. Curiously, the Department of State Service (DSS) directed the NNPC Limited, the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, and the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria to resolve the fuel crisis in 48 hours.
Others directed by the Service were the Depot and Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, Petroleum Tanker Drivers Union, and other stakeholders. The queues initially appeared to reduce after the directive, but the reprieve did not last as the scarcity assumed a more acute dimension, frustrating Nigerians who are now spending many precious hours at filling stations.
Marketers were selling the product at prices ranging from N175 to N300 per litre in defiance of the regulated pricing regime, signifying an out-of-control. Some private depots in Port Harcourt, Lagos, and other cities increased the ex-depot price to N235/litre as against the approved N148.17/litre. The scenario is further proof of the disarray in the administration of President Buhari. A serious, coordinated government would have cobbled together an inter-agency effort, efficiently coordinated, and with tasks assigned to each agency.
This development is ignominious considering that Nigeria is one of the six leading oil producers and exporters in the world, a fact the President once underscored when meeting with stakeholders. But lamentations are not enough. The Buhari-led government should set to work immediately on a long-term scheme that will not only end scarcity, but ensure the refining of enough petroleum products locally for Nigerians’ consumption. The corruption-ridden importation, which has hampered local refining, is the bane of fuel supply.
Whenever Nigeria experiences fuel scarcity, there are usual speculations about likely causes, claims, and counter-claims by operators and regulators. But one constant fact is that scarcity is not often because of product non-availability but the general increase in the overall cost of importing the product, which usually affects marketers who are always without the required capital amid complaints of unsettled previous loans from the banks.
It is time to ask the Nigerian authorities pertinent questions. What has happened to the refineries the NNPC claimed had been turned around to complement import? What impact has the recently enacted Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) had on fuel supply? The law, passed after more than a decade of debate, was meant to overhaul the nation’s oil industry; is it doing that? What about the modular refinery development strategy that was meant to leverage local refining? Why is it not operational yet, and is there nothing to be done about that?
Buhari should stop treating petrol scarcity with levity. As President and de facto Petroleum Minister, he should suspend his endless foreign trips, and coordinate an inter-agency effort to resolve the current supply logjam. Certainly, enough excuses have been offered for the fuel scarcity in the country and sufficient damage has been done to the people’s well-being. The present administration can end this national shame if it shows a greater commitment to governance and the interest of the people.
Promoting Zero-Waste Initiatives
In response to the worsening impacts of waste on human health, the economy, and the environment, the world yesterday (March 30) marked the inaugural International Day of Zero Waste, which encourages everyone to prevent and minimise waste and promotes a societal shift towards a circular economy.
Established through a United Nations General Assembly resolution that followed other resolutions on waste, including March 2, 2022, UN Environment Assembly’s commitment to advance a global agreement to end plastic pollution, the International Day of Zero Waste is facilitated by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).
The Day calls upon all stakeholders, including governments, civil society, businesses, academia, communities, women, and youth, to engage in activities that raise awareness of zero-waste initiatives. The International Day of Zero Waste aims to bring the multitudinous impacts of waste to the world’s attention and encourage global action at all levels to reduce pollution and waste.
Humanity generates well over two billion tons of municipal solid waste annually, of which 45 per cent is mismanaged. Without urgent action, this will rise to almost four billion tons by 2050. Waste comes in all forms and sizes, including plastics, debris from mining and construction sites, electronics and food. It impacts the poor, with up to four billion people lacking access to controlled disposal facilities.
In its resolution to establish the Day, the UN General Assembly underlined the potential of zero-waste initiatives and called upon all stakeholders to engage in “activities aimed at raising awareness of national, subnational, regional and local zero-waste initiatives and their contribution to achieving sustainable development.”
Promoting zero-waste initiatives can help advance all the goals and targets in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including Sustainable Development Goal 11 on making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable and Sustainable Development Goal 12 on ensuring endurable consumption and production patterns.
During International Day of Zero Waste, member states, organisations of the United Nations system, civil society, the private sector, academia, youth and other stakeholders were engaged in activities aimed at raising awareness of national, subnational, regional and local zero-waste resourcefulness and their contribution to achieving sufferable development.
In Nigeria, efforts to mitigate global warming are dragging because of a lack of recycling culture among its citizens, according to waste operators in the country who warned that the trajectory was hazardous to health outcomes in Africa’s most populous nation. In line with a United Nations Industrial Development Organisation report, Nigeria generates over 32 million tonnes of waste annually, with plastic accounting for 2.5 million tonnes.
The country has to focus on climate education by teaching children in primary and secondary schools how to manage the waste they generate. Waste compensation management organisations should be leveraged to entice the adults whose habits are hard to change. Government policy is also a fundamental driver of curbing waste in the ecosystem. Our nation needs to be proactive.
Sadly, Nigeria is among the top 20 nations that contribute 83 per cent of the total volume of land-based plastic waste that ends up in the oceans. According to a World Bank report, each Nigerian generates about 0.51 kilogrammes of waste daily. It is forecasted to rise to 107 million tonnes by 2050.
We have to maintain awareness and sensitivity on how to salvage this situation. The focus should be on waste as heaps of electronic refuse are found in landfills in Nigeria. These are toxic to our health and the ecosystem. We need to open our minds for the survival of humanity and the entire planet.
With the first-ever International Day of Zero Waste launched, Nigeria must join other countries in stepping up its waste management efforts through proper waste collection, processing, and recycling. With a population of over 200 million people and despite having several waste management policies and regulations in place, Nigeria has a poor rating in terms of waste administration.
The country ranked 162 among 180 countries in the 2022 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), which compares the environmental performance of those countries. Hence, Nigeria must introduce initiatives which encourage community members to drop off used plastic bottles and containers at designated recycling points. The federal and state governments, as well as manufacturers and consumers, must show more commitment towards sustainable management of post-consumer recyclable waste in the country.
There is every need for the authorities to encourage public-private partnerships to help drive sustainable waste management practices through recycling and waste reduction programmes. Tenable waste management is crucial to Nigeria’s future. International Zero Waste Day is a reminder to step up advocacy to promote viable waste management practices.
Ending TB Mortality Rate In Nigeria
Last Friday, the 24th of March 2023, commemorated World Tuberculosis Day 2023 to raise awareness about the deadly infection. The World Tuberculosis Day, one of eight global health campaigns marked by the World Health Organisation (WHO), is observed to build public awareness about the global epidemic of tuberculosis and efforts towards the eradication of the disease.
WHO proclaimed the day World Tuberculosis Day in 1882, when Dr Robert Koch of the University of Berlin’s Institute of Health announced to the scientific community that he had discovered the cause of tuberculosis. He explained the aetiology of the deadly disease and pioneered the diagnosis and avenues of treatment. Tuberculosis, also known as TB, is a contagious respiratory infection caused by the bacterium mycobacterium tuberculosis, which attacks a patient’s lungs.
Before Koch’s discovery, tuberculosis not only ravaged Europe and the Americas, killing one in seven people, but was wrongly thought to be hereditary.
Tuberculosis remains one of the world’s deadliest infectious killers, spread by inhaling tiny droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Although a serious infectious disease, with proper treatment, it is not only preventable but also curable.
This year is critical for all who are engaged in TB work and should be championed as the ‘year of hope’ to get full support, attention, and energy for a collective ‘YES! We Can End TB’. There are several key areas to focus on, such as funding needs to scale up implementation and accelerate development of new tools, including new TB vaccines, access to new rapid molecular diagnostics and new shorter and more effective treatment regimens, TB prevention, childhood TB, strengthen and fund the community.
The world is grappling with this contagious and devastating disease. WHO’s commemoration of it is the means by which it highlights its impact on national life and the need to work together to eradicate it. The annual themes in this global fight have reflected the various and cumulative aspects of the fight. For example, the theme in year 2000, “Forging New Partnerships to Stop TB,” emphasized the need for a collaborative effort in the fight.
In 2001, it was DOTS: TB Cure For All, and while in 2010 it was “Innovate To Accelerate Action” and “It’s Time To End TB” in 2020. The theme for this year, “Invest To End TB. Save Lives”, conveys the urgent need to invest resources to ramp up the fight against TB and achieve the commitments to end TB made by global leaders.
This is especially critical in the COVID-19 pandemic that has put ‘End TB’ progress at risk, and to ensure fair access to prevention and care in line with WHO’s drive towards achieving Universal Health Coverage. WHO estimates that each day, over 4,100 people lose their lives to TB and close to 28,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease.
Unfortunately, WHO states that the COVID-19 pandemic has reversed years of progress made in the fight to end TB. According to the WHO Global TB Report 2021, which includes data from over 200 countries, approximately 1.5 million people died from TB in 2020, up from 1.4 million in 2019. Worldwide, the WHO estimates that 9.9 million people fell ill with TB in 2021, but 4.1 million of those infected were not diagnosed or reported to national authorities. That’s up from 2.9 million in 2019.
It is instructive that this is the first increase in global TB deaths in more than a decade. Furthermore, WHO attributes the increase in deaths and decline in diagnoses and notifications to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns, which have reduced countries’ capacity to provide TB services and interfered with people’s ability to get diagnosed and treated.
This year’s theme reiterates the understanding that more investment in the fight against the disease will save a million more lives, prevent its spread and speed up the eradication of the TB epidemic. Despite significant progress over the last decades in the fight against the disease, regrettably, TB continues to be the top infectious killer worldwide.
Unfortunately, Nigeria ranks fourth in the world and first in Africa among countries with high prevalence of this killer disease. The Acting Board Chair, Stop TB Partnership Nigeria, Dr Queen Ogbuji declared in Abuja at the Pre-World TB Conference that over 156,000 Nigerians die of tuberculosis annually. This, she said, translates to 18 Nigerians dying of tuberculosis–related disease every hour and 432 daily.
This high fatality from a disease that is not only treatable, curable but preventable also, should not be allowed to continue on this dangerous curve. As usual in our environment, plenty of factors ranging from ignorance, poor environment, inadequate medical facilities, late diagnosis, cultural biases to poor budgetary provision and actual fund release accounts for this high fatality rate of the disease.
All tiers of government must commit to investing more in the health sector and in the fight against TB. Sadly, most Primary Health Centres (PHC) that ought to be the first point of call for TB patients are in comatose. Since TB thrives in poor environments and enhanced by population congestion, most times, those affected resort to presumptuous self-medication, hence giving rise to drug resistance at a later stage.
More and sustained investments are necessary to strengthen the health system at all levels, upscale our pandemic preparedness and end preventable deaths. Governments must get more involved in the campaign against the disease, especially to screen, as this will provide avenues for early detection, treatment and curbing its spread.
Water, Most Precious Resource
On the 21st of March, the world marked World Water Day. The day is an annual event that is celebrated to focus on the primacy of water and the need to preserve it. Water is significant for a healthy body. This is why the United Nations General Assembly designated this day in 1993, twenty-five years ago, to call attention to the water-related challenges we face.
This year, the theme for World Water Day is “Accelerating the Change to Solve the Water and Sanitation Crisis”. The quantity and quality of water that is available for human consumption today have been affected by damaged ecosystems. Now, 2.1 billion people live without safe drinking water at home; it impacts their health, education, and general livelihood.
Following this knowledge, the UN member states and agencies and various other Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have become involved in the promotion of clean water conservation and have helped focus the attention of people on all the critical issues of water. They also promote the supply of clean and purified water.
Global access to safe water, adequate sanitation, and hygiene resources reduce illness and death from disease and leads to improved health, poverty reduction, and socio-economic development. The COVID-19 pandemic has further demonstrated the urgent need for universal access to safe water, as frequent and proper handwashing with soap and water is one of the most effective actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Unfortunately, even so, many people lack access to these necessities, leaving them at risk for diseases related to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). Globally, 2.2 billion people do not have safe drinking water, 3.6 billion do not have safe sanitation services, and 2.3 billion do not have access to a handwashing facility.
Many diarrheal diseases, such as typhoid fever and cholera, spread through unsafe water and sanitation. Protecting water sources and developing and maintaining WASH systems to keep human waste out of the water, food, and environment are critical to preventing diarrheal diseases. In areas without a consistent source of safe water, people often resort to using untreated water that can make them sick.
Like many other countries, Nigeria also joined the rest of the world to commemorate 2023 World Water Day. Marking the occasion, the Federal Government, last Wednesday, lamented over worsening water-related disasters. The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Water Resources, Didi Walson-Jack, made the statement during a media briefing to mark the day.
The essence of commemorating World Water Day is basically to raise awareness of the poor and vulnerable populations living without access to safe and clean water, said Walson-Jack. And its objective is to galvanize action towards active response to the water crisis and seek innovative measures to improve access to potable water supply while achieving the targets set out in the Sustainable Development Goal 6 – Water and Sanitation for all by 2030.
However, the Federal Government’s statement is uninspiring, as the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund declared that about two-thirds of the population of citizens in Nigeria lacked access to potable water. Nigeria has an estimated population of about 200 million or slightly more, and two-thirds of this figure represents over 133 million persons without access to potable water across the country.
Although the Federal Ministry of Water Resources and states are investing in water, the sustainability of these investments has remained a major challenge. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, the progress is static, which is why two-thirds of the Nigerian population do not have access to potable water and that is a lot of people when compared with the population.
There is an urgent need for adequate improvement in investments, particularly given that the lack of enough access to water has massive implications for the country. Shockingly, Nigeria’s level of investment is one of the lowest in the region. The nation is less than three per cent in terms of investments, so there is still a lot more to be done.
This year’s World Water Day should galvanise the federal and state governments to create synergies by joining hands and working together. We must value every drop of water and keep our planet blue and clean. We have to make every day World Water Day. Hence, the Federal Ministry of Water Resources should promote drip irrigation systems as a way of sustainable water management in selected irrigation schemes.
It is against this backdrop that the Rivers State Government recognises water and sanitation as essential for maintaining a healthy life and environment. Both are fundamental for the socio-economic development of the state. This conviction is responsible for the intervention in improving water and sanitation coverage in the state.
Consequently, the state government, through the Port Harcourt Water Corporation (PHWC), is implementing the Urban Water Sector Reform and Port Harcourt Water Supply and Sanitation Project (UWSR & PHWSSP), and the Third National Urban Water Sector Reform Project (NUWSRP3). The project is to provide improved water and sanitation services for the entire population of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas.
And in a short time from now, water will begin to run in homes in Port Harcourt. Already, elevated water tanks in Rumuola, Diobu & Borikiri are seen including modern treatment/chlorination plants and extensive citywide reticulation. This project is part of Governor Nyesom Wike’s programme in Rivers State and is expected to be delivered soon.
When completed, beneficiaries of the project will include over 1.5 million inhabitants of the Port Harcourt metropolitan city. The project is co-financed by the Rivers State Government (RVSG), African Development Bank (AfDB), and the World Bank (WB). Rivers’ model is worthy of emulation. States should collaborate with development partners and donors to properly execute water policies in Nigeria.
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