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OBSERVATION: Basis Of Perpetual Suffering

  BY ADEMOLA YAYA FOR over three months, life has been hell for the Nigerian poor people. Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) popularly known as Gasoline or Petrol suddenly vanished from all the fuelling stations. Of course, people had become used to such artificial scarcity of the product particularly at a period when government was contemplating…”
February 3, 2023 5:21 am



FOR over three months, life has been hell for the Nigerian poor people. Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) popularly known as Gasoline or Petrol suddenly vanished from all the fuelling stations. Of course, people had become used to such artificial scarcity of the product particularly at a period when government was contemplating an increase in its price. Unlike the past, this scarcity has ensued and getting worse day-by-day. Interestingly, Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) mega stations that had always made the product available in such scarcity scenario have refused to dispense. Instead, decrepit fuelling stations which never sold fuel at period of normalcy now have petrol, dispensing to people at prohibitive prices between N350 and N450 per ‘litre.’

Meanwhile, the NNPC has continued to state that it has 2billion litres of pms in stock, which is correspondent to at least 30 days of sufficiency, and that it was closely monitoring vessels and trucks dispensing fuel across states to ease the scarcity. But some discerning minds have alleged NNPC of corrupt practices at its retail outlets that have resorted to diversion of the product to black marketers, touting, among others, all to create and elongate long queues for hours, overnight and all day as first step to jacking up the price officially. However, the more we hear it say “there is 2billion litres in stock” the more scarcity we experience. As of the time of writing, only BOVAS, NIPCO and Matrix in Osun sell at N195 and N220 respectively with very, very long queues, jam packing both entry and exit of dispensing station, causing gridlock and untold hardship to motorists and commuters.

Since PMS is a vital link to virtually all productions and services, cost of transportation has risen and of course, prices of goods and services getting prohibitive. Meanwhile, the earnings of the poor have remained constant but technically receding as the cost of living goes up. While the poor groan everyday this agony lasts, the black marketers and their comrades in NNPC are smiling to their bloating bank accounts. Some members of the ruling elite have posited that it is the handiwork of some saboteurs. Assuming they are correct, if some saboteurs could hold the entire country at the jugular for over three months without an end in sight, it is either some members of that particular ruling elite are collaborators or the entire system is irresponsible, outdated, unsustainable and overdue for surgery. 

By last quarter of 2022, Dangote refinery was supposed to have begun refining its target of 650,000 barrels per day. If that had happened, we wouldn’t be in this mess of scarcity that prompted unofficial skyrocketing price. Only last week, 25th January, President Muhammadu Buhari was reported to have approved constitution of a 14-member steering committee to address the supply and distribution of petroleum products across the country. The said committee is chaired by Mr. President himself and Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, as alternate Chairman.  It is over a week now, the pathetic situation has worsen. 

Until Sunday, 29th January, 2023 when the news of extension by 10 days of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) initial 31st January, 2023 deadline for the swapping of old N200, N500 and N1,000 notes for the redesigned ones, it had been untold hard times for the poor people. Yes, what CBN intends to achieve with the new notes is desirable and should be supported. It intends to improve security of banknotes; mitigating counterfeiting; preserving the collective national heritage; controlling currency in circulation, promoting cashless transaction further, and reducing overall cost of currency management. The major one here is control of money in circulation. For instance, as of 2015, currency in circulation was said to be only N1.4 trillion but by October, 2022, it has risen to N3.23 trillion. Of this sum, only N500 billion was within the banking system while N2.7 trillion was held in people’s homes. As I write, CBN has disclosed that it has collected N1.9trillion. The point here is that the policy seems to be targeted against some politicians who warehouse cash that will be useless to the economy but potent weapons for vote buying and payment for electoral violence of all sorts. What then causes scarcity of the new notes as CBN claims it has given sufficient new notes to the commercial banks for circulation?

By CBN directives, the commercial banks are to receive old notes deposit but pay new cash through their Automated Teller Machines (ATM), which could only pay limited amount between N20,000 and N50,000. Contrary to the CBN directives, some banks collect old notes and dispense same old notes via their ATM; some only collect old notes but refuse to dispense either new or old; very few collect old notes and dispense new ones. This situation makes new note to be scarce, making small scale businesses and transactions mainly done by the poor horrendous. Meanwhile, the POS operators grab the opportunity to excessively charge their poor customers. 

Like NNPC, bankers have been alleged to be swapping new notes for the politicians and ‘big’ guys who will eventually ‘settle them.’ This allegation was confirmed on Monday, 30 January, 2023 when the Department of State Services (DSS) Public Relations Officer, Peter Afunanya, issued a statement of warning to some commercial banks officials “aiding the economic malfeasance” having made some arrests. Again, there have been videos of social engagements on social media where these so-called scare new notes were being sprayed in bundles! They couldn’t have collected such huge bale of new currency from the ATM. Eventually, CBN objectives will not be achieved while the poor who will go through the ATMs to access the new notes will suffer for nothing under scorching sun.

There is fundamental difference between resources and being resourceful. With all the human and mineral resources we are endowed with, resourcefulness is lacking.  To be resourceful is capacity to “create useful and unique solutions in challenging situations. It is the ability to find ways and means to dealing and solving problems; devising amazing but skilful inventive ways to promptly resolve new difficulties or challenges;” ability to put available “resources to efficient or ingenious use”; out-of-the-box thinking, generating new ideas and capacity to visualise all possible ways to achieve desirable. That is what majority of our ruling elite are lacking and has kept us at same spot.

The poor have not made things better as they have become friendly to their common enemies – ruling elite. They support their perpetuity in power by earnestly demanding for stipend that could hardly resolve their immediate challenges while concern and action as regards their eternal poverty and misery in the midst of plenty is relegated to the background. Nothing is won without struggle. As long as this unfortunate relationship ensues, it will be business as usual – the few rich will continue to be richer while the poor will be getting poorer, live in agony and die of hunger and penury. This is not a coarse speech but reality.

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