By Sunny Chuba Nwachukwu
The catastrophe ravaging people’s lives and the economies of countries presently, called COVID-19 pandemic, is just one among several matters being addressed globally. Among others are, Climate Change; Terrorism and Insecurities; Poverty and Hunger; and Political Instability in many countries. These problems and challenges are being experienced in virtually all the economies in one way or the other but, for the Nigerian state, it’s a situation beyond human comprehension.
The reasons are not far-fetched as a result of the deeply rooted corrupt practices in the system (the truth be told)! This singular identified social vice has crippled the nation’s economy and prevented it from attaining the expected height after decades of economic activities it has been privileged and opportune to exploit, as a result of her abundant naturally endowed resources, that never saw the right, sustainable investment plan, from the onset.
Lamentations cannot at this belated time, and will never again, reverse the damages and wrongs done this potentially great economy. For over 60 years of corporate existence as an independent state, terrible and unimaginable setbacks have befallen the national economy. Those opportune to manage the affairs and the resources then, ended up blowing every available opportunity due to visionlessness, ignorance and, worse still, selfish desires against the interest of the state. This development and the current tough times and hardships that the vulnerable common man in the streets of the nation faces, is clearly the handiwork of the wicked, heartless, privileged and opportune personalities at various levels of leadership in the country, that never implemented the right programmes and long term national plan, that ought to have kept the economy on the right pedestal. This was constantly done for selfish reasons, thereby inhibiting the national actualization of the proper economic zest among the comity of nations.
Looking at the oil industry (specifically), with all the confusions and hopelessness facing the downstream sub-sector, the present dire straits of the high costs of refined petroleum products, especially petrol, diesel and kerosene, that are daily needed by citizens, being imported (with the expensive and scarce foreign exchange), from other nations that get the raw material (crude oil) from our backyard, keeps all and sundry in a state of confusion.
It is, indeed, a laughable and sorry situation, that demands self-sympathy by every Nigerian (especially those in government, with all their makeshift suggestions, belated postulates, and fire brigade approaches to solving problems). As if it all started today! Ah, I weep for my country, Nigeria! Wickedness everywhere, due to inordinate, unbridled ambitious self-aggrandisement. Shame to those who have kept this economy on her knees crawling aimlessly!
Crude oil alone, even up to this day, if it had been properly and judiciously handled, without the past observed recklessness of the petroleum subsidy regime, by those in charge at the downstream long ago, should have sustained this largest economy in Africa, especially now that oil has started to appreciate. Different commentators will appear with already known economic theories that we would have been exploiting in our favour, at a time like this. Rising price of crude in the international oil market, more or less, shouldn’t influence the local pump prices of our domestically produced white fuel (honestly)!
The NNPC and co, coming now to publicly replay the overdue revamping strategic planning and policy in the downstream sector, should not be accorded any special accolades for their recent programme of fixing the four government owned refineries with a cumulative off-take capacity of 440,000 barrels of crude every day (at full capacity utilization). We are our own enemies! Over the past several months within a year, pronouncements, policies and counter/reverse pricing regulations have embarrassingly kept the entire populace in a state of confusion (with policy summersaults). Back and forth, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) came up with all kinds of reasons and explanations on pump pricing, tagging it to deregulation and subsidy removal. These are all matters for the ignorant. We all know where the problems originated, and should aggressively tackle them headlong (if we are truly sincere to ourselves).
Talking about the exchange rate, badly devalued local currency, foreign reserve base, rising price of crude at the international oil market, importation of refined petroleum products, among others, as reasons for a deregulated pump price of refined products, at this time that price of PMS has again been jacked up above N170/litre, should be a topic for another day. This is because there are more that Nigerians are supposed to be gaining now, over and above many other nations of the world, the rising price of crude at the international oil market, notwithstanding.
Nwachukwu, a graduate of pure and applied chemistry with an MBA in management, is an Onitsha based industrialist, a fellow of ICCON, and vice president, finance, Onitsha Chamber of Commerce.
Sunny Chuba Nwachukwu (FICCON, LS)