The Loom and Bloom of Scarcity

Long queues at filling/ gas stations are no longer incredulous to the people of the acclaimed largest producer of crude oil in Africa. A nation where the major source of revenue for donkey years is gotten from the sale of crude oil and gas.

The phrase “promise and fail” is cache so far stored in the memory of the country from one administration unto another (we still hope this comes to an end one day). Somehow these words “ I will put an end to fuel scarcity and long queues at filling station when I become XYZ leader” sound new each time the election bandwagon glides along our earth roads and radio frequencies. Very hopeful people we are, never losing sight of the light at the end of the tunnel.

History has it that in Naija the surfacing of fuel queue is seemingly synonymous with the hike in fuel price, could this be a repetition?

A walk down memory lane kind of proves this to be true, we shall highlight the major changes which were followed by fuel scarcity from the tenure of General Yakubu Gowon in 1966 till 2022.

Prices went from 6 Kobo[1] (in 1966 -1975) to 162.5 Naira now in the reign of Muhammad Buhari as president. This is happening despite his campaign promise to reduce the pump price of petrol /fuel as it’s popularly called. President Buhari’s administration increased the price of petrol from N87 to N143 in 2016 to 162.5 Naira in 2020 and now we have varying pump prices from 165Naira – 300Naira across the nation owing to the recent report of the presence of a higher percentage of methanol than the required 2-3% in the imported 100 Million liters of petroleum product circulated across the cities of Naija in the last week of January 2022[2].

Could this be a pathway for another hike in price?

Olawale Adekola and Ananou Ebenezer Jean-fidèle decided to document the situation faced by Nigerians as the news of fuel Scarcity blooms with long lines beginning to emerge at filling stations. Vehicles and jerry cans of citizens struggle to get fuel to run their cars and generators for their homes and businesses.

The scarcity has brought hardship on residents and motorists who rely solely on the product as the only reliable source of energy to sustain their livelihoods, Adekola observed. The cost of transportation is rising by over 50% in many cities. Motorcyclists and motorists are taking advantage of the scarcity to make more profit for themselves.

But the big ask is; why can a producer of crude oil suffer scarcity of petroleum products?

An obvious answer would be the non-functionality of her refineries, the consequent importation of refined petroleum products, and the presence of exorbitant subsidy on the imported finished products, which was first introduced in the 1970s as a response to the oil price shock in 1973[3]. Although this may be true, it is not an all-encompassing answer.

Recent reports by the Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed say that Nigeria plans to remove fuel subsidies by this year 2022 and replace them with an N5000-a-month transportation grant to the poorest Nigerians[4].

Ummh, could this be true? We have seen numerous attempts at this reform, but Nigeria has never been able to successfully remove fuel subsidies, in large part due to strong popular opposition to reform.

How will this play out on the people? Would this mean more hardship?

Let us keep our hopes alive.

This contribution is by Olawale Adekola an International Award-winning Documentary/Portrait photographer and Filmmaker living in Lagos, Nigeria. He is a visual Storyteller, a keen observer of humanity who captures stories from perspectives that are often overlooked.  Olawale Adekola  +2347039404664 and Ananou Ebenezer Jean-fidèle, JFP Studios.

Text is written by Babawale Obayanju