by Alexander O. Onukwue
An illegal fuel storage facility was discovered on Christmas Day following the coordinated efforts of the NNPC, DPR and Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC).
TV Cameras followed the operation from the NNPC Headquarters on Monday morning were officers of the agency converged to fine-tune their plans, before they proceeded to the location at Central Area in Abuja. Group Managing Director of NNPC, Maikanti Baru, was the point man on the field as cameras showed scores of yellow gallons and tanks used supposedly by black marketers to hoard petrol away from the public, thereby creating an artificial scarcity.
It is no longer a secret that the current scarcity of products being faced across the country is caused by factors other than supply deficits. What then did we learn from the NNPC’s videoed operation?
- FILLING STATIONS PRIORITIZE THE BLACK MARKET
This we did not necessarily learn as new but the advantage of video reports is to provide visible evidence. An amateur video recorded by the AIT reporter showed gallons of fuel being diverted from the filling station even as many customers had been waiting for long hours on the queue. Apparently, this fuel station was not too distant from the location busted for hoarding fuel. Would this mean that close to every filling station, there could be a location for hoarding products?
- WHICH BIG MAN RUNS THE RACKETS?
Another point of the video reports was the parade of suspects, mainly young men looking anything but well off as could be assumed from the proceeds accruable from the products they hoard and sell at exorbitant prices. The NSCDC official said they will be prosecuted and while that may sound in order, it goes without saying that the scruffs are only agents of some other persons.
Are we to believe that the tanks and gallons and the cars at that location belong solely to those boys? And they had the connection to convince the filling station to sell to them?
- FIX POWER, FIX THE GALLONS
We don’t say enough how absolutely unsafe it is to have fuel stored in gallons, but Nigerians have got too used to living abnormally that almost nothing is unsafe. Gallons filled with petrol are stored in homes, offices, churches and every other place. Every such place with a gallon of fuel is one careless match away from disaster, yet having a gallon of fuel handy is the responsible and proactive thing to do if you want uninterrupted power.
Hence, as long as the power problems in the country continue, fuel stations will continue to have to sell to gallons and, in that case, this kind of hoarding will continue at some level. The NNPC may have busted a location in an open area, but what of many private residences used for such purposes?
- NNPC HAS A ‘WAR ROOM’
As shown on TV stations AIT and NTA, the report begins with a scene showing a PowerPoint slide in the NNPC headquarters which says “War Room”. The term has been used historically to imply a venue for high-level strategic meetings and where sensitive and potentially costly decisions are taken. The nation’s cash cow must definitely have such a room given the centrality of oil to peace and stability in Nigeria but isn’t it a bit much to call it a “War” Room?