Fuel & New Naira scarcity: Season of Agony and teeth gnashing in Nigeria (2023)

Fuel and New currency scarcity in Nigeria: season of anomies and teeth gnashing

By Gbenga Olowoyo

The current development in our public life in Nigeria is becoming alarming because of the two factors out of many others that determine the survival of human existence: money and fuel.

The scarcity of the new Nigerian currency and fuel otherwise known as premium motor spirit (PMS) have brought new and traumatizing dimensions to the ways of life of Nigerans.

Fuel & New Naira scarcity: Season of Agony and teeth gnashing in Nigeria (1)

In the words of Nmanti Umoh ” A nation is not defined by its borders or the boundaries of its land mass Rather, a nation is defined by adverse people who have been unified by a cause and a value system and who are committed to a vision for the type of society they wish to live in and give to the future generations to come.

The scaring developments are enough to spark up agitations and questions that; are we actually a sovereign state? A State that can develop its own policy guide, a state that can cater for her own citizens, a state that can decides her own comparative advantage; economically, socially , politically and even the best security policies that can guarantee Peace , provide adequately for all strata of her citizens and protect its Territory?

Honestly, the aforementioned two events have triggered so many questions about Nigeria as a country and sincerity of her leaders over the years whether they actually possess the requisite required to lead or they are politically blinded like the words of the former President Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who said that leaders are often blindfolded whenever they get to position.

Let us look at the the duo problems confronting Nigerians both from historical perspective and ex-ray the damaging effects on our social , security and economic lives.

Fuel scarcity and high cost of the commodity

The history of petrol scarcity brouhaha in Nigeria in past years has continue to be a precursor to the increased in pump price , subsidy removal and blame game theory that often lead to government at different period and time pointing accusing fingers to opposition on one hand or accusing key players in the oil sector as betrayers on the other.

For the past four months beginning from last quarter of the year 2022 to the present day January/ February 2023, the fuel scarcity palaver have subjected Nigerians to psychologically and socially distressed species searching for the fuel endlessly.

The cycle of fuel scarcity, started rearing its ugly head in Nigeria during military era, beginning from the regime of General Yakubu Gowon 1966-1975 when he increased the fuel pump price from 6kobo to 8.45kobo followed by General Muritala Mohammed 1975-1976 from 8.45k to 9k

Also, General Olusegun Obasanjo 1976-1979 from 9k-15.3kobo. Alhaji Sheu Shagari 1979-1983 increased fuel price by 30% from 15.3k to 15.3k to 20k.

In the same vein, General Ibrahim Babangida 1985-1993 increased the prices differently from 20k-70k, Earnest Shonekan1993 from 70k to N5.

General Sanni Abacha 1993-1998 witnessed unprecedented fuel scarcity increased fuel price from from N5 to N25 to N15 later to N11.

In addition, General Abdulsalam Abubakar 1998-1999 increased the fuel pump price from N11 to N25 later reduced the price to N20, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo 1999-2007 as a civilian President increased the fuel pump price severally from N20 to N75, President Yardua 2007-2010 reduced the price from N75- N65 , President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan 2010-2015 from N65 to N141 and Lazer reduced the price to N87.

The current President of Nigeria , General Mohammodu Buhari from 2015 till date increased the pump price from N87 to N143 and from N143 to N184 but later denied through official statement from his spokesperson but in Nigeria today amid distressing and bondage like fuel scarcity the unofficial prices range between N300 to N500 depending on where you reside in Nigeria the price of the commodity is no more uniform while black market now strive all over the country even in Federal capital territory, Abuja where ten litres go for N5000 or more depending on location of the purchase.

It is becoming a monster, to all Nigerians why government still find it difficult to put our refineries in good shape, New generation of Nigerans are asking the question that why are our leaders more comfortable importing fuel than refining the products in Nigeria.

Why is it convenient for a private individual – Aliko Dangote to build refinery than Federal Republic of Nigeria?

The initiative of Aliko Dangote is commendable, because Dangote refinery can refine 650,000 barrels daily and output of 2.5 million million of barrels.

The Dangote refinery will save Nigeria $ 22 billion annual import substitution, create over 150,000 jobs crash prices of Petroleum products.

It is nauseating to note that among the depots operators in Nigeria the following ratios are accounted for in the following order: independent marketers 83, major marketers 24 while NNPC 22 respectively, this is an indication that there is total collapse in the management capacity of our leader due to their compromising and betrayer’s stand on national assets.

Can we imagine that the turn around of our existing government refineries and other petro-chemical assets remain untouchable and unserviceable

In a twist of event and to show serious concern, President Buhari has set up 14 member committee to track down fuel scarcity In Nigeria , let us see how far the committee will perform in arresting this economic sabotage and image battering development to the fabric of the political and economic life of the country.

How can Nigerians spent fruitless 15hours to queue for fuel and still unable to get the commodity; happened everywhere across the country, l was a victim at a popular petrol station in Ado Ekiti .

Honestly speaking, this country can not grow beyond this level economically, socially and politically if government should continue to dance around phenomenal problem of fuel scarcity without tracking the problem frontally. Does subsidy exist?

President Mohammodu Buhari can not pretend not to know much about politics involved in : fuel scarcity, refineries , Oil blocks , Nigeria crude oil exploration and the intricacies because of his involvement in this sector for over five decades (50 years) and still a substantive Minister of Petroleum in Nigeria today even as a President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Our Leaders should stop all the self serving and deceitful posture and solve the fuel scarcity scourge once, so as to make life bearable for hapless and patriotic Nigerians.

New Naira re-designing and twist in currency scarcity

The currency redesigning in Nigeria is not novel because since 100 years ago Nigeria Naira has witnessed various transformation with its attendant hardship and suffering by Nigerians from all strata.

On 23rd November, 2022 the apex bank in Nigeria made formal presentation of new N200, N500 and N1000 notes, the unveiling was done during Federal executive council meeting (FEC) in the presence of CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, , Chairman EFCC Abdulrasheed Bawa and the Minister of State for National planning and Budget Clem Agba and other important dignitaries in the sector; this is to attest to the seriousness the Federal Government attached to the Naira re-designing.

Historically, CBN was established in 1958 and in July 1st 1959 apex bank issued Nigerian currency banknotes, thereafter, banknotes coins issued by WACB were withdrawn. Whereas, on 1st July 1962 in order to reflect Nigeria status as a Republic, the inscription at the top of the bank notes was changed from federation of Nigeria to Federal Republic of Nigeria.

It is on the strength of the above transformation that led to another change in 1968 following the misuse of currency banknotes during the unfortunate civil war that bedeviled the country.

It is equally of historical relevance to state that Nigeria abandoned the metric and adopt the decimal currency; Naira was coined by the Federal commissioner of finance as at that time Chief Obafemi Awolowo in January 1973, this was launched by Minister of finance Alhaji Sheu Shagari.

In February 1977 a new N20 banknote was issued on the first anniversary of the former Head of State late General Muritala Mohammed, it was the highest denomination then, when Nigeria Naira will first bear the portrait of a prominent Nigerian citizen.

Thereafter, new currency banknotes were again introduced on July 2nd, 1979 the notes had the engraving showing the cultural aspects of Nigeria; sequentially and respectively had the images of eminent Nigerians.

To fast forward, our currency was changed in April 1984, in 1991 50k and N1 banknotes were transformed to coins, in 1999 December, November 2000, April 2001and October 2005: N100, N200, N500 and N1000 were launched respectively by President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Also, in February 28th, 2007, September 30th,2009 and December 19th ,2014 the banknotes undergone many changes until the recent Naira re-designing which was launched in November 23rd,2022

Nigerians must appreciate the efforts of the CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele for taking bold steps towards arresting the worthlessness of Nigeria currency and must not be crucified.

Can Nigerians imagine that in 2015, N1.4 trillion was in circulation, and by year 2022 it had risen to N3.33 trillion , these huge money were in individual home while CBN was not in control of money in circulation. We will all recall that , one time Accountant General of the Federation embezzled N109 Billion Naira.

In the words of CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele while appearing before House of Representatives ad-hoc committee on Naira re-designing this week he said “Banks will continue to accept the old naira notes even after the deadline for swapping with the newly-designed currency notes. This is a potent relief to all strata of Nigerans

According to Godwin Emefiele ” subject to Section 20, Subsection 3 of the CBN Act 2007 and even after the old currencies have lost legal tender status, the CBN will continue to accept the old notes.

Emefiele appealed to lawmakers to make the policy work because CBN’s actions were in line with international best practices and the apex bank has to be in control of the currency in circulation, going by his submission, Nigerians must commend the CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele for his patriotism and open mindedness towards this policy.

“He explained that the reason for directing banks to ensure only ATM withdrawals was to limit the daily withdrawal of individuals.”

“The CBN boss decried the trend of the new notes being sighted at parties and stated he was in meetings with commercial banks to mitigate it.”

Flowing from the above, I want to personally commend the House of Representatives for setting up an ad-hoc committee to resolve the difficulties between the CBN and commercial banks, despite the insistence of Emefiele that many of the banks were hoarding the notes.

I want to make my submissions as follows in order to mitigate the hardship Nigerians are facing on the scarcity of New Naira notes as afore suggested for fuel scarcity:

The good reason behind the Naira re-designing can not be controverted but the implementation of the Policy is flawed ranging from; uncooperative attitudes of commercial Banks, the unhappiness on the part of the Nigerian elites which President accused if sabotaging the good intention of government , gang up by politicians and bad attitude of key players in the monetary policy.

In my candid opinion, it is high time the CBN should do the needful by sanctioning any erring commercial Banks found culpable sabotaging the good intention of CBN. Transfer charges are now debited from both senders and recipients by commercial Banks. This is exploitative.

CBN, should with, February 10th, 2023 as deadline, embark on rigorous cash swapping approach with both city, urban and rural dwellers so as to make this New Naira notes available for business transactions with artisans and small scale business operators.

If the various reports across the country is anything to go by , the suffering of Nigerans in order to get New Naira notes is intriguing and saddening, for instance POS operators charge N100 on N1,000 both on old and new notes and multiply by thousands of Naira you want to withdraw, at the banking hall , commercial Banks are only accepting deposit while they ration cash withdrawal and in some cases no withdrawal due to scarcity of New Naira notes.

These abysmal shortcomings on the part of our leaders can not continue, because it may lead to social unrest, Nigerians have been traumatized beyond endurance.

No fuel, no New Naira notes, Nigerians have to queue endlessly for fuel, for New Naira notes at Banking hall and ATM Galleries, you have to queue for NIN, queue for JAMB forms, queue for food and everything in Nigeria, as if , we are not organized.

We must arrest leadership inadequacies.

The time is now!!!

Comrade Gbenga Olowoyo , fcia fipma JP, a Trade Unionist and industrial relations practitioner gbengaolowoyo3@gmail.com

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