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April 13

April 13 EDITORIAL PAGE 45 NEW Nigeria, the nature of the new war By Timawus Mathias Nigeria has always had it bad, but never this…

April 13

EDITORIAL PAGE 45 NEW

Nigeria, the nature of the new war

By Timawus Mathias

Nigeria has always had it bad, but never this bad. In the past, every shortage was addressed by some kind of intervention. Government responded to shortages by funding immediate supplies – rice, milk, sugar, cement, fertilizer and all these became grouped under one budget title – essential commodities. Today, Nigeria is challenged by its worst scarcity of petrol, foreign exchange, and these are capped by a most debilitating electricity outage. The public is going through untold suffering. In every city, motorists sleep nights at mega stations. Black markets are making a field day selling petrol at N500 per liter, a 600% hike. Naturally, this has affected transportation charges. There has been a correlative hike in commodity prices in the markets. It cannot be missed. It is hard to afford a living. There is suffering in the land. This time, unlike in the past, Government has obviously refused to respond through ad hoc interventional palliatives as has been the practice in the past. Stoic President Muhammadu Buhari would rather have a systemic change.

Nigeria is turning a dangerous curve in political transition ever since President Muhammadu Buhari (APC) replaced Goodluck Jonathan (PDP) in an election in which the people overwhelmingly voted for change – a change craved for.

To some Nigerians, the suffering in search of petrol is the limit of humiliation and the epitome of governmental failure. President Buhari who was worshipped as a hero was suddenly being lampooned more loudly by “wailers”, an acronym that anti Buhari and mostly pro Jonathan social media loud mouths have earned. Did anybody hear the explanation put up by Minister of State Petroleum and Group Managing Director Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Dr. Ibe Kachikwu? He had stressed that “…fuel queue, don’t make any mistake about it…, is the single most difficult item, which if not solved can bring down the polity and can create a mayhem here, so it is something that we have focused on”. Nigerians are on edge and are unable to appreciate that Kachikwu has done his best that is damn good and deserving of applause. In a publicized video, he thundered all efforts that have failed to bring national succour.

The Government had found itself in August last year, owing close to N600bn in subsidy payments for which oil majors and independent marketers drastically cut down on importation. By the time they were paid, a new foreign exchange regime had been put in place disabling marketers from getting access to foreign exchange. With refineries incapacitated, NNPC had to sell its share of crude to also import, using the foreign exchange from sales! This could only account for 50% of supplies. In the last 5 months, NNPC had become almost the sole importer of the commodity, the private sector, still in doldrums about accessing it’s needed foreign exchange.

Noted Kachikwu, “That was not sustainable, we didn’t have the capacity, we didn’t have the funding, we didn’t have access to the products, we didn’t have the foreign exchange.”

A second major factor was pipeline sabotage and outright vandalism in reaction to political changes and of course the refusal of the Buhari Regime to continue with the cumbersome pipeline protection contracts that by themselves were also unsustainable. The effort to refine Nigerian crude for local sales was thus disabled.

But for the biting scarcity of fuel, Nigerians would have applauded Kachikwu when he boasted justifiably that “…for the first time in over 8 years, we’ve been able to capture back system 2B all the way to Ilorin. For the first time in over 6 years, we were able to pump crude from Escravos into Warri and we were able to pump oil from Brass into Port Harcourt. And we were able to pump from Warri right into Kaduna…This is the first time in over 10 years we’ve been able to accomplish this”.

Understandably, Nigerians do not want explanations, excuses and particularly blames any more. What they desire is action of whatever kind that brings immediate succour. Herein lies the dilemma. Does Government ease up on foreign exchange only to pander to the insatiable appetites of foreign exchange scammers? Does Government succumb to the blackmail of subsidy scammers to restore the unwholesome intervention through which the nation borrowed the future’s comfort and burnt it? Sadly it is impossible to make sense in the ongoing suffering and the cacophony of cheerers and jeerers. There is a clear divide between Buharites and the Jonathanians, nay, those who recognize our faulty past and want recovery of the nation to a new order where peace and justice reign like it says in the National Anthem, versus those who are fighting willy-nilly to maintain the status quo foreign exchange manipulation, subsidy scamming, commodity hoarding, smuggling and peddling of political patronage, legislative and judicial manipulation, all to ensure regime crippling and sustenance of the status quo. No one gives a hoot that common folk are suffering and perishing.

It is a war, even worse than that against the Boko Haram insurgents which has just been significantly won. Worse because insurgents could only corner a portion of Nigeria, whereas this war is evidently against a system whose crippling cover is nationwide. The enemies have got the people in the worst chokehold and will not let go unless the system is ordered to favour their cravings. Blackmailers of Government in hope to maintain illegal and unconstitutional patronage in which based on primordial grounds, leeches embedded themselves beneath our skins and sucked the economy dry. Nigerians need understand this and patiently give support to the reforms the Government is undertaking in the interest of the common folk.

This is not a PDP/APC conflict. It is a conflict between order and disorder, justice and injustice, patronage and equality, the same forces that brought down President Goodluck Jonathan are at work to bring this regime down. President Muhammadu Buhari needs to address this reality with an even deeper commitment to total overhaul in the interest of the nation and its common folk.

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