The queues stretch from fuel stations and intrude into roads and engagements, savagely disrupting calendars and timelines with chilling nonchalan ce while drawing curses and piling frustration.

With the cost of transportation skyrocketing and dragging up with it the expenses and anxieties of every day Nigerians, it appears Nigeria is well in another season of chaos where the best laid plans of men and mice go through the window.

In Abuja, Nigeria`s capital city, motorists spend hours in queues. When they emerge as wearily as they can be, they are wary of passengers who show even the slightest predilections to argue about the hiked transport fares. The response is often abrupt and padded with irritability.

Then just by the stations where frustrated Nigerians queue up for fuel, there are those who peddle the priceless commodity in gallons and sell at exorbitant prices. Those pressed for time and patience are sometimes left with no option but to patronize them and part with huge sums of money. When they leave, they pat themselves on the backs for another see-saw duel successfully navigated.

The explanations for the queues which are turning the country upside down go in all directions. The NNPC which is the state-run oil company has already begged Nigerians for forgiveness while stating that it has ramped up activities in its depots around the country to enable distribution to match demand.

The NNPC has also said it has huge reserves of clean fuel to distribute even as it put the queues down to the withdrawal of methanol-blended adulterated premium motor spirit (PMS) recently imported into the country.

It also said it had rejected additional five vessels of premium motor spirit from the same company even as it had begun litigation against all those involved in importing adulterated fuel into the country.

At an investigative hearing on the importation of adulterated Premium Motor Spirit (PMS)which held at the instance of the House of Representatives` Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream) in Abuja, the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Limited, Mr. Mele Kyari had more startling revelations to make. He said: “Why do we have this challenge? First of all, we import all the gasoline we use in this country; every petroleum product we use in this country is not locally processed except a few quantities, some of them I can also share with you are coming from sources that may not be legitimate. Not a single litre of PMS is generated in the country, that means 100 per cent of PMS you see in this country is imported. Those imports are done on the basis of existing contractual arrangements….”

The problem which continues to plague a country of over two hundred million citizens and unsettle nerves around what is it greatest natural endowment and by far one of nature`s most precious commodities is clear from the words of Mr. Mele Kyari.

The dark irony is that Africa`s largest oil producer has since oil was first discovered in Oloibiri, Bayelsa in 1956 failed to put in place the structures that would see it maximise the boundless potential inherent in the possession of its most precious gifts and one of nature`s premier gifts.

Wherever one looks in Nigeria, it would appear that oil which has catapulted some otherwise backwater countries up the ladder of global wealth has rather been a problem here.

There is a problem with refining oil in Nigeria because as the NNPC GMD noted even if all of Nigeria`s refineries which now lie moribund are to become active overnight, they would only be able to make 18 million litres of gasoline which would still fall short of the national demand. It is why the Dangote Refinery which is currently under construction offers so much hope.

The NNPC GMD also alluded to smuggling and the fact that the absence of tracking mechanisms enable fuel trucks to disappear without a trace. Where they end up is anyone`s guess.

The fact is and remains that the Giant of Africa has failed to put in place the structures that would protect its premier resource from the depredations of the vultures for whom everything is about personal gain and little else. This problem persists because the environment is conducive to it.

Rampant corruption clouds accounts and occludes the processes that contribute to transparency. So, for many people, Nigeria has become a free-for-all business of plunder. This mentality is having an extremely adverse effect on Nigeria`s poorest.

It is not for nothing that many Nigerians are frustrated. People in the Niger-Delta look around and see the damage oil exploration has wrought in their communities while people outside the region see water all around them but only precious little to drink.

While the queues line up from Abuja to Alausa, Nigerians are forced to ponder whether oil is a curse or a cure for the country`s many wounds.

Kene Obiezu,

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