As the economic situation drives deep welts into the flesh of Nigerians, there is a growing air of melancholy and despair as the Federal Government appears lost for options to bring succour to the people in the near future.
The economy is biting hardest in the areas that impinge directly on the people’s material and social wellbeing, with steep drops in the supply of electricity and petroleum products, thus threatening the resilience and ability of Nigerians to survive. Both sectors are undergoing some of the worst and most prolonged stretches of scarcity.
For instance, in March 2016, power supply dropped to unprecedented low levels between 1,580 megawatts and 2,841 megawatts just before the Easter holidays, barely hours after President Muhammadu Buhari had promised to add 2,000 more megawatts into the national grid by the end of this year while aiming to top off to 10,000 megawatts by 2019.
Most parts of the country have endured lack of power supply in the past three months, and yet the Federal Government supported plans by the electricity distribution companies to jerk up prices in spite of poor services; an action that brought Labour and civil society groups to the streets in protest about two weeks ago.
Usually, when power supply gets nasty, most citizens turn to their generating sets for comfort, which means sinking a large portion of their income on petroleum products, such as petrol and diesel. The situation was compounded, however, by the scarcity of petroleum products, which has also held sway on and off for over four months.
The fuel scarcity is blamed chiefly on the inability of independent marketers to raise foreign exchange to import fuel due to the strict policies of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to protect the Naira and the nation’s foreign reserves.
The careless talk of the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr Ibe Kachikwu, that he did not have a magic wand to restore full supply within the immediate future, sparked angry calls for his resignation.
The fact that the Ministries of Petroleum Resources and Power are manned by President Buhari/Kachikwu and Babatunde Fashola, who operate at the highest level of executive function of the Federal Government makes this bout of petroleum and power scarcity seem beyond the capacity of the Federal Government to grapple with.
We demand that the Buhari government does something to alleviate the plight of Nigerians. It must come up with solutions as soon as possible. This is the time to translate the “change” that the people voted for from negative to positive change.
Nigerians need immediate relief, not apologies or flippant talk from those in leadership.