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FACT CHECK: Has Nigeria witnessed only one major fuel scarcity under Buhari as claimed by Femi Adesina?

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CLAIM:

The Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, claimed in an interview with Channels Television that Nigeria has only witnessed one major fuel scarcity under the current administration.

VERDICT: False.

FULL TEXT

The recent scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), which began early in the month was reportedly caused by the importation of adulterated fuel by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) into the country. The fuel reportedly damaged vehicles, prompting the NNPC to recall the fuel from marketers. This development resulted in massive queues in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Niger, Nasarawa, and many other states.

Ripples Nigeria reported that the federal government was aware of the situation, and pleaded with Nigerians for calm.

“It is not a time to trade blame as is cstomary in Nigeria. It is, therefore, not time to query anyone, but a time to come together to salvage the plight of the average Nigerian.

“After the storm settles, there will be time enough to investigate and get to the bottom, so that this does not repeat itself,” the Minister of state for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva was quoted to have said.

Meanwhile, Femi Adesina while speaking on Sunrise Daily of Channels Television, on February 22, 2022, argued that the Buhari-led administration had not presided over more than one major scarcity.

Adesina was responding to a question posed by one of the anchors, on the latest issue of fuel scarcity, which was felt almost nation-wide.

His words: “Each time this issue of the fuel scarcity comes up, there is also a word that comes to my mind; that word is called SNAFU, and it’s an acronym for Situation Normal All Fouled Up.

“What happened is a SNAFU in the petrol supply chain in the country,” he said. “In the life of this administration which will be seven years in May, it is only one major fuel scarcity we have had.”

VERIFICATION

It was not explicit whether Mr. Adesina was referring to this year’s fuel crisis as the only major one or a previous one before this. Regardless, the SA is saying that there have not been more than two major scarcities in the country. ‘Major’ in this context is defined by the magnitude of scarcity of the latest one.

Ripples Nigeria conducted a check on the claim, perusing old media reports from 2015 when Buahri was sworn in as President, till date. Findings show that Nigerians have endured at least four major fuel scarcities, some more severe than the latest one, under this administration. There were also other pockets of fuel crises at different intervals in one or two states.

MARCH – APRIL, 2016

Barely a year into the Buhari/APC administration, after Nigerians had bought its gospel of change in 2015, the country was thrown into a major fuel crisis that shook a number of states and major cities across the country.

Media reports show that the scarcity was more pronounced in Lagos, Abuja, Sokoto, Kano, Rivers, Katsina, Kwara, and Delta states. Filling stations were sardined with frustrated Nigerians on long queues struggling for limited supply of PMS.

President Buhari, in his first term was also the Minister of Petroleum Resources, while Ibe Kachikwu was the Minister of state for Petroleum Resources. The official pump price at the time was N86 but the shortage in fuel supply by the NNPC at that period led to a hike in price. PUNCH reported that fuel sold as high as N400 in Lagos, and between N120 – N200 in other states. The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) argued that the scarcity may have been aggravated by limited forex available to private investors to import fuel into the country.

The President of NUPENG, Igwe Achese, urged the Federal Government to assist the marketers through the Central Bank of Nigeria to procure foreign exchange to import petroleum products in order to cushion the biting effects of fuel scarcity.

After the scarcity had lingered for over a week, an impatient National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) threatened a nation-wide strike. The association argued that students, especially of secondary and tertiary education institutions, were mostly affected by the scarcity.

The Deputy Coordinator of NANS in the South West, Mr. Saheed Afolabi who addressed pressmen on April 1, 2016, at the peak of the scarcity, said: “The President, who is also the minister of petroleum, has failed us. He has failed us because this is not what Nigerians deserve from this government. We are tired of excuses, they should make things work. There is no electricity supply, no petrol, how do they expect us to survive. Students are the worst hit and we cannot continue living this way.

“Students all over the country will occupy streets across the country starting next week if there is no solution. We cannot continue to live this kind of life. They should stop taking us for fools, we will tackle them.”

In Lagos, parents of secondary school students pleaded with the Lagos state government to postpone resumption for the 2015/2016 Academic Session from April 11, 2016 until the queues in filling stations subsided.

President Buhari seemed to still be having his honeymoon, as most of the agitations were not directed at him, despite decorating himself as the Minister of Petroleum. The Minister of state for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu was the one who took the fall for the administration. Even members of the All Progressive Congress (APC) did not spare him; governors of both the ruling party and opposition all pointed accusing fingers at him rather than Buhari; while the Senate summoned him to explain the reason for the “embarrassing situation”.

December, 2017

Yuletide in Nigeria is usually accompanied by fuel scarcity, a situation that is almost as old as the country’s independence. However, many Nigerians assumed that the annual ritual of spending hours at filling stations days before Christmas, had been washed away by the salvation of Buhari’s ‘Change’, but there was a disillusionment in December, 2017, with a return of chronic fuel scarcity across the country.

Read also: FACT CHECK: Did the federal govt declare DNA tests free in general hospitals?

It was a period people engaged in inter-state travelling, and Nigerians faced hell accessing public transportation. Apart from the hike in transportation fares, there were rumbles in bus stops, especially in Lagos, Abuja, and Ibadan. Other cities that were severely hit according to media reports included Lafia, Owerri, Port Harcourt, and Akure. The media reported about a 25% increase in prices of commodities as a result of the scarcity, while the National Bureau of Statistics stated that there was a rise in the average cost of transportation by 23.99 per cent in December.

Even though the price had been increased the previous year from N86 to N145, marketers were still desirous of further increase in pump price. When the scarcity struck again due to another shortage in supply, filling stations resorted to hoarding, subjecting Nigerians to long hours on queues, while fuel sold at the range of N250 – N600 in black markets.

It got so bad that the then governor of Ekiti state, Ayodele Fayose reportedly sold petrol from the government house to his people. The scarcity, which was more severe than this year’s, was described by the PDP as “unbearable”. According to media reports, major cities that were most hit included Lagos, Owerri, Abuja, Ibadan, Kaduna, and Katsina. Others are Jos, Lafia, Port Harcourt, Owerri, Enugu, Abeokuta, and Niger state.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo acknowledged the anguish endured by Nigerians at the time. He visited two filling stations in Lagos, assuring commuters that the government was “working assiduously to eliminate this pain in the shortest possible time”

He later posted the following on Twitter: “This is something that President Buhari is deeply concerned about, mandating all relevant persons to bring an end to the fuel queues. I witnessed first-hand the discomfort that many of us have to contend with.

“We sympathise with you and are working assiduously to eliminate this pain in the shortest possible time. We regret this inconvenience while assuring that all hands are on deck to return things to normalcy.”

President Buhari also acknowledged the severity of the situation in his reaction on his official Twitter handle (@MBuhari). “The fuel scarcity being experienced nationwide is regrettable. I sympathise with all Nigerians on having to endure needless fuel queues.

“I am being regularly briefed, especially on the NNPC’s interventions to ensure that there is enough petrol available during this period and beyond.” He posted.

The scarcity which started around December 18, 2017 lingered until the following year. The then Group Managing Director of NNPC, Dr Maikanti Baru, announced that the scarcity was over on January 9, 2018. He expressed hope that “this type of thing never happens in the future.”

APRIL, 2019 – SOUTHWEST

After the 2017 assurance from the federal government that the storm of incessant fuel scarcity was over for Nigerians, the country only witnessed pockets of scarcities in one or two states, which never lasted for more than three days. However, another scarcity knocked the Southwest region, and a few states in the North, in 2019.

Media reports show that the scarcity lasted more than a week in Lagos, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Kwara states. Residents in Kebbi and Sokoto states also faced long queues in filling stations in the same period.

The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria claimed its members could not get petrol from depots, accusing the usual culprit – ‘shortage of supply’.

Media reports further show that many filling stations in the region resorted to hoarding, while commuters were forced to patronize sellers in black markets.

The DPR reportedly sealed 14 filling stations in Sokoto and Kebbi states, while Governors Kayode Fayemi and Rotimi Akeredolu of Ekiti and Ondo states, respectively, issued threats to filling stations against hoarding.

“Hoarding of petroleum products is an act of economic sabotage, which creates unnecessary hardship for the people and cripples businesses. Any filling station caught hoarding fuel will receive heavy sanction,” Fayemi threatened through his Chief Press, Yinka Oyebode.

The fuel scarcity in the aforementioned periods were more severe than this year’s. Therefore, Femi Adesina was wrong by saying there have not been more than one major fuel crisis under this administration.

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