Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Steeped in uncertainties

WITH all the vaulting ambitions of our governments to make Nigeria a great nation, they overlooked the uncertainties that rule the land. They have either not recognised them or given up on doing anything about them.

One day, we wake up in Lagos and queues for fuel block the streets. Mercifully, the explanation is that truck drivers are on strike. There is fuel, but no trucks to lift them. This situation is not new, the current incident will not be the last.

A nation that lays ambitious claims to greatness cannot guarantee supply of critical products like fuel to its users on a regular basis. It thinks that truck drivers embarking on a strike is an acceptable excuse to shut the country down.

For years, truck drivers have become a law to themselves, what did the government do about it? Like other Nigerians, who are looking up to the authorities to act, government officials just bemoan the situation.

It is, to say the least, sad. No country can thrive on waving uncertainties around vital products and services. Nigerian authorities seem not to bother.

The streets are jammed with workers, who cannot get to their destinations. Factories that depend on self-generated power (public power supply is a myth) are halting while travels for business or pleasure are suspended.

At times like this, government's concerns for this country are in doubt. Why should we have the same problems for years without solutions in sight?

The monopoly of truck drivers in the distribution of petroleum products has created a powerful cartel that places itself above laws whether they are for its own safety or for others’ well being.
At the least insistence that they obey laws, truck drivers strike, fully aware that as fuel scarcity looms, the public would ask the authorities to let the truck drivers have their way.

We do not support Lagos traffic officials harassing the truck drivers, or anyone else, for money. It is, however, important that truck drivers obey municipal laws on public safety, these including their restrictions to certain parts of the city, parking and speed limits.

On their part, the authorities must explore other methods of transporting petroleum products to all parts of the country. Are the pipelines, built at great expense, finally abandoned? The rails used to be the mode of transporting these products. The rails are dead.

Products that are critical to the workings of the country cannot be left in the hands of truck drivers, who have perfected holding the country to ransom. Moreover, it makes no sense that all the petroleum products we used are imported through a single port, Lagos.

The latest strike hints again at the fragility of the petroleum products distribution system we have used for decades. It is not working and cannot work for as long as it has become a veritable blackmail instrument for truck drivers, who relish the relevance systemic inefficiency has carved for them. Only a decisive reversal of their importance can stop this.