Christmas at the petrol station
By Rose Moses
So, last Monday was Christmas. But it wasn’t particularly a good one for most Nigerians.
Reason? Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise known as petrol, took flight during the festive season, thereby subjecting Nigerians to untold hardship. Many actually spent the day at the filling stations across the country, with no hope on when their pains would be over. Things got so bad (and yet to improve in some places) that most Nigerians out rightly cancelled, especially those aspects of the celebration that involved traveling. And while the Federal Government, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and marketers of the product took to blaming one another for the scarcity, some of us were in addition, forced to watch a documentary on the human side of President Muhammadu Buhari, Dec. 24, 2017. It turned out that the human side, from the documentary, whose title didn’t sound human, was just what the top government and party officials among other dignitaries that featured, were telling viewers. But that is not my issue. What would have been good news a day later, precisely on Christmas day, under the very harsh environment citizens are subjected to, left me wondering also what the human side of most Nigerians, and on this occasion, that of petrol station attendants, is like. I had promised that if on my way back from Christmas service the queue at a filing station around my area remained as less frightening as it was on my way to Church, I was going to stop by and give it a shot, more so when I know that queues at that particular station are often organized. God obviously answered my prayer. The queue was still looking good when I got back and in less than 20 minutes, I was already inside the station. I was happy and grateful for the fantastic Christmas gift. I was spared the sufferings and pains fellow country men and women had been going through for days. But one pump attendant would try to spoil all of that. First, he asked how much fuel I needed. I told him to fill the tank, to which he said he could only dispense N3,000 worth of fuel, an order he said was from his bosses. Okay, perhaps they are rationing so everyone could get a bit of the product, I reasoned. But reality soon hit me when I recalled that I had waited longer than necessary for a car directly in front of me to be done with so I could drive to the pump. Reason for that delay, as I recalled, was because the attendant was filing what I figured was not less than four kegs that would take nothing less than 30 litres of the product, each, in the booth of that car. They were still on it when the car by the next pump drove off and I had to drive pass the keg-loaded SUV to get to the next pump. Having pointed this development to the attendant on why it would be unfair to limit me to N3000 worth of the product, he rudely ignored me. Though my tank was just a little less than half full, I now demanded that he either fill it up, or call his manager. To my surprise and even as smooth business was going on with those buying in kegs, someone I suspected to be a supervisor that I drew his attention to the issue, merely feigned helplessness. A manager on duty seated in an office, with his two legs crossed on top a table that I later approached, also acted more strangely. Apparently, he had been told of the development outside with me and he quickly responded as soon as he saw me that: “Ehhhhn, Madam, it is all about manner of approach.” What manner of approach is that, and are people now buying fuel in this station with manner of approach? I asked. I also told him that I decided to exhaust all available avenues before calling the DPR, if he did not instruct ‘his boy’ to fill my tank. I requested to also know if he saw any top government functionary under the ‘scorching harmattan sun’ queuing and sleeping at his station to buy fuel. If not, why will ordinary folks be conspiring to make life a nightmare for those of their ilk in addition to government’s painful policies, I asked him. Long story cut short, that was how I got my tank filled at the cost of N143/liter (NNPC stations’ price) on Christmas Day. Call it a Christmas gift, if you like, but the point is that the whole idea of N3,000 rations was mere window for bribery and corruption eating deep into the fabric of this country. It was merely also to hoard the product, which will later find its way into the black market for as high as N300 per litre. You too can resist such act. Yes, it was not being perpetrated at high places but why is Nigeria suffering fuel scarcity? So many people, from top to bottom, are so inhuman in this country that we really need to search for their human side.