Last night, mine was the 50th car in a three-pronged queue for gas at the Total filling station along the Mobolaji Bank Anthony way in Ikeja, Lagos.
Inside the gas station, tempers flared, a few grown ups exchanged fisticuffs and angry words and the petrol station management threatened to stop selling if we all don't behave ourselves.
It was the same last Christmas. And the Christmas before that and the one before that and the one….
The government first called the reappearance of the gas queues this Christmas season “panic buying”.
In other words, all of us were panicking to fill up our kegs and car tanks for fear that we won’t have enough gas to see us through the festive season, hence the queues.
But this “panic buying” has lasted three weeks and the queues are still there and getting longer. Who "panic buys" for a month?
The government has since shifted its stance from panic buying to blaming marketers and tanker drivers alike for hoarding the product.
When I woke up this morning, I read that the petrol queues have now been blamed on the proposed strike by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN).
PENGASSAN is currently holding a meeting to decide whether to shelve the strike action or not.
Some have suggested that the hoarders are having a field day ahead of a proposed price hike announcement by the federal government in the New Year. The government has said it has no plans to increase pump price of the product.
Meanwhile, around Lagos, Abuja and a few other cities across Nigeria, commuters can’t make it to work, the queues are getting longer, gas stations are shuttered and not dispensing the product and miscreants are having a field day selling the product just outside gas stations at the black market.
We’ve been here before time and again. And the more you seek explanations for why this continues to happen—especially at Christmas—the less answers you get.
Why are we so blest?
The wrong Santa
Is it a sin for Nigerians to have a merry Christmas in their own country? Why are there always petrol supply gaps at this time of the year? Which government decides to inflict the maximum hardship on its citizen’s at year’s end?
We can do better.
This scarcity—whether artificial or natural—has everything to do with how warped our minds have become as a government and people. Everyone wants to profit from the other’s hardship. When there’s scarcity, a few make more money at the expense of the majority.
It's stupid economics, but it's what we've become.
Hopefully, the queues disappear in the next couple of days and never return. Nigerians have suffered enough all year from a biting recession and double digit inflation. Inflicting them with scarcity of petrol at a time when they should be convalescing from the trauma of the last couple of years, is most unfair and dehumanising.