For The Love of Greed

“There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed”.

The revered Mahatma Gandhi through this quote addressed one of the seven deadly sins shamed by the Bible. If God dislikes greed, then he should reserve a special sector in hell for Nigerians living on greed. In an essay, Ayo Sogunro asserted that “everything in Nigeria will kill you”. He is right! The greed in Nigeria, alone, is already killing multitudes. When swindled, anger is needless, as the con is nothing personal—just plain greed.

As Nigerians continue to struggle in the throes of Project-145, they are once more reminded that every naira counts (forget the kobo). Austerity measures dictate that expenses are carefully planned. The money to be spent must come from somewhere. This is why we become our enemies, especially, for those who sell goods and services. The following paragraphs use a few examples to show how greed inspires Nigerians to defraud Nigerians.

The Boosted Pump Price. Forget about the “official” price of petrol and kerosene. Before the start of Project-145, when the official price of petrol was pegged at ₦86.50, NNPC petrol stations were the only stations where the official price was guaranteed. Nationwide, most petrol stations sold in excess of the listed price, regardless of whether the concerned marketer got forex at the CBN rate or the parallel rate. It became so bad that some fuel marketers resorted to hoarding products, generating a pseudo-scarcity. Then, they clandestinely sold to black market dealers who became official sources for many Nigerians. To worsen matters, the boosted prices came after filing subsidy claims with the government. Essentially, they were assured certain sums to sell at a certain price, but they still sold beyond the recommended price, thereby making indecent double profits. Talk about a profitable venture powered by greed.

The Fraudulent Pump. One would have expected petrol marketers to be satisfied with their boosted prices. This is unfortunately not the case. Without official statistics, one can roughly guess that at least half of Nigeria’s petrol stations use modified pumps to sell to Nigerians. Thanks to this 419 practice, for every litre a Nigerian is forced to overpay for (including “settling” the attendant and queue organizer), he or she gets less than a litre. Motorists who hitherto knew the capacity of their tanks, have suddenly realized that their tanks expand at certain petrol stations. At those stations, a vehicle tank rated at 40 litres may swell enough to guzzle 50 litres. These greedy tanks only seem to retain their official sizes at NNPC stations and a few other petrol stations. This widespread fraud coexists with DPR officials who turn a blind eye. Periodically, the media carries reports of one or two petrol station sanctioned for using tweaked pumps. These “unlucky” stations either did not play ball with the DPR or were scapegoats for their greedy colleagues, serving to deceive Nigerians that greed is being prosecuted.

The Boosted Transport Fares. Greed is a form of energy that can be transferred from one person to another through different forms. After transporters have been swindled by the petrol stations, they seek ways to recoup their monies with interest. What other way exists than to increase fares? Ordinarily, one would have no grouse with fare increment considering the petrol price increase. However, the drivers most times rig the game to exploit peripatetic Nigerians. Fuel officially moves from ₦86.50 to ₦145, and next thing, a driver doubles the fare. If one sits down to examine the driver’s running cost and revenue, a massive leap in profits becomes glaring. Who said fares must double? Why can’t fares move from say ₦50 to ₦60 or ₦70? The drivers may argue that the “round figure” avoids change issues, but this defence is simply a way to cover up greed.

The Boosted Market Prices. Greed continues its transfer down the chain. Since transport costs affect everything, increase in transport fares trigger increases in the market. Taking a clue from the drivers, the increase in market prices is rigged to result in improved profit margins for traders. Even producers increase prices while reducing quantity and quality. Since nobody wants to lose, it is the ordinary Nigerian who pays for the greed of his fellow citizens. Before you pity this Nigerian, know that the odds are high that this person would jump at any opportunity to game the system. It’s greed all the way.

What has been described is a simplified view of the greed underlying the Nigerian society. Although this article focused on the petroleum influence, there exists several other routes through which Nigerians game other Nigerians. We may blame the government all we want. Howbeit, no matter the amount of “punishment” benevolently bestowed by the government on the masses, we are our own greatest enemy, worsening matters for ourselves.

This “me and myself” notion, boosted by a desire not to “fall mugu” has made us willing to exploit ourselves. Instead of seeking ways to better ourselves as a community, the focus is on how to squeeze more naira notes out of the next person. It’s crazy! It’s greed, and it’s killing Nigeria.

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