Security In Nigeria: A Socio-Political Harmattan
The Harmattan is a dry and dusty West African trade wind. It blows south from the Sahara into the Gulf of Guinea between the end of November and the middle of March.
In some countries in West Africa, the heavy amount of dust in the air severely limits visibility and blocks the sun for several days, comparable to a heavy fog. The effect caused by the dust and sand stirred by these winds is known as the Harmattan haze.
The interaction of the Harmattan with monsoon winds can cause tornadoes. Humidity drops to as low as 15 percent and can result in spontaneous nosebleeds for some.
Nigerian folk wisdom claims that men and animals become increasingly irritable when this wind has been blowing persistently. In Nigeria it is Apollo, an eye infection caused by the dust.
In the present socio-political and economic climate, in few lines I have chosen to ask, is it not safe to conclude that beyond the November-March timeline we are already victims of a self-induced harmattan, is there any form of change or we are temporarily sentenced to the current “fresh air”?
Can it get worse, will it get better, the horizon is bleak but those that are saddled with our weather report say there is no alarm for cause.
Nigerians are living on the edge, the harsh realities are almost worse than the harmattan wind.
The harmattan weather is leaving our education system covered in dust, with billions of Naira in capital flight going to Ghanaian schools.
There is no difference between a PhD sitting president as the tug-of-war with ASUU continues and Nigerians are blinded from education by the dust of mediocrity. Many Nigerians have to be content with “I pass my neighbour” private schools.
In this harmattan climate, not only do our leaders treat themselves of migraine caused by thinking of the next fraud and stomach aches from eating our money, now it is also fashionable for them to die there.
In Bayelsa, Mr. President’s home state, the whole PDP primaries is best described as juvenile political masturbation.
While millions of Nigerians are unprotected, a state is for a few days turned to a police state because the right thing simply will not be done and here I draw a connect between the harmattan and the current security status in Nigeria.
In this harmattan season, it is known fact that the security of the entire nation has been greatly compromised by the activities of certain individuals, as robberies on a James Bond in the South West, kidnapping on a Mexican wave in the South East and rape elsewhere and Boko Haram holding sway up country.
It is common knowledge that the president is not even protected at all and you can get at him at any time in or out of his residence. Sadly his only residence these days are outside the country or in Aso Rock and its vicinities.
In this season the continued modus operandi of government by settlement which had long plagued us as a people is on the rise with all sorts of characters serving as consultants on security.
Beyond Boko Haram and armed robberies the problem is that the system is in dire need of an overhaul…
The government and its agents are dust blind, you might say. Outdated equipment are bought and being installed in Abuja, CCTV and bomb detection equipment that are technology decades old.
From Sokoto to Lagos, Ogun to Yobe, Abia to Kaduna states. There is so much fear and apprehension among Nigerians that the government can no longer protect its citizens.
Only recently former FCT Minister El-Rufai had squabbles with security operatives for figures he released on security spending…today I ask what are the costs expended so far on security equipment and the so called security consultants, and training?
The president and his team are touring the world in the name of foreign investments, corruption on the rise, the nation is facing a recess, and again we see the fuel queues.
There are no real interests to control the activities of Boko Haram either by decisive action, negotiation or dialogue because of vested interests. As the president continues to say in various forums, the Boko Haram days are few or they will fade away. The same militants that claim to have been reformed issue threats at every slightest opportune time.
Nigerians are highly intelligent and resourceful people and can put an immediate end to all of these happenings when their own status is on the line and their livelihood is at stake or threatened.
Painfully we are not there; we have not gotten to that point yet but may soon reach the point of no return.
Certain people are benefiting financially from the current security situation in the country, from inflated security contracts…We now have conflict entrepreneurs within an already terrible system, thus compounding an already dust inflicted situation.
What is the cost and worth of a Nigerian life, at this rate the harmattan dust may as well cause us all to nosebleed to death or go blind, if we do not have a full tornado.
Nigeria is a tinderbox beyond imagination. Decades old hatreds and fears are closer to the surface here than even in the Balkans.
Abuja is beginning to look like Islamabad, check points, security operatives everywhere.
Real nation building is not in the cards. Nigerians are angry, divided, fed up with abuse, as social injustice smells everywhere.
One minor offshoot of the decision making and policy formulation we are seeing is the utter and total destruction of Nigeria’s economic and commercial viability despite all the wishful thinking of foreign investment, job creation. You can feel the harmattan haze…
While government continues to elude herself, we are being erased from the maps of boardrooms across the world as a potential place of business, of development, of wealth creation, from Beijing to Zurich and places beyond.
Our current leaders with the exception of few have shown themselves as a bunch of political mishaps, overcoming corruption more of an illusion than reality.
To reverse the harmattan wind there is an urgent need to deliver on promises of electrical power, police reform, refinancing debt, education, health and so many things.
We need to build a nation, while Nigeria isn’t Libya. It has a population 15 times that of Libya. It is not Egypt, Nigeria is Africa. Saving Nigeria is vital to world stability, something only a select few know. Destroying Nigeria is vital to world entropy, something only a select few know also.
This opinion didn’t take genius, hardly. I had seen it all, were it taught, which it is not, we would call it history. Time will tell…
Dickson is the Editor, burningpot.com, Nigeria’s 1st Online Newspaper
Nigeria and 2011 Corruption Index
Last week, Transparency International (TI) released its 2011 report on corruption perception in 183 countries of the world, Nigeria included. The often widely expected and most recognised authority on corruption in the world ranked Nigeria 143 out of the 183 countries surveyed.
Between 2010 and 2011, Nigeria’s position declined by 9 places, scoring 2.4 from a possible 10, showing the greatest sign that effort at correcting corruption had been very inadequate in the last year. The report came soon after Farida Waziri, the ineffective former Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chairman, was sacked by President Jonathan.
The TI corruption index ranks countries according to the perception of public sector corruption, excluding the private sector. The survey has parameters such as bribery of public officials, kickbacks in public procurement, embezzlement of public funds, and the effectiveness of public sector anti-corruption efforts. If these parameters seem alien and some Nigerians cannot recall direct experiences, what is not alien is that the implications of a full-scale corruption are there for everyone to see. Whether as leakages or corruption, it is obvious that Nigerians do not receive commensurate value for government expenditure. Indeed, TI is right in saying that “no region or country is immune from the dangers of corruption”.
Nigeria is certainly not immune to corruption. The damage of the scourge to the economy and the fabric of the society is seen in the schools that are not built, the hospitals without medicines, the roads that are not passable and the failure of our citizens to be inspired.
In Nigeria today, the greatest threat to corruption is impunity. Because of its sheer scale and level, corruption is no longer secret. Indeed, it is celebrated.
We view corruption in a very simple way – the various compromises of every government and private individual. However, except the government tackles its corruption, it cannot possibly tackle corruption in private enterprises. Currently, the average government official is “too distracted” by his or her corruption to tackle private sector corruption.
There is indeed a critical link between corruption and leadership. The experience in Nigeria today is top down direction of corruption. In every area and section of government, the scale, manner and impunity of “junior officer” corruption is directly linked to the scale, manner and impunity of the “senior officer’s corruption.
We believe the surest way to stopping the trend is for leaders to stop corruption. Nigerians and “junior officers” in government can always see through rhetoric’s and lip service.
President Jonathan has appointed Ibrahim Lamorde as the new EFCC chairman. The appointment is good to the extent that the fight against corruption had become lame under Waziri, but the EFCC is only about fighting corruption after it has been committed. The focus and the best place to fight corruption is to prevent it from happening in the first place. In doing this, the leadership question is important. Also important is the strengthening of institutions. Currently, the average civil service across the country is lazy, corrupt and simply not fit for purpose. But perhaps the most critical of all is that the Police are greatest symbol of any country, and it is not good that what most recognizes ours for is corruption. What Nigerians and we are sure TI does not want to hear is the usual rhetoric and lip service paid the fight against corruption.
Choice for Economic Progress
here were series of stories that depicts the economic policy madness that is referred to as petroleum subsidy. The stories contained evidence that show that what we have is an orchestrated channel towards defrauding this country and bleeding its economy, with the pretext that there is some kind of petroleum subsidy.
The most outlandish of the aspects of the report is how the number of those that participate in this upside down economics has increased. A casual look at many of the companies will easily show that they have been set for the purpose in the first place. After all, this is the only business in Nigeria where profits and margins are guaranteed, while other businesses and ventures groan under serious and changing economic conditions.
We have argued that petroleum subsidy debate has its economics, political, and social dimensions. The most important and welcome development since the debate started following the release of the Federal Government’s medium-term expenditure plan weeks ago is the insistence by the governors that petroleum subsidy no longer the first line charge against federation allocation principles. The subsidy is now solely borne by the Federal Government. We believe this should strengthen the government’s hand in finally removing this subsidy as it is obvious that it cannot afford the luxury on its own.
It is important that the federal seek to completely eliminate the subsidy, rather than put in place a partial removal. If partial, we are not sure how the government wants to do this considering that the level of subsidy is not static but dependent on oil price. It may also mean that the price adjustment is at the government end, rather than at the consumers’ end. This will be a great mistake. At the first instance also, the government did not release what it meant by “safety nets”. It has done that and says it will include improvement in infrastructure, the establishment of refineries, and the execution of mass public works. More details are required for Nigerians to fully understand the measures and be able to monitor the progress. This is the aspect of trust that the government must be careful to ensure is effective.
While this is about the future, the discussion about the removal of government subsidy on petroleum in 2011 is a reflection of the failure of the past. In the past, while our refineries suffered from inadequate investment, bad management and corruption, other countries had expanded their refining capacities. Ironically, some of these countries are not serious or strong crude oil producers, such as Cote d’ Ivoire. The lesson from this, and which is the general lesson associated with resources, is that the availability of resource is not a sufficient condition for competitiveness. Indeed, while it may be an advantage in some instances, countries have built critical firms and production competitiveness just by following the right policies. We hope the PIB will do this for Nigeria, both in the upstream and downstream sectors of the Nigerian economy.
This year, the government says it will spend about N1.4 trillion on subsidy, about N1 trillion over the budgeted amount. The Senate has instituted an investigation to understand why this is the case. We believe there is still a great measure of “voodoo” here. While we support the removal of subsidy, the truth also is that the level of subsidy cannot be determined in advance since it depends on the changing price of oil in the international market. Also, increasing subsidy also reflects increasing government income, but the government is not mentioning that.
The best thing to do now is remove the subsidy and ensure that all government revenues are used for the benefit of all Nigerians. Some that argue against the removal of subsidy have the view that refineries should be built before deregulation. Sometimes also, it is argued that distribution pipelines should be built before deregulation. However, the government is not in a position to do these and the private investors that have the capacity to do so will not until deregulation happens. We expect the investments in refineries will bring growth and jobs. We believe it will create linkages in the economy, and we believe the overall benefit to the Nigerian economy will be much more than the losses that some will suffer from the subsidy removal.
Before NATO Comes for Nigeria
t was a terse statement, as is wont with them. It read, “The United States is concerned about reports of legislation in Nigeria that would restrict expression, assembly or organisation based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The United States believes that all people deserve the full range of human rights and opposes the criminalisation of sexual relations between consenting adults. The United States is watching this matter closely. The freedoms of speech, assembly and association are long-standing international commitments and universally recognised.
“Nigeria, as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has assumed important obligations on these matters. We expect the government of Nigeria to act in a manner consistent with those obligations.”
It is only the naive that would not recognise this peculiar tenor. But for those who do, the import is as clear as a red spot on a white sheet – the red light is on. Trouble may be knocking at the door for Nigeria.
I can hear the drone of the harbinger of death, which America and its allies employ to whip into line those who refuse to abide by their prescription on how to live on this earth, which they have conquered and therefore in a position to make the rules, in our airspace. And that may come sooner than expected.
And what would be the reason for this anticipated calamity? Nothing, except that we have decided to live our lives the way God created us, the way our forefathers lived and the way all humans are supposed to. We have refused to desecrate our land and be at odds with the gods.
Recently, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), airplanes, in the name of preventing an imaginary human calamity, went into the air and destroyed virtually the whole of Libya, arguably one of the most thriving African countries during the time of its former leader, Muammar Ghaddafi. From water facilities to artifacts and monuments, some as old as 500 years or more, the operation, which spanned a period of about eight months, did not end until Ghaddafi, believed to be the target was captured and killed.
Apparently in the euphoria that followed this “success story” David Cameron, British Prime Minister, decided to up the ante to what he must have perceived as a completely cowed African leaders, sure to know where the authorities flowed and would have become wiser and more prudent with any idea of challenging such authority.
He had come out with another prescription, forbidding all African countries from shutting their doors against men and women who would rather commit what they know is abomination to the land of their fathers and forefathers.
Henceforth, he decreed, any man or woman who decides to have sex with a fellow man or woman should not only be allowed to do so, but also allowed to go ahead and do it in the market place and conduct both traditional, Christian and Muslim marriage ceremonies unhindered. Anybody, including the government that refuses, would have himself or herself to blame.
Of course, from all parts of the land of Africa, the chorus has remained the same – this is too much for us, even at the pains of personal discomfort.
Nigeria has since joined in this mantra. Our “gallant” Senators recently rose to the occasion, prescribing stiff penalties for those who may fancy the abominable sex acts. Surely, it has not come to a level where anybody, not even Senators would want the anus of his son destroyed by another in a completely pervasive, senseless and animalistic sex acts, no matter the excuses.
That is the bone of contention. Of course, the evidence is now clear that the bird that is dancing on the road has a drummer somewhere in the bush. It has become clear that Britain is not alone, by virtue of the American reaction, last week.
Cameron had stated that countries that did not allow gay sex and marriages stood losing the usual aids they got from his country. Naturally, no wise person would be fooled that the problem would stop there. Because America is involved, the matter may soon be tabled before the United Nations, which would give them the green light to use “all means necessary” to enforce the rights of those “oppressed” in Africa. You can now fill in the blank spaces about what would happen in such an outcome.
You may begin to hear that the Nigerian government has massacred thousands of gay men and women in Agege, Lagos; in Rigasa, Kaduna, or in Awkunanaw, Enugu, while demonstrating to be allowed to explore and exploit their “sexuality.” To protect them, the missiles will start flying in from the Atlantic Ocean in attempt to prevent “genocide.” Of course, the goal would be to create safe havens for the “victims.” For that, it is either half of Lagos is cleared and a part designated for them to live freely and poke as they wished, or one or two officials of government are put in handcuffs and ferried to the Hague, where they would be made to face crimes against humanity, or both, just to ensure that the outlandish practice stays.
It does not matter to them that there is something called tradition and the people’s way of life. Yet, these are the same people that will turn a 70-year-old man back at their embassies, for wanting to witness the wedding ceremony of his son, whom he had not seen for years, because they are not sure he would return to his country after the ceremony.
Then you ask, if all men were free, why would there be such restrictions, even when resources of that man made the country he intended to visit so irresistible that he would like to live there in spite of his age. Such hypocrisy!
Indeed, why wouldn’t they advocate further abomination in our land when they appear to have succeeded in other areas? Now, in some homes in Nigeria, it has become an unpardonable mistake for a husband to come home and ask the wife for food, which he did not take part in preparing. To show that he loves his wife and qualify as a part-taker, he must be grinding the pepper, while the wife is peeling the onions. It has become the fad for you to hear a man boasting how on the wife’s birthday, he had given her a surprise, by cooking a very delicious meal and serving her thereafter, forbidding her from even clearing the table and for you to hear the woman boasting of it to her colleagues in the office the following day.
That is the new idea of treating your wife or spouse “like a queen.” It is no longer, as we used to know it, for the woman to prepare such a special mean on such occasions, ostensibly with money provided by the husband and invite friends and well-wishers to join the family in celebration. That one is old fashion.
Few people get surprised these days hearing a woman retort, “Why should I cook for a man, why should I wash his clothes?” For them, it is slavery to do so. Of course, there are countless seminars and workshops, funded with foreign funds for them to rely on in establishing the clearly self-destructive ideas.
In the same place, because they are so imbued by the quantum of dollars that flow in, the organisers of such events would never show the misguided women the flipside of the coin, about the effects of broken marriages. The insecurity and sadness that go with it will never be part of the lecture. Instead, the freedom mantra would be sung repeatedly, until experience, the inevitable and unchallengeable teacher comes to do its job, at the time it would most certainly be too late.
Today, also, there is an intensive mantra about what they call “child abuse.” To them, it constitutes child abuse if a child who urinates in the soup pot is punished by the parent. No, the best way to teach him that it is wrong to do so, is to hand him an ice cream, prop him up on the table and give him a verbal lesson on how urinating in the soup pot would poison the content and how it would not be “nice, for mummy will be upset.”
“I’m sorry mum,” the child is encouraged to say, only to commit a worse offence the next day. You only have to watch our movies for you to see the thought pattern of our so-called elite.
Knowing Nigerians for exploiting every situation, there is no telling the fact that a new ground has been opened for them with current development. Before they get wiser, the traffic at the embassies is sure to increase with numerous Nigerians seeking asylum against prosecution from the “oppressive government” because they are gay.
Perhaps, it may be the only good side of the sordid story, if they are able to get their applications granted. Maybe this is the way God would answer their prayers, eventually.
For me, I can’t wait for President Goodluck Jonathan to append his signature on the new bill to make it into law. Of course, he has no choice, because nobody knows who will be the victim. Before then, we wait.
Obasanjo’s And Gowon’s Mea Culpa On Nigeria’s Present And Future
Generals Olusegun Obasanjo and Yakubu Gowon are the two men who have ruled Nigeria the longest and are most responsible for the current conditions in Nigeria. When they speak Nigerians should listen.
OBJ ruled as both a soldier and as a civilian. Mr. Gowon ruled as military ruler. Each had his opportunity to shape Nigeria. What we now have is what they bequeathed after their combined 20 years of leadership. As Nigeria has had 60 years of independence these two gentlemen are responsible for fully a third of the leadership of independent Nigeria.
It is very tempting to go back to their leadership era and point out why they lack credibility in discussing what is ailing Nigeria and pointing out the way forward. One could recall Mr. Gowon’s “no victor, no vanquished” rhetoric that resulted in the division of Nigeria into victors and vanquished segments. The damages in the former Eastern Nigeria during the war are still there for all to see and the region’s inability to recover after 40 years is proof of his negligence. Mr. Obasanjo’s rhetoric on “do or die elections” is still the standard for electoral campaigning and power grabbing. Election violence and election rigging are some of his major achievements.
But bygones must be bygones. We must allow that a Saul could become a Paul as happened over 2,000 years ago.
In their speeches of the recent past: Mr. Obasanjo at Economic Diversification and Revenue Generation conference in Abeokuta and Mr. Gowon at the Arewa Consultative forum; both used the right tones and pointed to the right directions the country should take. We should take them at their current words and hope that they would help the current leaders accomplish those objectives. Mr. Obasanjo called attention to the possibility of a Nigerian Spring arising due mainly from mass unemployment or under-employment. He suggested that agriculture could be a useful instrument for curing this employment disease and also serve as a solid tool in revenue generation. Mr. Gowon warned of the dangers of ethnic strife in the North and the need for all Northern leaders to find a way away from ethnic genocide and suicide. And a better way to a stronger integration of the North with Nigeria. It is a far cry from the former speech of “there is no basis for unity.”
Whatever made OBJ to change his mind or however OBJ came to the knowledge that over reliance on oil is a bridge to nowhere, we should commend him. As I and many others have written so many times before what made East, West, Midwest and North tick before was Agriculture. Many of the infrastructure development in the regions were built on the backs of groundnut, oil palm, and cocoa farmers. The strong currency (£n1 = £br1 = $US3) was because of the farmers and the strong currency held for over a decade; universities of Nigeria, Nsukka, Ife, Ahmadu Bello, Lagos etc were established from revenue from the farmland. And they were world class institutions. The marketing boards that managed the production, marketing, storage, and distribution, etc of these products were run so efficiently that they would put to shame the current MBA’s. Even those from Harvard and MIT.
Nigeria enjoyed full employment that had not been attained or even approached since. All university graduates, all high school graduates had meaningful employment upon graduation and were paid living wages.
So if OBJ declares that we go back to agriculture, let us accept the suggestions for he is on solid grounds. Yes, he did not venture along that path when he had the power but there is always the potential for conversion on the way to Damascus. We need to remember what worked before and replace what is not working now with them.
I do not know how Mr. Gowon came to see that killing one’s neighbours is not a good idea after presiding over the massacre of Ndi Igbo in the 60’s and taking the genocide to them in Biafra. I have no clue how he realized that war does not do anybody any good. But now that he is convinced that talking and negotiating with the aggrieved is much better than beating them to death, we must also take him at this word. His suggestion that leaders must find a common ground in other for the polity to survive is a word of wisdom. In the last several years the North had witnessed bloodshed that is beginning to rival the 1960’s. The Jos riots that pitted Christian Igbo against the Northern Muslims did not attract his attention and comments in the 80’s and 90’s; the same kind of riots and semi civil war in Benue, Kano, Katsina and others that was waged between the North and the South in the earlier years between 2000-2007 escaped the ACF member’s attention and did not spur efforts at reconciliation from them. Nor from such internet warriors as Mallam Wane who I pleaded with to condemn such killings to no avail. But now that we have come to realize that wanton destruction of human lives have no place in a modern society, we must all join hands and see that we do whatever is possible and with all means necessary to protect the lives and property of our citizens.
Some of us might prefer to criticize and shame these erstwhile rulers for their past mistakes but it would be a waste. If they are willing to lead now or are willing to warn as statesmen are required to do, we must listen. Both men still have enormous soft powers for good. They can still place calls to Shehu Shagari, to Alex Ekwueme, to Buhari, to IBB and to other statesmen and women and urge them to put pressure on their wards that are now in charge of affairs in the country.
If they can show the solidarity that had eluded them even in the most recent past, Nigeria may still have a chance. If “we the people” would listen to them, Nigeria may still have a chance.
But make no mistake about what they are saying: the insurgency in the North is a serious threat to the existence of Nigeria as a country. Neglect of agriculture as a revenue source and employment source for our youth will bring the Nigerian spring sooner than we think.
Aduba writes from Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
On Fuel Subsidy Removal: Facts and Falsehood
By Leonard Karshima Shilgba, PhD
The recent revelation of the avowed intention of the Nigerian federal government to remove fuel subsidy and devalue the national currency (the naira) in 2012 should not surprise Nigerians who have observed the conduct of government in Nigeria in the past twelve years. Rather, Nigerians should be concerned about the capacity of the social power zones in Nigeria to resist the policy intent until certain minimal conditions are satisfied. Is the organized labour capable of resisting the Nigerian government? Has the Nigerian student body lately demonstrated adequate understanding of the implications of government decisions and responded appropriately?
Has the formal news media shown through unassailable intellectual dexterity that it is able to puncture disingenuous arguments of government officials and guide the Nigerian people through the web of deceit spun endlessly in the corridors of power? Has the organized civil society in Nigeria earned for itself the capital of trust of the Nigerian people for selfless advocacy on their behalf without betrayal, and the capital of honour from the Nigerian rulers for its uncompromising dispositions during mutual engagements? I can bet that majority of readers would answer in the contrary.
My purpose here is to separate facts from falsehood, and to remind Nigerians of the past—the relevant past—that we have hurriedly forgotten.
SAVINGS FROM SOVEREIGN DEBTS: Towards the end of the Obasanjo government, Nigeria earned—yes, earned—“debt forgiveness” from the Paris and London clubs of creditors. Nigerians were told, as it was equally made a condition for the “forgiveness”, that the resulting savings from sovereign debt servicing would be invested in critical sectors such as education, health, and public infrastructural development. In November 2006 (the same year Nigeria formally exited indebtedness to those clubs) President Obasanjo flagged off the construction of a modern dual-track rail network that would cover more than 1,300 km from Lagos to Kano. The completion date for the project was in 2010! The cost of the project was about 8.3 billion US dollars. Trains running on those tracks were to move at about 160 km per hour; that means a trip from Abuja to Lagos would take less than 5 hours, while less than 9 hours would be travel time from Lagos to Kano.
Nigerian rulers and politicians, some of whom are still in government as I write, made sure the contract was cancelled after the exit of President Obasanjo. In fact, the national assembly during the days of President Yar’Adua, under the leadership of Senate President David Mark, who still occupies the position, claimed that the project was inflated by as much as 700 US dollars. Later, it was reported that the same national assembly promised to “probe” the cancellation of the project (They never did). In 2009 when the issue of removal of fuel subsidy arose, the chairman of the senate committee on petroleum (downstream sector) at the time, Senator Emmanuel Paulker said this on Yar’Adua’s plans to deregulate the downstream oil sector:
“On removal of subsidy, we believe that the government would have been compelled by the unsustainable fiscal burden involved in subsidizing petroleum products to the tune of N640 billion in a single year. We have always believed that subsidy should be removed, although not in the abrupt way in which it has been done, but through a gradual phasing-out process. And while that exercise is in progress, the government should adopt immediate measures to tackle those foregoing elements that add to cost. For example, if the refineries were functioning optimally, freight and port charges would be eliminated. Also, if pipelines that make up our distribution network were in order and new ones were built, the enormous cost incurred through haulage by trucks would fall, thereby contributing to reduction in the pump prices of petroleum products. All these will simply result in a less prohibitive and more affordable pump price when the phased deregulation exercise is concluded.”
The question one should ask is what the Nigerian government has been using the annual savings from sovereign debts to do in the past 5 years? If the federal government has nothing to show for the debt cancellation or “forgiveness” five after, why should Nigerians trust that same government to use whatever savings from fuel subsidy? It is the same government because, firstly, it remains PDP-led government. Besides, David Mark has been senate president for more than 4 years. President Jonathan has been around as vice-president, acting president, or president for more than 5 years now. During this period, an important project like the railway construction I referred to above was set aside. An efficient railway system of transportation could reduce cost of moving goods such as petroleum products, which, as Senator Paulker said in 2009, would have eased the hardship on the Nigerian masses that would result from removal of fuel subsidy.
CORRUPT IMPLEMENTATION OF FUEL SUBSIDY IS THE ISSUE, NOT THE SUBSIDY:
In 2009 when the issue of fuel subsidy gained momentum, President Yar’Adua’s special adviser on media, Mr. Segun Adeniyi made the following statement:
“Deregulation doesn’t necessarily mean increase in fuel price. As we all know, what government is trying to do is question the rationale behind the subsidy in the first place. What and who are we subsidizing? As the Minister of Finance said last week, we have been subsidizing corruption, inefficiency and fraud in the sector. And these are the things we are tackling. Because even the template of PPPRA [Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency], there are issues there that are being resolved by government and labor. We believe that government and labor can partner on this issue because at the end of the day, we should ask ourselves questions why fuel price is not going down in our country while it is going down in other countries. This is because of the current global recession that has led to low price of crude oil. So, there are a lot of questions we should ask about the sector that are not being asked. And these are the issues that will be tackled in the coming days. The approach we are taking is that government will partner with labor. The President told labor leaders last week that he will partner with labor on this and every other issue. We are concerned about the welfare of the Nigerian people as labor is. So, I believe we can reach a common position on this issue. And I believe we will, because at the end of the day the essence of the whole dialogue is that we deregulate the market and ensure that we are not held to ransom by cabals.”
I want to announce that more than three years after that statement government did nothing about the “cabals.” It was reported at that time before Mr. Adeniyi’s statement that President Yar’Adua’s government had instituted a probe into the activities of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) and all the bodies involved in the regulation of fuel prices. The probe, termed “process auditing,” according to government, was aimed at finding out how the agencies arrived at the template they used for the prevailing petroleum products’ prices. As I write, neither has the result of that probe been made public nor has the “correct” price template of PPPRA been made available to Nigerians.
Mr. Adeniyi or President Yar’Adua’s government made some revelations, but failed to follow up. The facts are that: There is dishonesty (or corruption) in the pricing of petroleum products by the PPPRA. A group of people (whom Mr. Adeniyi called “cabals”) is holding Nigerians to ransom. Another fact is that government wants to hide its incompetence at enforcement of the rule of law through total removal of fuel subsidy rather than mop up the amount it is wrongly spending in the name of fuel subsidy. The Nigerian people must not suffer for failure of government. Just hours ago I heard on the news that the House of Representatives had approved the purchase of 360 official cars for its members. Nigerian public officials take for themselves annually more than 1.2 trillion naira. But they are not talking of removing this “subsidy” they are enjoying. At the same time President Jonathan’s government plans to remove fuel subsidy, it also would devalue the naira. One does not need to be an economist to see that the twins—fuel subsidy removal and devaluation of the naira—would so eat away at the Nigerian worker’s earning that the organized labor would be asking for a minimum wage of N 100,000 a month.
But who in the organized labour, student union, government, etc., cares to read and act on what writers like me put out there? But I know those that must be listened to— the bombers and neighborhood terrorists that shall go after relatives of those in government; the unemployed that would go on intractable riots all over Nigeria, and the many Boko Haramic sects that shall be hatched few months from now. And then we shall see whether the obduracy of government policy makers against sound reason is worth anything after all.
The organized labour, student unions, civil society, formal news media, and the legislators are all in the same league—the league of the Hopeful, who believe and sing often that “things are getting better,” even though they do nothing to give support to the verbal dance. Maybe this is an answer to the prayers of the prayerful. Who shall deceive this Ahab that he should go to battle and fall? “I shall go and be a lying spirit in the mouth of his prophets,” answered the little one. “Go and you shall succeed.” He is too blind to see that his government shall crash as soon as he goes ahead with this folly. I told it to the nation more than a year and half ago in my essay, “Nigeria: Interpreting Times and Events.” But how many remember? It is near, even at the door. If this provocation does not incite Nigerians a worse than it must come; and it shall be bloody.
Engineers are a Dime a Dozen in Nigeria
y Ejike E. Okpa
Engineers are a DIME a DOZEN in Nigeria. Unfortunately too, there is no DIME nor do they know how to access the DIME to help deliver quality products and projects in Nigeria. However, they are not short on paper qualifications that speak to nothing, except hierarchy gained mostly by longevity in the profession coupled with longer educational degrees and certificates. Paper tigers!!!
44 years of annual ‘Jamboree’ of Nigerian engineers!!! NSE conference is pure celebratory and ceremonial in essence. The presentation of papers often speaks to nothing.
Nigeria is in a physical mess as most projects designed and built by Nigerian engineering companies are hardly of quality or any measurable standards. I took a look at Asaba Airport, one of the projects hailed as ‘Wonder Project’ by Delta State government’, unfortunately conceived and delivered while a dear friend Paul Osaji, served as Commissioner for Works in Delta State. I was perplexed and shocked at what is hailed. If Nigerians see 5th rate projects as ‘Wonder’, it tells one that is why Nigeria is littered with poorly built and executed projects. It makes one wonder, what drums and music do Nigerians listen to and often dance to?
Nigerian engineers are detached and disconnected from Nigeria society at large. Their conference is often not tailored to the pursuits of excellence, legislations, project delivery processes to ensure good projects are done in the country.
That more than 90% of existing civil and related structures in Nigeria are substandard, and maintenance as a component of project life as it goes to ensure and enhance physical life and economic life of the project, is a thing of amnesia in Nigeria and for Nigerians. Most houses in Nigeria are subject to severe dampness making the air quality in them source for poor health condition. The foundation for most of these houses have no DCP – [damp proof course] or moist preventive membranes to prevent capillary action as moisture from the floor rises and creates mildew in the houses. Something this simple, plagues most residential dwellings in Nigeria.
Yet, NSE continues to display glamour, and functioning without insisting on certain bare minimum for these structures. In the southern sector of Nigeria, the percentages of substandard houses/structures are much higher because it is a ‘wet’ zone. I went to University of Ibadan last time I was in country – Sept 2010, and could not believe the state of disrepairs of the famous college that was once used in postcards to depict ‘beautiful’ Nigeria. University of Lagos, is worst as it seats in the middle of water, and its entire facilities are damp, drenched, wet and messy. It does not have good drainage system for water run-offs and hardly any retention pond to act as holding pan before discharge into storm drains. Most Nigeria civil engineers do not know what storm drains are. I visited famous Shell Camp in Port Harcourt, seen by most Nigerians as heaven on earth. Well, in their minds eye. When it rains, the complex discharges water onto PH-Aba Expressway aiding flooding of nearby homes and business. It’s awful and pitiful.
To a good extent, there are engineering solutions to these nature challenges. However, NSE is lame, dumb and deaf, as its conference do not seem to seek and invite other professions to share and deliver contents that marry and mirror the overall benefit of engineering.
Nigerians practice their profession in a mutual exclusive compartment sense when most professions are interrelated, and collaboration and cooperation are the name of the game. I once asked a friend of mine UNN civil engineer practitioner based in Enugu, why not their conference include architects, masons, brick layers and other trades in the building profession? He screamed how can an Engineer seat in the same conference with an architect talkless of masons and brick layers? There you have it. I did not expect anything less.
I have attended conferences on water resource development, gas fracting, minerals and mining, civil engineering for public works seminars and workshops, and my God, the diversity of attendees/conferees/practitioners, continues to enrich my knowledge base. I doubt if I can do so inNigeria. The practice of professions are not mutually exclusive but mutually inclusive, and knowledge from various practitioners go to enhance cohesion, best practices and greater understanding, leading to good delivery.
Nigeria Engineers need to loosen up and breath fresh air into their practice and profession. Their moribund sense, has not garnered any respect for them outside ofNigeria, and even within.
I would like the leadership of NSE to spend time understanding that engineering is more than the titles and letters they award each other. The benefit of engineering underscores the value of any society: It has to be relevant, reasonable, efficient, measured, promoted, financed, and above all, add to the quality of life of persons within the geo-political setting.
That Julius Berger is seen as the ‘Best and Biggest’ engineering firm in Nigeria, makes one want to poke. A company that no one in Germany ever remembered it existed there, is king of the jungle in a jungle nation – it makes sense.
NSE can do better, but it must first get off its high horses and look to Nigerians for solutions and appreciation of the practice of their trade. Collateral knowledge is gained by effective interaction and exchange from all stakeholders, than by a gathering of persons of same and similar profession who mostly gather to congratulate each other and pass the paper.
That is my take.