The Robber State Can Now Drink Her Oil (1)

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By ERASMUS IKHIDE

THE hope of restoring normalcy to a morally bankrupt nation to a place in the sun greater than it had ever been is ebbing gradually. Nigeria is in economic straits, maimed by official corruption, which slices off more than 50 % of her GDP in revenue. The nation’s oil deals which has been shrouded in the caucuses of bargaining and appalling crudity has left the people in abject poverty.

But President Goodluck Jonathan’s sidekick wouldn’t have any of such. They are used to thinking that the ugly picture is a mere grotesque hodgepodge concocted by half-baked, uneducated neurotics who are bent on sabotaging the humane president. It’s time Mr President summon the moral courage and pledge the reversal of the nation’s menacing presence and the future.

Regrettably, the argument of Jonathanians is not supported by Mr President’s broken promises, overt corruption, oil theft and pipeline vandalism. The gruelling grind of irony in a land flowing with energy under its belly vanquished presidential hollowness for its failure to boon the economy.

In 2011 NNPC signed a USD28.5 billion Memorandum of Understanding, MOU with the Chinese to build the NNPC Greenfield Refineries in Bayelsa, Kogi, and Lagos States’. So far, none has been built, four years down the road. In 2012 at the Nigerian Oil and Gas Conference, the bogey minister promised that Turn Around Maintenance’, TAM, will gulf USD700 million, which amounts to USD2.8 billion – for the four refineries within 12 months.

As we speak, none of the four Nigerian Refineries operates with more than 60% capacities. Kaduna refinery operates below 30% of her installed capacity. That is after billions of and billions of dollars was expended. How else can we explain that TAM was a waste of our common patrimony and the crudest form of corruption? The four refineries can produce 445,000 barrel of oil per day, if they are functioning at 100% capabilities; which is still below Nigeria’s current need of about 39 million litres according to the PPPRA per day!

President Jonathan’s government expended trillions of dollars in the so-called Fuel Subsidy that was reeked with hyper-corruption. When Nigerians protested the enrichment of the president’s cronies with the oil scam, Mrs Diezani Allison-Madueke deadened her concerns scornfully and bluntly told the nation to go to hell or that the Fuel Subsidy would be reduced by half any time she chooses.

It was a show of sheer unconcealed disdain for the Nigeria masses. The protest against Fuel Subsidy was partly against her career of gross abuse of office and blatant assault on the volition of the people to benefit from the resources of their nation. While the people haggled and groaned under the excruciating fuel’s price spike, the federal government remained blunted in her constitution responsibilities to the electorate.

That profound deadening of consciousness is the sheerest negation of nation-building, where the peoples’ demand for access to common till is viewed as doing them favour. Any surprise that President Jonathan gloated and gloried suppressing protesters who seek the reversal of fuel increments in the past? Even after many people have lost their lives, all the promises of palliatives never came.

Till now, the consistent figure of the about N200 billion the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, pays to petroleum marketers quarterly for subsidy hasn’t changed. Yet, Nigeria remains one of the few OPEC members still importing majority of Refined Petroleum products to the tune of over USD15 billion yearly.

There is no doubt that the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, has accumulated dust wherever is it kept. This is due largely to the frosty relationship between the Hon. Minister and the National Assembly members. This has resulted into her getting Court Injunction stopping them from investigating the alleged N10 billion allegedly expended on private jets. This is away from the USD20 billion missing in the NNPC accounts as alleged by the former CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, now the Emir of Kano.

The Presidency is aware that the no-passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, is gravely affecting investment in the oil and gas industry and that the continued delay is inimical to the nation’s economy. The passage of the PIB would have fast-tracked the exploration of oil in many parts of the country where oil has recently been discovered. The President is also aware that the passage of PIB will stem the tide of mega-corruption and the suitcase oil portfolios will come to an abrupt end.

We are back to the same position. My former union, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, in alliance with the Petroleum and National Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, has embarked on industrial action, grounding the already traumatised economy for lack of faith in the government of the day. The oil unions are accusing the president of inability to fix existing and build new refineries, bad roads, arbitrary sacking of union members by oil companies. The Trade Union Congress even took it further.

Arising from its Nation Executive Council, NEC, the central labour union enthuse: “The congress expresses dismay that the prices of refined petroleum products have remained unchanged despite the significant fall of crude oil prices which the CBN acknowledged as a steady one. “We therefore called on the government to direct the appropriate agency to respond by adjusting the pump price of petroleum products, which will ameliorate the impact on the purchasing power by the devaluation of the Naira.

Now, Nigerians are reminded to be contented with the oil goddess with the burning beauty who the alternate lot falls upon as the OPEC’s Chairman that becomes a shinning jewel on her scrap-iron crown! A fourth-grade schoolmarm could have thought the minister that even the hewers of wood and the drawers of water knew when to demand for wage increase to cushion their labour. She was the least possessed of that burning sense of mission to end the ogre of corruption the perennial crisis of fuel scarcity.

Over the weekend, the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr Godwin Emefiele disclosed that Nigeria loses N24 billion yearly on waivers granted to importers of crude oil. This is in spite of the fact that those enjoying the waiver are the same people as those criminally benefiting from Fuel Subsidy graft.

Both the International Energy Agency and former U.S. Energy Information chief Guy Caruso predict oil prices are likely to remain lower for a while, barring a major disruption in supply. “It’s highly unlikely OPEC gets their act together, so I see prices being weak for the next six months or so,” Mr Caruso said.

It’s obvious that Nigeria will remain politically stunted, economically traumatised, developmentally backward for many years to come for refusing to diversify. It’s a stark choice we have to make. Either we diversify or we start drinking our oil! An anti-State agent? A megalomania? A sadistic fancy? All of them in part. It’s because the State itself has become the biggest swindler and crook. A robbers’ state! The hope of nation-becoming, which early in 2011 vividly accomplished President Jonathan’s restoration’s campaign, has faded in the twilight of 2014.

There is no retelling that Mr Jonathan’s moribund regime represents the most harrowing of the nation’s nightmares over and beyond even the horror visited on the nation by military juntas. I am certain Nigeria will be approaching the polling boots across the country on February 14, 2015 with one thing in mind: Nations collapse or perish for whom it exists when the loss of force of resistance by the people give way to oppressive despots to triumph in their oppression.

Erasmus Ikhide, a public affairs analyst writes in from Lagos, Nigeria.

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