Though you live near a forest, do not waste firewood (Chinese Proverb)
We are not rich by what we possess but rather by what we can do without (Immanuel Kant)
Anyone who has studied Nigeria will know we have two basic problems that have bedeviled this country. One is the disastrous political structure, which was what we inherited from the military since 1979. This is the main thing the (national) conference should address, and of course we have the perennial problem of leadership since the First Republic (Prof. Itse Sagay)
Continued from Part 4
ne point this column forgot to make in the preceding part of this article is that when the governors were telling the corps members to create jobs for themselves, they (the governors) forgot that they were encouraging the corps members, especially the criminally minded ones, to engage in heinous acts such as armed robbery, kidnapping and terrorism. Tomorrow, the governors will bemoan the insecurity in Nigeria, not knowing that they encouraged it through one way or the other. If a fresh graduate is not empowered, tell me how he or she can be able to create a job for him or herself? The governors forgot the saying that "In all toil there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty". For the governors, it was easier to push the fresh graduates away with the hope that God will come down from heaven to empower them (the graduates) to create jobs for themselves. The governors should tell Nigerians if those ruling when they graduated told them to go and create jobs for themselves? With the kind of rulers Nigeria has, does anyone need a soothsayer to understand why things are upside there? Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 –1968) was right that “A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on an installment plan”.
There’s a correlation between the abundance of oil in Nigeria and the high rate of unemployment in the country. Fact is that the easy money from oil has made Nigerians to forsake their creative instincts, as no one wants to work harder to make the money. An oil well owner makes about one billion dollars from oil and gas sales without employing so many people. But, for a man to make a billion dollar from another business not connected with oil and gas, he must have to employ thousands of workers (before making such a huge profit). Just an instance: T.Y. Danjuma made a billion dollar from one of his oil wells he sold to the Chinese. So, he made such a huge amount of money without even employing one Nigerian, apart from his lawyers and accountant. Which other business can yield such a gain without many helping hands (employees)? Every fair minded Nigerian must admit that making such a sum of money in the country without creating corresponding employment opportunities or without suffering much for it (the money), creates lawlessness, makes criminals, and brings trouble to the polity.
Ironically, oil, the “black hen that lays the golden eggs”, has stunted Nigeria’s growth and development, unlike in other climes, where oil has been a catalyst that has unleashed economic development and progress. On Tuesday, November 23, 2010, the Rivers State's Deputy Governor, Tele Ikuru, regretted that despite over 50 years of oil production, the people of the region have continued to live in abject poverty while sitting on these vast resources that have continued to sustain the country's economy. In his words "Rivers people are tired of being mere hewers of wood and fetchers of water, as cleaners, job hands and petty suppliers in the industry that draws from the resources placed on their lands and waters, and for which their natural ecosystems can no longer sustain their major means of livelihood - farming, fishing and hunting - before the discovery of oil in commercial quantity 52 years ago". The Deputy President, Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (PHCCIMA), Dr. Renny H. Cookey, reiterated the need to empower indigenous contractors in the oil and gas sector, noting that though 95 percent of Nigerian export earnings come from oil and gas activities, yet the industry is dominated by international oil and gas companies (IOC) with only a handful of indigenous contractors. He explained that the key activities in the industry such as engineering, fabrication, construction and procurement are therefore carried out outside the shores of the country, which is beyond the reach of Nigerians. In his words: "It is no small wonder that 60 percent of Nigerians of employment age are unemployed and 54 percent live below the poverty threshold of $1 per day. There is economic disempowerment, under-development and abject poverty in the Niger Delta region. Ironically, this is where the wealth from oil and gas is generated and this is very much unacceptable. The time has come for a change". (Vanguard)
The Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAN), on Friday, October 11, 2013, reconvened to share statutory revenue of N1.196 trillion among the three tiers of government for August and September. Now, the federal, state and local governments have received their monthly allocation arrears. Now, the looting spree has begun. Now, the federal officials, state governors and local government chairmen have “reverted to a corner” to enjoy their “booty”, without thinking of how to solve some of the pressing problems in their respective areas of operational responsibility with a part of the allocation. They have folded their hands waiting for the next sharing of allocations, without any effort to broaden their economic base, away from the oil revenue, for economic sustainability in future, just in case the oil revenue fails to come on time again. A Vanguard Editorial puts it that the “Nigerian rules, through obtuse policies fertilise corrupt practices. How does anyone expect a Nigerian to survive on N18, 000 a month? How are the millions who are unemployed surviving in a country without a social welfare system? Where do government officials get the millions of Naira that they use to sustain their incredible lifestyles? Where people are denied a legitimate existence, they will survive by other means, including corruption. Our system that awards so much powers to individuals that they can corner resources for their benefit, fuels greed and corruption. It is more so when those individuals know they can steal enough to compromise the judiciary”. It’s baffling how the state governors waste scarce funds on frivolities, all in the name of politics: Imagine the Plateau State Government spending more than N42 million to purchase items which were distributed to some Muslims in the state as Eid-el-Kabir gifts. Not only that, Plateau State also spent over N300 million in sponsoring of about 400 people in the state to Saudi Arabia for this year's Hajj. For what? All these are uncalled for in Nigeria where poverty, unemployment, ignorance and disease are ravaging the population. Religion is a private matter, so anybody who wants to go on a pilgrimage, whether to Saudi Arabia or Israel, should sponsor him or her self, and not for the states to do that for them. That’s tantamount to wasting the people’s money that could have been used to alleviate some of the suffering and hardships the people are encountering. Nigerian leaders should know, just as P J O'Rourke (1947) wrote, that “You can't get rid of poverty by giving people money”.
Olisa Agbakoba, a former Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, president, said of Nigeria's oil industry: "Our oil is half stolen by foreigners and we can not even say how much oil we produce on a daily basis: we have no idea and yet you say we have political leadership, we don't". That was the point the Punch Editorial made in these excerpts: “The seemingly enduring nature of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa has been attributed to inequality, which makes whatever growth experienced in the economy to be concentrated among very few people. Besides, most of the growth is defined by the exports of goods – such as oil in the case of Nigeria, Ghana and Angola – from Africa to other parts of the world, the proceeds of which are not equitably spread across the population. According to another World Bank Africa Economist, Punam Chuhan, “High dependence on one or a few commodities makes Africa’s resource-rich countries vulnerable to sharp movements in prices of these commodities.” But beyond these few theories, it is not difficult to see that Africa’s poverty crisis stems from the failure of leadership, which has not been able to harness the continent’s vast resources for the good of the citizens. Africa has been unfortunate to have been ruled by a succession of bad and immensely corrupt leaders that have ended up bleeding their countries dry. In many of the African countries, it is easy to find leaders and presidents that are even richer than their countries. It is therefore not surprising that the few countries that are actually doing very well for now are those countries that have been able to solve their leadership problems. They include countries such as Ghana and Rwanda.
What is happening in the sub-Saharan African states is not significantly different from what is happening here in Nigeria. While the managers of the country’s economy continually flaunt the high scoring by the World Bank, the poverty rate in the country continues to increase. Ditto the unemployment rate. The country is a global leader in infant and maternal mortality rates, and the rate of out-of-school children. The country’s ranking in the Human Development Index stands at 153 out of 186 countries and it is the 16th “most likely state to fail,” according to the Fund of Peace. Yet, the country is the largest producer of crude oil in Africa and, potentially, the richest on the continent. For Africa (Nigeria) to break out of the cycle of poverty there is the need to embark on a policy of economic diversity. There must be a shift from the continued reliance on the export of primary produce to a new emphasis on the processing, service delivery and social equity. Our government must reduce costs of governance, improve investment climate, ramp up efforts at tackling corruption and roll back government from business. These are some of the ways of creating jobs and reducing poverty. While the mining industry can only take care of a few, agriculture remains a veritable source of job creation for a limitless number of people. Africa can shake herself free of the vice-like grip of poverty under good, selfless and visionary leadership that will fight corruption, build infrastructure, create jobs, promote education and bring stability to the polity”.
In 2010, President Goodluck Jonathan declared that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) will dedicate the last two months of the year to reviewing its activities and concentrating on solving the problems of unemployment, power and poor empowerment of Nigerians. This column is asking if that was a statement made for the gallery or under political duress or did that really happen? If yes, what has that achieved, as the problems of unemployment, power and poor empowerment of Nigerians have not only subsisted, but, have exacerbated since then? So, what was the impact of the so called government efforts on these problems? The President should know that as the leader of Nigeria, the citizens look up to him for compassion, leadership and inspiration. Whether he created the problems or met them when he took office, the President should know that Nigerians hired him to fix them (the problems), so, he has to justify his office, pay and power. Rather than squandering his energy in the politics of self succession in 2015 and divide-and-rule tactic, he must be selfless and just, and should direct his efforts in providing infrastructure, particularly addressing the power sector, good roads, education, healthcare, unemployment etc.
Previously, Nigeria blamed the shortfall in its oil production and export on the heightened violence in the Niger Delta region, unleashed by the Niger Delta militants, which led to lost of lives and destruction of property worth billions of dollars. Most oil companies were forced to close down their businesses, while foreign workers fled the region. This column learnt that Nigeria's oil reserves stood at 37 billion barrels before the escalation of the Niger Delta crisis, but, dropped to 32 billion barrels at the height of it. Due to the problems the Niger Delta militants were causing, the then President, Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, on June, 24, 2009, proclaimed the amnesty deal in which he gave repentant militants 60 days (till Sunday, 4th October 2009), to take advantage of the offer. In Yar’Adua’s words on June 24, 2009: "I hereby grant amnesty and unconditional pardon to all persons who have directly or indirectly participated in the commission of offences associated with militant activities in the Niger Delta". The amnesty programme then brought a halt to attacks, encouraging the oil companies to repair their facilities that were damaged in the wake of upsurge in attacks in the region. Oil export then stabilized at 2.2 million barrels per day (bpd). According to ThisDay, Commercial and social activities, which had been at very low ebb, bounced back, as 20,192 youths embraced the amnesty and surrendered their weapons. Repairs of oil and gas facilities blown up in the wake of the violence in the region were facilitated because of the normalcy in the region. Then, few years down the line, it’s no longer the Niger Delta militants who are disrupting Nigeria’s oil export, but, oil thieves who are divesting Nigeria of billions daily. In October 2010, the President raised concern over illegal oil bunkering in the Niger Delta when speaking on security at the 16th Economic Summit in Abuja, saying that the problem in the Niger Delta at the moment is no longer restiveness but bunkering. Unfortunately, this government has not moved decisively to stop the illegal business or to reduce the scale to the barest minimum since then. There’s concrete evidence that some highly placed Nigerians are in the illicit business for personal gain or to raise money for upcoming political activities. Those defrauding Nigeria in any way shouldn’t forget the saying that “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death”.
President Jonathan admitted, on October 19, 2010, that the issue of bunkering in the Niger Delta region has become intractable, and that the country is losing a lot through it (illegal bunkering) also. Why is it that this problem hasn’t been solved for three years, as the illicit business has blossomed out of proportion? In one of my articles in 2010, I (this writer) quoted Uche Igwe, an Africa Policy Scholar at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC USA thus: “The clandestine nature of the trade has made reliable statistics impossible. However, estimates leave the number of stolen barrels to an alarming four hundred thousand daily. At the current crude rate of 82USD per barrel, this would amount to a whooping 32.8 million USD (4.920 billion naira) daily worth of revenue lost to criminals. It is believed that Nigeria has lost close to 25 billion USD in the last ten years (an assertion by one of the major players in the oil industry in Nigeria). Indeed the extent of the loss in simply unquantifiable. This national haemorrhage is not only embarrassing but unacceptable”. This column expected the President to “plug the leaks”, but it seems that this one has also overwhelmed him because of the calibre of people involved, as a serious resolve to take the fight to the criminals is lacking. Some of the retired generals, in connivance with some foreigners, are the big fishes behind the illegal bunkering. The security forces have complained of arresting some criminals stealing our oil, but, were forced to release them after few hours, because an order came from some retired generals to that effect. The President needs to review the role the security forces are playing, because, they have proved incapable of protecting Nigerians and Nigerian oil against terrorists and criminals, as they may be conniving with them (the criminals), but, will publicize their arresting of few inconsequential culprits only when those involved (in the bunkering or other criminal acts) refused to offer them something “tangible”.
This column wants to ask the president about the “technical committee” he instituted to work out modalities for the training of ex-Niger Delta militants as coast guards in order to complement security agencies in protecting the nation’s coastal areas? On November 1, 2010, the Vice President, Namadi Sambo, during an inter-ministerial/inter-agency meeting on human capital development master plan for amnesty programme, in Abuja, underlined the urgency of the plan to create a coast guard made up only of allegedly repentant militants from the Niger Delta. Sambo added that the technical committee was given only nine days then to complete its assignment and submit its report to the Federal Government. In Sambo’s words: “the incessant insecurity at our coasts is as a result of inadequate coast guards who may give information and perfectly protect the coasts, therefore, there is need to train more people as coast guards, as sustainable peace in the Niger Delta can only be achieved if there is enough surveillance by the security agencies”. What happened thereafter; where’s the committee’s report and its implementation; where are the coast guards and their protection of our oil? Can Nigeria give such sensitive job to the militants? Because, some of the Niger Delta militant warlords, according to the Daily Trust, have been responsible for most cases of brigandage, bunkering and acts of piracy that have blighted our coastal areas. Just think of Asari Dokubo, a former warlord, who decided to use all the money he made, by fair and foul means, in Nigeria to establish a university in Benin Republic, instead of in Nigeria, and who also further admitted that he has taken up Benin Republic as a home. So after causing all the troubles and deceiving so many Niger Delta youths, Asari Dokubo decided to abandon the ship of Nigeria for that of Benin Republic, while still coming into Nigeria to make reckless statements from time to time. Incredible! That’s what this column has been condemning all along: It’s wrong to rob Peter to pay Paul (it’s wrong to take from Nigeria to help build another country). Ojewoye Gbenga put it succinctly when he wrote:” I join other Nigerians to congratulate Asari Dokubo on his acquisition of a university licence, but he must realise that opening a university outside Nigeria where he got his wealth cannot empower his people or champion their course and this is an injustice to the people of the area. Why must he adopt Benin Republic as his country? Nigerians must be careful of the people beating war drums, whereas their families and investments are outside the country. All the people pretending to be fighting the cause of justice are deceptive and pretenders. Let all the people causing trouble and crises in the name of fighting for justice to enrich their personal pocket leave Nigerians alone, since their proceeds from this fraudulent movement are not invested in the country to revive our economy. It is shameful and embarrassing that our leaders chose to destroy our system in order to invest in nearby countries”.
In November 2010, President Goodluck Jonathan gave directives to NNPC to resume oil exploration in the Lake Chad Basin due to his government’s commitment in raising its oil reserves. So, how far have they gone in discovering the oil? If oil is found there; it will solve some of our problems, especially the politics of bitterness and succession (parochial politics) which are overheating the polity. The Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mr. Austen Oniwon, according to Daily Trust, said that the Federal Government was previously compelled to suspend the exercise for lack of commercial discoveries, adding that a total of 33, 000 kilometres of two dimension seismic data were acquired, processed and interpreted. He said 23 wells were drilled then. He said over 400 square kilometers of data had already been acquired from the estimated 3,550, promising the resolve of the corporation to hit the 500 target before the end of that year. So, where’s the oil in the Lake Chad Basin or have we wasted precious resources looking for what’s not there? The money wasted could have solved other pressing problems such as empowering so many unemployed youths to be self-reliant.
Things have gotten so worse on the unemployment front that even Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State has just said that a conference on youth unemployment should have been a priority in place of the proposed National Conference. The governor then urged the President to give attention to employment generation.
To be continued!
THE THANX IS ALL YOURS!!!
Continued from Part 4