Temple Chima UbochiSaturday, November 2, 2013
Bonn, Germany




Continued from Part 5

Oil wealth has been a curse on us, made us weak and docile (Abu Bakar Bashir)

Only crime and the criminal, it is true, confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core (Hannah Arendt)

n Part 3 of this article (published on Friday, October 4, 2013), this writer noted that “Nigeria imports almost everything, because, those gaining from the importations have sabotaged every effort to produce those things in Nigeria. Those who import the generating sets have been sabotaging every effort to fix the power sector and then steady electric power”. Now, on Friday, November 1, 2013, the ex-Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji, confirmed the point when he said “Generator suppliers forced me to resign”. The Citizen of November 2, 2013, wrote: “After a year and two months that he sudden resigned from President Goodluck Jonathan’s cabinet, ex-Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji, on Friday opened up on the “powerful interests” he claimed forced him out of office. Nnaji accused unnamed generator and diesel suppliers as well as sundry government contractors in the power sector of being behind his sudden resignation from office. Nnaji, who is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Geometric Power Limited, however, took glory for the successful handover of the successor companies of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria which took place on Friday. The former minister spoke at Bells University of Technology, Ota, Ogun State, where he delivered the institution’s 5th Convocation Lecture entitled: “Towards a Sustainable Value System for Economic Growth””.

Many Nigerians have expressed their anger at the way the government ruins Nigeria. We just have to look at only one of them here, due to lack of space and time. The Chairman of Silver Bird Group, Ben Bruce, recently lashed out on the government for spending $8 billion on fuel importation annually. At the launching of a book entitled “Why Run Before Learning To Walk”, written by Professor Turner Isoun and Miriam Isoun, The Vanguard wrote that Bruce, while expressing disappointment with the way politicians spend public fund, called for adoption of renewable energy and a paradigm shift from being a lazy and consuming nation to a creative and manufacturing nation. He even attributed the ongoing Academic Staff Union of University, ASUU, strike in the country to lack of fund, which he said was a direct implication of the $8 billion spent by federal government annually on fuel importation, and called for total removal of oil subsidy to enable government tackle other critical needs. Bruce also lambasted some state commissioners for investing public fund in the importation of tricycle, which he said is a 150 years old technology that should not be allowed into Nigeria, advocating for the adoption of latest and more efficient technologies that would deliver better services to the people. In his words: "The reason why Nigeria is broke is because we spend $8 billion a year, to buy patrol that generates smoke. We need to address that issue; a lot of our problems are self inflicting. The laziness of some people in government must come to an end. The expensive life style, popping of Champaign must stop. We must go back to the era of creativity. When people are poor, they struggle to become rich, when people have nothing, they dream and think and use their imagination. Rich people are not going to be next Nollywood stars. They have money and resources. The stars of this country are going to come from Ajegunle, poor homes, single parent homes, homes where they have no money, homes where they have one meal a day. These are the kind of people we should have in government with imagination. Why should Nigeria spend $8 billion a year on fuel importation, when it could have spent it on peoples’ welfare? The problem of this country can be solved, but too much money makes us lazy and incompetent. We must have renewable energy. We have the sun, so we should use solar power. We have what most people want and therefore, we should use electric cars, and we will not spend $8 billion to import fuel every year. Right now, a lot of ministries, federal and states, have too much money. President and governors should not give them any money. Too much money makes them lazy and less money makes them use their imagination and thinking".

Fuel importation doesn’t make any economic sense, but, those gaining from it, are Mafias (snollygosters), and the government is unable to tell them to “go to hell”, because, those ruling us are lethargic, have no “liver”, and have compromised themselves, thereby having no moral high ground to use the state power to deal with the saboteurs inhibiting Nigeria’s economic well being and development. What Nigeria needs is a strong leader who will be willing to do the right thing at the right time; who will also step on big toes, or even cut them off, if the need be, and then damn the consequences; who will empower and encourage the people to achieve lofty heights just as John Kotter (1947) wrote that “People are more inclined to be drawn in if their leader has a compelling vision. Great leaders help people get in touch with their own aspirations and then will help them forge those aspirations into a personal vision”. General George S. Patton (1885 – 1945) wrote, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity”.

Although Nigeria depends on oil for everything, but, still, Nigeria can’t sell enough oil to maintain its budget, because of sabotage through the stealing of oil by unscrupulous Nigerians in high places. Illegal bunkering has taken over from drug pushing as one of the illicit ways of making big money. President Jonathan said on September 10, 2013, that the country was currently losing between 60,000 and 80,000 barrels daily to crude oil theft (losing N1.5bn daily to oil theft). In the President’s words: "The oil sector has brought nothing to this country than shocks. Even some new shocks that we never thought could be shocks; things like oil bunkering and oil theft. These are shocks because once they happen, they shut down the entire system”.

The Nigerian government lost a whopping sum of N365bn in July, and since then, the government has defaulted in its financial commitments and responsibilities. The Vanguard wrote that doom looms as N365billion is a lot of money. Worse, N365billion is a lot of money to lose in just one month. In any currency, in any clime, under any circumstance and for any people, that amount is huge. Pray, which country on Earth would have its Minister of State for Finance, announce glibly, that it recorded a revenue loss of N365billion in just one month? From President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, to the Petroleum Resources Minister, Dezeani Allison-Madueke, the Finance Minister and co-ordinating minister for the economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Presidential Adviser on Amnesty, Kingsley Kuku, the lamentation song that the theft of Nigeria's crude oil is doing grave damage to the country's economy, has become all too familiar. Whereas it has been generally acknowledged that some powerful, very powerful Nigerians are behind the crude oil theft; Whereas government itself has not come out to provide the exact volume of crude exported and produced per day in its strictest sense; Whereas the actual number of barrels lost per day to oil thieves hover between 400,000 and 600,000; Whereas, whereas and whereas...... Now, therefore, it should be admitted that either a paradigm of recklessness or irresponsibility or both has taken over in Nigeria. N365billion loss! Strange but true!

The Sunday Vanguard discovered that the only authority that can stop crude oil theft in Nigeria is the authority of anti-corruption. The discoveries went as far up to link friends of those in very senior positions in government and in the IOCs (International Oil Companies). Firstly, a government that is at pains to give an accurate figure regarding export volume can never be said to be sincere about stopping crude oil theft. At best, what that tells the oil thieves is that a commodity the volume of which cannot be certified and verified, ab initio (from the beginning), would be difficult to calculate in terms of losses; and at worst create a free-for-all environment for the sustenance of the theft. The regular stunts about burning and destroying illegal crude refineries are no more than submissions to tokenistic dramatization of a sense of duty because the real crude oil thieves continue to thrive with the active connivance of those making the hundreds of millions from the crime. Does this administration know that there could be a correlation between a government collapse and crude theft because with such losses, it would find it difficult to run its business and the people could in turn rise against it? In the final analysis, it should be borne in mind that crude oil theft, in its very pure, undiluted form, also includes the misapplication of revenue accruing from its sale. N365billion loss in the month of July! And there is no protest? And the people and government are going about their normal business as if nothing has happened? Really strange!

The government can’t face the cartel gaining from oil import, and also can’t bring the cartel stealing Nigerian oil to book. But who are those behind the oil theft? The Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Office, PAP, Mr. Kingsley Kuku, according to Vanguard, raised eyebrows over the theft of the nation's crude oil by an unidentified cartel, urging Nigerians to view it as a war against the country. He warned that unless decisive steps were taken to arrest the ugly trend, the theft could cripple the economy. His words, "The theft of our oil should only be equated with the 'Blood Diamonds' in Sierra Leone. This is the greatest act of sabotage against the Nigerian economy". Kuku had in July, accused the international oil companies (IOCs), some of their indigenous staff and some oil-bearing communities of complicity in oil theft. According to him, the process of illegally extracting crude oil from pipelines in the coastal areas requires highly technical and mechanical expertise, which ordinary Nigerians or residents of the oil-producing communities do not have. He said, "The best you can find at the level of the Niger Delta people or some merchants of this trade are those doing menial jobs in it. You will need high-grade vessels and, when you cannot load your illegal or stolen oil, you are definitely going to find yourself in a mess where you will have to pay huge sums for demurrage. How many Nigerians have the capacity to do that? So, it is an international crime. I have never heard about any governor being involved. I know of one thing, and this is the bombshell, that there are workers in the oil and gas industry who have the expertise, who have the technical know-how, who know about the ways and means of sabotaging the oil and gas industry, who are likely to be involved”.

The Vanguard was right that Nigeria is in dire straits. A security official fingered highly placed individuals in a conspiracy that deprives Nigeria of billions of dollars in revenue to the Federation Account. The security official said "There is more to what you want to know from me. The truth is that it is a high technology crime and there is a well-built cartel responsible for oil theft in the country and, until you smash their set-up, illegal oil bunkering will not stop. They (the cartel) are highly connected people in and outside government, oil companies, businessmen, retired and serving military officers, including people you never thought could be involved. Illegal oil bunkering is their means of livelihood and they are bleeding the country. Forget about those you people in the media refer to as oil thieves. I mean those that steal crude oil from well heads with Cotonou boats/canoes, and then hide in the bush to refine and sell to petrol station owners. "Those are people in the kindergarten section of the business. The main people are the ones you do not see. They do not come to the pipeline to steal crude oil; they do their transaction at the various oil terminals. Whether Forcados or Bonny (terminals), officials can declare that only two vessels were loaded when 10 were loaded. The oil barons are very wealthy and they mop up the little that oil bunkers are able to steal and sell to them, but they do their real business with oil companies and government officials ". Appearing perplexed about the situation, the security official asked rhetorically, "Do you think anybody will be complaining of stealing of crude oil if it is just the volume that villagers steal and refine to eke a living?"

In explaining how the oil barons operate the illegal business, the president of the Ijaw People's Development Initiative, IPDI, Warri, Comrade Austin Ozobo, explained, "The oil cartel has illegal points where they siphon oil through long hoses into their waiting boats with an understanding with military officials. The poor class, who were doing the business to earn a living, have long, quitted the business because of the manhunt by security agents, who have continuously destroyed their properties, as they could not afford huge amounts to settle the security agents on daily basis. Military men see the business as a money-making venture. They lobby to be posted to the Niger-Delta area because they know whoever serves in the creeks of the region must buy expensive cars and build big houses. Oil cartels lobby military men in oil installations to enable them load raw crude from points and to refine. Sometimes, they pay between N100,000 and N200,000 for loading per boat and local refinery operators settle military men in their operational areas with between one and two million naira per week. Most of the military men, government officials and oil company workers have big vessels, Cotonou boats, barges, local refinery ports and illegal points allocated to individuals to steal oil and make huge amounts of money. "The military men are selective in their operations. They only go after people who refused to settle them".

The Royal Dutch Shell also accused the Nigerian security forces of aiding oil thieves and profiting from such a deal. According to the company’s report, the constant theft of large volumes of oil from the company's numerous pipelines is allegedly aided by politicians, security forces, oil industry personnel and traders as well as other miscreants who hibernate at creeks and swamps in the Niger Delta to bilk the nation to the tune of about $1 billion each month. The report blamed the act on lack of political will from the Federal Government and various state governments, where oil was being explored, and government's failure to checkmate activities of oil thieves, saying it has further emboldened the bunkerers who use their local and international connections to steal crude from pipelines (Tribune).

The AFP wrote that a new study from the London-based think-tank, based on interviews with some 200 government, private sector and independent sources, said “Nigerian crude oil is being stolen on an industrial scale. Estimates on the scale of the problem vary, with some Nigerian officials saying 150,000 barrels per day is stolen, costing some $6 billion a year in lost revenue. Proceeds are laundered through world financial centres and used to buy assets in and outside Nigeria. Few fully grasp the problem and those affected have shown little desire to act”. Chatham House, which also reviewed thousands of documents, said the figure was almost certainly more than 100,000 barrels per day. “In Nigeria, politicians, military officers, militants, oil industry personnel, oil traders and communities profit” .The initial stages of Nigerian crude theft are largely known, with gangs tapping into pipelines, pumping crude to smaller vessels which take it to larger ships for international sale. A certain amount is refined and sold locally. It was less clear where the illicit crude is taken abroad and how it gets there. It partly reaches world markets through “co-loading”, where stolen oil is put on ship carrying legal oil. Documents are forged and the vessel departs seemingly laden with legitimate cargo. The United States, one of the largest markets for Nigerian oil, may not be a leading destination for illicit cargo, perhaps because US refineries more rigorously inspect incoming crude. Refineries in regional markets, including Cameroon, Ghana and Ivory Coast, were listed as likely buyers. Refineries in China, India, Singapore and Eastern Europe all purchased stolen Nigerian oil, but the think-tank found little direct evidence to support any specific charge. Oil theft is a species of organised crime that is almost totally off the international community’s radar. Without better knowledge of how the stolen oil trade works, not every government can ignore it with confidence

Not only that Nigeria loses revenues to the oil thieves, it also spends scarce resources in fighting the oil theft, as Vanguard noted that the Federal Government as well as state governments, on September 19, 2013, agreed to commit N15 billion annually to equip security services to fight crude oil theft in the Niger Delta region. That’s money that could have been invested somewhere else, helping creating jobs, if not for those shortchanging Nigeria.

To be continued!






Continued from Part 5