Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Article: Matters Arising On The State Of The Nigerian Nation

By Jaye Gaskia

Where do we begin from? This is going to be a running commentary on some of the issues agitating us as Nigerians, and that have been contributing to the undermining of the effective realization of our citizenship!

Let us return t the vexed issue of corruption in high places; and the culture of impunity by highly placed persons which enable this to happen.

Since the return to civil rule in 1999, with the current major parties [in their various manifestations] having held sway at the different levels of government; there have been literally a thousand and one cases of corruption that has unraveled without much having been done about them.

So we have had both the Federal Government and state governments announce with fanfare how they have discovered/uncovered tens of thousands of ghost-workers; stopped hundreds of Billions of Naira in ghost-payments to ghost workers; and yet in none of these 'celebrated cases' has any one single official been implicated, let alone indicted, and prosecuted.

To put this in perspective; the more than N100bn saved by the Federal Government is more than the annual budget of some of the states of the federation; it is in fact more than the 2013 annual budget of the Federal Ministry Of Agriculture and Rural Development [FMoARD]; a ministry that supervises the agriculture sector, which contributes more than 35% of GDP, and is responsible for 60% of those in employment!

How can the phenomenon of ghost workers and ghost payments have existed and survived for several years, without anyone official being in the know; and without any official, and or politician and political appointee, being the beneficiary of those ghost payments? Who were the operators of the ghost accounts into which the ghost payments of ghost workers were regularly paid?

Let us take another example; the fuel subsidy scam, as well as the scam around the Turn Around Maintenance of the moribund refineries? How was it possible that Trillions of Naira were paid to big and small time crooks, operating legal and illegal businesses; with withdrawals made from the federation account; without any single official being in the know of this grand theft? How could ghost tanker ships have offloaded ghost petrol, with money claimed for unsupplied thousands of tonnes of products without any officials of the respective agencies and ministries knowing, and being beneficiaries of the fraud?

How come a few minions who stole comparatively little are being prosecuted, without any single one of the officials who must have aided and abetted their crime being in the dock with them? Again to put things in perspective; the more than N2.5tn lost to fuel subsidy thieves in 2011 alone, is more than half [that is 50%] of the annual federal budget for any given year since 1999! What is more; it is in fact more than double the size of the annual federal capital budget in any year since 1999! How can the political leaders of a nation lose more than half of the annual budget of the nation to theft, and feel unconcerned about the loss, with business continuing as usual? How can this happen if the ultimate beneficiaries of the scams are not located in the highest political offices across the country?

And why are we in this subsidy mess in the first place? Because we import refined petroleum products, although we are the 6th largest producer of crude oil; and because the price of oil is denominated in USD, against which our own currency is floated. We have made the point before that, as long as these two conditions remain, the landing cost of imported fuel will always have a tendency to rise! The higher the price of crude, the higher the cost of refining and transportation, and the stronger the USD gets against the Naira; the higher will the landing cost of imported refined products get. The implication of this is that no matter what you do about stopping fuel subsidy; if you want to keep prices low and or stable, over a short period of time a gap will build up between the landing cost and the pump price; and you are then forced to either seek to maintain stable pump prices through covering the differential cost in a subsidy; or simply allow pump prices to rice with market prices! And we all know that petrol is a factor of production given the moribund nature of the power sector; and that the highest contributor to the high cost of doing business in Nigeria, is the expenditure of fuel for generators for all category of business - small, medium or large scale!

So why is that we cannot return to the situation when we had self sufficient domestic refining capacity, which is the only solution to the problem of high cost of fuel and subsidies? Why is that after spending more than N120bn on Turn Around Maintenances of the 4 domestic refineries since 199, none of them is producing above 35% of installed capacity? Who were the beneficiaries of the failed turn around maintenances? Why are they not in the dock or in jail? Who were the officials that facilitated this grand looting of the treasury?

Or should we cast our look at the related crime of crude oil theft? How come crude oil theft is increasing, and has spiked inspite of several hundreds of billions of naira in security vote; as well as the more than N30bn annual security and surveillance contracts to 5 + 1 ex-militant generals? Are the contracts and defence expenditures for security and surveillance, or for protection of the large scale organised criminal gangs running the crude oil theft business? Again we are forced to ask the question, who are the ultimate beneficiaries of these grand scale monumental thefts? Could the nation be losing $6 $12bn annually to crude oil theft without the protection of personnel at the highest level of governance? This $12bn lost to crude oil theft annually is just about 25% of the country's external reserves at $48bn! How come crude oil theft spiked from less than 200,000 barrels a day to roughly 400,000 barrels a day, at a period coinciding with the period covered by the Oil pipelines security and surveillance contracts?

And oh yes the energy sector! After spending more than $35bn in investments on increasing power generation capacity [to initially 10,000MWs, and then subsequently 15,000MWs] since 1999, all that we have managed to do is increase generation capacity from barely 2,500 MWs in 2000 to just about 4,500MWs in 2013! In addition to this, after more than $35bn investment, we have now earned $3.5bn from the privatisation of the sector! So we sell the assets of the sector $3.5bn after a recent investment in upgrading the assets of $35bn? And some people are advertising this as a success story? Why would the value of these assets remain dismally low at $3.5bn just after an upgrade investment in the assets worth $35bn?

Besides, any significant improvement in power supply depends not only on significant increase on power generation capacity; but also on equally significant increase in investment on power distribution capacity. This is because, with the carrying capacity of the National Grid remaining steady at just about 4,200MWs, no matter how much more power is generated, the national grid will be unable to transmit it. It will just amount to dormant and wasted generation of power! It is for this reason that in every year since 2010 there have been more than 15 general system failures of the National Grid. Whenever the transmission capacity of the National Grid is breached, or the amount of generated power being transmitted is close to the transmission capacity; the system shuts down, and leads to either significant partial or total system failures.

What has happened with the Faroukgate scandal? Where is the $620,000 in collected bribe? Why is the annual salary of the federal legislator, not only the second highest in the world, but also 116 times the per capital income of ordinary citizens? Why did the Daily Consumption Rate for petrol which had steadied around 30 million litres per day by 2010 suddenly spike to 60 million litres per day in 2012; and then return, after the January Uprising to 38 million litres per day in 2012 and 2013? Who were the beneficiaries of the fictitious 30 million litres per day excess throughout 2011?

We can go on and on and on, the list is endless, the situation nauseating! The more inexplicable part of the problem, which enables the culture of impunity to be sustained; is the attitude of some ordinary citizens! Every thief caught red-handed and exposed quickly retrace their steps into the ethnic, and or religious cocoon, and begin to sponsor with our stolen funds, ethnic and or religious 'mass' defence of their light fingeredness! Inexplicable because it is the ultimate victims of their gluttonous greed and treasury looting who are also mobilised, and given uniforms in rented crowds who dare the rest of us to leave their son or daughter alone!

It gets even more appalling when educated elites and youths are the ones at the fore front of this ethno-religious defence of petty thievery!

Unless and until we have a growing and intensifying movement of those who refuse to justify injustice in whatever form; unless and until we understand our own interests, and understand that these interests which bind us as victims, are different from, and antagonistic to the interests of those who steal from us, and as a result are collectively responsible for our underdevelopment; then for so long shall we continue to remain impoverished as a people!

It is our country, let us together take it back from the death and vice grip of this treasury looting ruling elites. Let us take our destiny into our collective hands and together take collective action to Take Back Nigeria.

(Visit me on FaceBook: Jaye Gaskia & Take Back Nigeria; Follow me on twitter: @jayegaskia & @[DPSR]protesttopower)

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