Friday, May 18, 2012

Fuel Subsidy Wahala continues...what solutions?

The Fuel Subsidy matter remains a gaping wound in the Nigerian body politic.  Everyone knows Nigeria is dependent on its earnings from the exploitation of its petroleum resources.  The new year in 2012 began with Nigeria bringing itself to the attention of the world in a new way. The Goodluck Jonathan administration decided to engage in doublespeak that was pleasing to the neoliberals at home and abroad, who consider corruption and profligacy a simple matter of venal elites gone wild.  The response through organized protests by Nigerians challenged this conclusion.  I most admire the Save Nigeria Group's stance, most recent of which is the lawsuit against the Nigerian government, see: Gbenga Adeniji's "SNG sues FG for N2.5tn subsidy payments" http://www.punchng.com/news/sng-sues-fg-for-n2-5tn-subsidy-payments/
and the combination of God's word with social critique by Pastor Tunde Bakare in his sermons, see: http://www.latterrainassembly.org/media.php is much appreciated by this often frustrated Christian, who wonders if God's people in Nigeria are mindful of the liberatory elements of the message of Christ, and his mission among the poor and dispossessed of his time.

The subsidy matter, as well as the Boko Haram situation, see http://www.thisdaylive.com/go/search/?search=Boko%20Haram&sort=date have been given a great deal of attention worldwide because Nigeria's sweet crude is highly desired worldwide, and the protests against subsidy removal in Nigeria recalled the "Arab Spring" or for me, African Spring, which signaled portents of people's power in erstwhile dictatorship-led countries, and Boko Haram's audacious challenge to the Nigerian state remains a clear and present danger, particularly to the multinational corporations and their countries of origin who want business as usual to proceed so money can be made.  What does it matter to these powerful actors whether the money is made by means and mechanisms that destroy the environment, support inequity, injustice, and nurture corruption?  What does it matter that majority of Nigerians, especially in the oil producing area, are living in abject poverty?  As long as the oil is flowing, the end, its seems, these actors are saying through their actions, justify the means. 

I know the BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera and other international media have covered the oil subsidy story, but I choose to privilege the Nigerian media's voice. 

See AHAM NJOKU "Fuel subsidy probe report: Before another match"
http://www.vanguardngr.com/2012/05/fuel-subsidy-probe-report-before-another-match/

and Fuel Subsidy Scam:  Matters Arising 1 &2 by Abubakar Nuhu Koko

http://www.businessdayonline.com/NG/index.php/analysis/columnists/37433-fuel-subsidy-scam-matters-arising

Fuel subsidy scam: Matters arising (2) 

Olaolu Oladipo's " Nigeria: Fuel Subsidy - Pastor Bakare Wants Jonathan Probed"

http://allafrica.com/stories/201205150236.html 


The alarming revelations are hardly surprising given the depth and breadth of thievery and chicanery that have now been taken out of the realm of rumors and innuendo and documented.  But as important as it is, just focusing on the fuel subsidy is a grave mistake, not least because: the matter has also been given insufficient attention by the Goodluck Jonathan administration.  Now that it is clear that in three years, $6.8b (about 1/4 of Nigeria's annual budget) was handed to the petroleum marketers by organs of the Nigerian state, which, due to the contradiction-riven environment in which it exists, then claimed that it wanted to rescue Nigerians from venal elites, and therefore, must eliminate the subsidy on petroleum.  Never mind that these government officials themselves never pay for fuel, live rent-free, are shielded from many of the day-to-day indignities and hardships that their compatriots face, and are friends and family, and sometimes, are even personally implicated in the shenanigans that consumed the funds!  Much of the subsidy removal discourse operated like a veritable Alice in wonderland scenario, and the ineptitude with which even that decision was handled was profound, to say the least. 
Now due to hearings by the Lawan Farouk-led Committee in the House of Representatives, the names of the culprits have been enumerated, (although this might be an incomplete list); the amount swallowed up by these greedy individuals and their businesses (sometimes existing only in briefcases) has been named; there have been numerous newspaper reports on the matter, and discussion ad infinitum.
On Fuel Subsidy Probe: Marketers to Refund Billions

This Day story by  http://allafrica.com/stories/201204161227.html

Subsidy Probe:Minister of Finance appears before subsidy probe panel
http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=GDbjPDVLrfE
Petroleum Minister appears before House Adhoc Committee
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzraAra5DYs&feature=relmfu

Subsidy probe, Kerosine

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ct1tKj53Om0

This one below is V-E-R-Y Long! But it's comprehensive too.
"NNPC Deducts from Federal Accounts Without Approval:Okonjo Iweala"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NoG-c1CfMLA&feature=related

And of course youtube as usual has more.

Given that a probe happened, the problem has been extensively documented.  Given that the probe led to a debate by Nigeria's national assembly, and recommendations were made, resolutions passed, and the ball is now in the court of the Executive branch under the leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan, how long then, inquiring minds want to know, will it take for the government of Nigeria to clean up its act by penalizing its own officials who are complicit in this massive fraud?  How long will it take to prosecute the now identified venal elites?  How long will it take to restore sanity to the management of Nigeria's oil resources in a manner that befits a nation that purports to care about its citizens?  How long?

As I said earlier, the matter goes well beyond the petroleum subsidy.  As scintillating as it is to hear about the massive fraud and identify the culprits, it is a more pressing issue to see this failure as symptomatic of a structural problem in Nigeria.  In the language of the political scientists, we have at best, a fragile state.  At worst, the problem is that of a failed state.  When a country's government is unable or unwilling to foreground the guarantee of the well-being of its citizens, and safety and security concerns are ignored to the extent that they are in Nigeria, one wonders, even as enlightened self-interested persons, do the people at the helf of the affairs of the Nigerian state know what they are doing?  Do they care?  Is it enough to feather their nests and those of their progeny by enabling the massive thefts underway?  Do they believe that the Nigerian people are never going to ask for them to account for their gross mismanagement and wanton abandonment of the responsibilities of a well-functioning state?  I say to them, remember the African spring!  It can happen in Nigeria.  Also, remember the hopes and dreams expressed prior to independence, that the  end of colonialism would bring a life more abundant to all Nigerians.  Remember that no leader is worth anything without followers who are not just sycophants but are brave enough to speak truth to power. 

The Goodluck Jonathan administration has no other option but to respond to the recommendations of the Lawan Farouk Committee, and by the way, it should also apprise itself of the previous relevant recommendations of other probes.  What is the use of NNPC, other than its being a cash cow for anyone in power, or anyone connected to the power elite in Nigeria?  What is the use of the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), other than also being another cash cow?  Why can't the Accountant General, the Petroleum Minister, and other government officials not being taken to task for their ineptitude, and what appears to an outsider like me, complicity?  What is the responsibility of the Boards of Directors of these bodies?  Why are the 140 oil importers still strutting around and making more mischief?  Nigeria can do better than this! .

Of course, as usual, I have much to say, but duty calls.  I have papers to grade, editing of all kinds to do for publications, and life in general.
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