Friday, January 20, 2012

Reading assignments :)

Hi all,

Caveat: I do not come to the "fuel subsidy" debate tabula rasa. 

The protests against fuel price hike has thrown up many issues that I wrongly thought passed with the military era- restrictions on movement and speech by the government, the deployment of troops to Lagos, Kano and Kaduna and harassment of protesters.  The oppression and harassment of innocent citizens by the police, SSS and army is unacceptable especially when the government claims it is helpless against Boko haram.
It is not surprising though that tribalism still remains with us as our president’s Niger-Delta kinsmen are alleging that the rest of Nigeria is against their son. See Annkio Briggs call here and Segun Adeniyi’s take on ethnic dimension on the subsidy issue

I digress. Below are three articles that are close to my views on the fuel subsidy issue.  Prof Sagay's interview, Funke Aboyade and Femi Falana’s op-ed. For the sake of fairness, here is Atedo Peterside’s on why fuel subsidy has to be removed.

Happy reading.
I rest my case

Does anyone know those behind the N2N in your face adverts?- they need a new job description.
Government officials need to learn how to talk to people and spend time on learning PR skills. All the ministers that sold fuel subsidy did more damage than good. They were so condescending in their speeches. Nigerians are not dumb- we quite educated. People in government need to LISTEN. They are not our lords and masters, they are there to serve.
Lastly, you can follow the house probe on the fuel subsidy issue on Channels T.V

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The oil spills no one is talking about

Nigeria has been occupied and attention is focused on #occupyNigeria and the removal of fuel subsidy. There is another issue we should be talking about but we are not.
On the 20th and 24th of December, oil spills occurred in Shell’s Bonga oil field located in Odioama Community, Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State and Nembe Creek trunkline in Bayelsa. Press reports state that about 40,000 barrels of oil was spilled in Bonga and that this is the worst spill in Nigeria’s history since 1998. The amount of oil spilled in Nembe Creek is yet to be determined

Considering that oil spills  and environmental degradation were causes of the Niger-Delta agitation, It is surprising that oil spills like these still occur and are treated with levity by responsible agencies and the government.

According to Shell, The Nembe spill was a result of oil theft while the Bonga spill was caused by a leak in one of the export lines during a tanker loading operation.

These spills show that:
  1.  Nigeria’s supervising and regulatory agencies (NOSDRA, NIMASA, Ministry of Environment) lack the capacity and ability to regulate and monitor oil companies. These agencies are unable to carry out their stated mandates as regulatory agencies.  Available reports on these spills are from Shell. How are Shell’s reports verified and validated? Considering Nigeria’s past experiences with oil companies and their attitudes to clean up and taking ownership of their failures, it is unfortunate that we are yet to develop the capacity to effectively regulate and monitor the oil companies.  For instance, there are no investigations on the causes of the spills,  the consequences and impacts of the spills. Shell claims that the spills have been cleaned up but how the clean-up was conducted and the substances used in the clean-up are not stated. A reuters report  and reports by environmental advocates state that the Bonga oil spill has not been properly cleaned up. The director of NIMASA has also come out to state that Shell has not properly cleaned up the area.
  2. Nigeria has no supervisory power over oil companies: Shell resumed operations in Bonga on the 1st of January. The directive to resume operations was not given by NOSDRA (National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency) or NIMASA (Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency) or the Senate committee on the Environment. This decision was taken by Shell. This abandonment of responsibilities on the part of government and regulatory agencies is startling. It took BP over a year to resume drilling after the Gulf of Mexico Spill in 2010.
  3. The Nembe oil spill has been underreported.
Related to these technical and political weakness, there are no discussions on appropriate compensation for affected people or penalties for Shell. Using the Gulf of Mexico incident as an example, BP was fined $20 billion as compensation for those affected by the oil spill- $5 billion of this has been paid.  

The government’s failure to ensure the security and welfare of her citizens is seen in this case. A situation where the government relies on oil companies for information on their activities and violations is unacceptable. Until the government rises up to it responsibilities and develops technical capacity and enforces environmental laws in Nigeria, the Niger- Delta area would continue to be exploited by oil companies.
A quick research shows that there are no enabling laws that outline the penalties for environmental violations especially oil spills in Nigeria.  As the saying goes where there is no law, there is no crime. The National Assembly has the responsibility to pass laws that would protect our environment.
NOSDRA and NIMASA have to be empowered to carry out their statutory functions. There should be investments in technological tools such as GIS (geographic information systems) mapping and tracking tools to enable these agencies carry out independent evaluation when incidences like this occur.
NOSDRA and the Senate committees on environment and petroleum should also have oversight functions over the oil companies. For instance, how does Nigeria verify that international best practices are followed during drilling operations by oil companies?
My two cents is that until the Nigerian government develops the capacity to monitor oil companies and holds oil companies accountable, the Niger-Delta area would continue to be exploited and the quality of life in that area would not improve.

Please feel free to add comments on how to ensure that NOSDRA is up and running.


Friday, January 06, 2012

#fuel subsidy: do we have a cabal or a cartel?

My dictionary defines a cabal as “a secret political clique or faction”
A cartel is “an association of manufacturers or suppliers with the purpose of maintaining prices at a high level and restricting competition”. OPEC, which Nigeria is a member of, is an example of a cartel.
Since the “consultation” on the removal of fuel subsidy began, a “cabal” was named as beneficiaries of fuel subsidy. (The polity’s love for everything secretive, occultic, and alarmist is another story).
The Nigerian Senate in December released the list of the “oil cabal” that torments Nigeria’s Israel. This list also includes the monies that were paid to these companies.
In his presidential media chat president Jonathan said this about the cabal; "oil cabal members are genuine businessmen. They are just like GSM service providers who are in business to make profit. They are not necessarily corrupt people and Nigerians must not perceive them as such."
This raises two questions- If they are businessmen who are in the market for profit why is the government blaming them? – they are in the business to make profits and they are not charity organizations? Second, if the government believes that these companies are making so much money off them, why not re-negotiate the terms of agreement?
In case, the presidency has forgotten, governments have leverages they can use to get what they want especially over businesses. It is time the government takes ownership of its inefficiencies and failures.  
While we are at it, this issue should be called by its proper name- fuel price hike/increase and not removal of fuel subsidy.

On another note, what is the government afraid of? And what’s with the endorsement hunting?

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Life Chances: of ligatures and options

Growing up, I heard my parents and relatives speak about the time when Nigeria was good. ECN (Electricity company of Nigeria) was functioning, there were good roads, education was superb and it was only “dull children that went abroad for their first degree” etc. Then SAP (Structural Adjustment Programme, aka: sadness and pain) was introduced. Since then, Nigeria has been falling; the ditch she fell into has become expanded and widened. I was born the year SAP was implemented. What are my life chances?
Life chances are defined as the “sum total of opportunities offered to an individual by his society or by a more specific position occupied in society”. Life chances are divided into options and ligatures. Options are “choices or alternatives of action given in a social structure” while ligatures are bonds, linkages, and allegiances that give meaning to the place an individual occupies. This raises the question, what are the life chances of a carpenter, a teacher, a tomato seller, a cab driver, a newspaper vendor, honest businessman/woman, and civil servant in Nigeria compared to someone who comes from a wealthy family?
What are my options as a single civil servant who earns 18,000 per month?  In 2011, I determined that in 2012, I would learn a new skill and develop myself (for example learn how to use the computer so that I can move from a clerk to say an administrative assistant). I am so smart and I have figured out how to spend my money so that I achieve this goal. Then comes Jan 2, 2012 and I have to spend N600 on transport from Akute to Alausa. In a month, that is 12,000. I have N6, 000 to eat, pay my rent, cloth and do what? Am I not stuck in a cycle?
What are my options as a businessman with a family of four whose profit is N100, 000 after taxes, overhead, and recurrent costs? I would buy fuel for my generator, feed my family, pay fees and then what?
What are my life chances if I live in Northern Nigeria and I am not assured of seeing the next minute and my government justifies the removal of a so-called “fuel subsidy” because deregulation would encourage the ownership of new refineries. Who would come and build a refinery with Nigeria’s state of security?
What are the life chances of a Nigerian when the minister of finance states that the proceeds from “fuel subsidy” would be used “for development of vocational training skills. In this country, typically, when we are building a house, we find out most of the carpenters, plumbers and other artisans that we engage are foreigners from Togo, Niger and other neighbouring countries. Why? When we have our youth who are unemployed?  Why can’t we train them to be able to render such services? We are going to train them.” Really! Vocational training!! Our counterparts in China and India are carving niches in IT.
Nigeria’s constitution states the “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”. Nigeria’s government has failed to fulfill these purposes and yet asks Nigerian people to make sacrifices. Nigerians have been promised Canaan (at least that me I know of) since 1986 and we have still not left Egypt.
I don’t think that any Nigerian is calling on the government to become a nanny- we are a very enterprising and self-sufficient people-. I believe that all we ask for is enable us create opportunities that would improve our quality of life. All we ask for is not to be constrained through inhumane policies.

P.S: The federal government says mass transit buses have been purchased - campaign after election. TUC (Trade Union Congress) has refuted the claim that the expected buses were procured by the federal government. Peter Esele, the president of TUC stated that the buses were procured by the TUC not FG. Who is to be trusted?
On another hand,  is transportation the only sector affected by fuel subsidy?

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Here we go

Happy new year people or is it?
Boko haram did not strike today, maybe they got the intel that PPPRA would strike. The minister for finance said that we should start believing that the government would work for us. She said, “we need to rebuild this trust that has been broken and we need to do it by starting with the difficult issues”. I wonder if fuel subsidy removal is the most difficult issue that the government needs to start with? Why not start with electricity?How can we believe that the government would work for us when it is one failed promise after the other?
I am a disillusioned Nigerian but something in me hopes that things would get better.
This blog would serve two purposes (well maybe three). First, there would be a plenty commentary (read venting and ranting).
Second, this blog would be an avenue where we (readers and I) would propose solutions to specific issue. Specific problems such as how do we help students truly learn? How can we ensure transparency in government?  What is the problem with PHCN and is generating electricity rocket science??
Am I idealistic? Well maybe but I’m willing to give this a try.
So let’s start.