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Will Okonjo-Iweala Develop Or Under-develop Nigeria?

September 9, 2011

President Jonathan and his World Bank trained and packaged Finance Minister,  Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on the way “forward“for Nigeria have agreed on their “expert opinion” that in order to liberate Nigeria out of its economic hellfire, the country has been undergoing for over 22 years, the total removal of fuel subsidy, the government pays on each liter of fuel is inevitable. 

President Jonathan and his World Bank trained and packaged Finance Minister,  Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on the way “forward“for Nigeria have agreed on their “expert opinion” that in order to liberate Nigeria out of its economic hellfire, the country has been undergoing for over 22 years, the total removal of fuel subsidy, the government pays on each liter of fuel is inevitable. 

Their argument according to the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency is that the landing cost of a liter of petrol is N129.21, the margin for transporters and marketers is N15.49; the expected pump price is N144.70; while the official pump price is N65.

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Iweala claimed that the federal government pays N79.70 as subsidy on each liter of petrol for local consumption and went further to say that local fuel consumption is about 32 million liters daily and N2.6bn is daily paid as subsidy. Trying to gather justification and support for her claims, she told reporters thus: “There has been a lot of debate on fuel subsidies and we have all resolved that (removing it) is a good direction to go on. You have to leave it to us to decide when it is prudent to do so”.

This call by the honorable minister for the removal of fuel subsidy to me has a striking resemblance with the callous and anti-intellectual IMF and World Bank packaged economic programs that are always a mark of bad luck to the Third World especially Africa. I do not know if there is a spiritual or criminal connotation or conspiracy behind the activities of World Bank and IMF but all I know is that these cartels lack the capacity to direct our economic programs. The World Bank and the IMF do not work or implement their programs strictly based on the sociology and practical economic assessment of the people the claim they want to assist.

The problematic economic situation Nigeria is facing today originated when one soldier who calls himself Babangida in the mid 80s took the suggestion of World Bank and her sister IMF and introduced the infamous Structural Adjustment program SAP in Nigeria. As if that was not enough, he went further and obtained a loan from the suicidal doors of the infamous International Monetary Fund IMF. The effects of these suicidal moves by IBB and his World Bank and IMF conspirators are still largely visible in Nigeria today.
Just recently, the IMF in its dubious and anti-Nigerian attitude, called for more devaluation of the naira so that things would get "better" for us. The controversial CBN governor, Sanusi Lamido could not hide his hot feelings as he described the call as a policy that "is not based on sound economic logic."

It is on this note concerning programs not based on "sound economic logic" our "experts," made up of the World Bank Group, IMF and their Nigerian agents and technocrats without any iota of patriotism impose on us after undergoing trainings from foreign institutions I am going to discuss here.

With about 32 million liters of petrol consumed daily across the country, it means that the government is paying about N2.6bn as subsidy every day. We do not need an economic expert from the moon, sun, Washington or Paris to visit us and inform us that the Nigerian economy is land-transport based. Most of the economic policies that work outside Nigeria in some developed countries will never work here because of some certain reasons political and economic.

So too are some economic setbacks outside the shores of this country. For example, when the world was undergoing global economic meltdown, prices of goods and services especially the cost of buildings overseas, fell drastically while in Nigeria, everything remained high.
 I am deeply shocked that Okonjo-Iweala with all her exposure, sound education and position has come home with her World Bank-like policies that will totally dehumanize Nigerians the more and make them appear like slaves in their own land. If by the grace of the devil this subsidy is removed, it means that the pump price of petrol will be sold at N150 or thereabout and this will totally open all sizes of Pandora’s boxes against the masses of this great nation. The immediate effect is that the controversial minimum wage state governments are struggling to pay their workers will become totally useless and workers will embark on an industrial action making fresh demands for at least N50, 000 minimum wages.
Nigeria, according to Dr Reuben Abati, the presidential spokesman, is Africa's largest oil exporter. Personally, I never knew this but all I know is that Nigeria is Africa’s highest oil importer to the extent that on 10 August  2011, President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic told state house reporters in Abuja that his country would be exporting fuel to Nigeria by the end of 2011.

 Do we need to shout Holy Ghost fire in order to note that Niger Republic is one of the poorest countries in the world and Nigeria is the 6th largest OPEC member? The estimate is that over 80% of Nigeria's refined petroleum consumption needs of over 40 million liters (totaling 10.57 million gallons) a day, are imported. Why? The refineries are not working for over 10 years now and the problem is not that there is no money to rebuild them over the issue of corruption and mismanagement.

Dele Giwa, one of the brightest and greatest journalists Nigeria had ever had, shortly before his parcel-bomb assassination on Sunday October 19, 1986, took a critical look on the high rate of shocks and surprises Nigerians undergo daily and wrote: “Nigerians have been shocked to the state of un- shockability.”  The journalist was right. Nigerians are able to absorb all these shocks and surprises because our shock absorbers are very strong and reliable. Be that as it may, no matter how strong these shocks may be, it is going to lose its strength and reliability someday. Something within me tells me that this period, if the threat by the honorable minister is carried out, the shock absorbers will completely become useless.
The only good thing Nigerians enjoy from the government since 1960 is oil subsidy.  Besides this, the discovery of oil in Nigeria has brought and deposited untold hardship, massacres, laziness by government officials and political contractors, fraud, corruption and genocide against the destiny of our collective existence and patriotism. There is no Nigerian either living or dead that had not in one way or the other paid a very tragic price for the curse and discovery of oil in Nigeria. It is not so in other OPEC nations where citizens enjoy social securities. We are the only OPEC member nation that increases fuel prices often and the only OPEC member nation as well that usually suffers from domestic petroleum scarcity.

We lack security of lives and jobs, our hospitals, schools, housing and other forms of social developments cannot compete with international standards. Yet, a government official, a Nigerian for that matter and beyond all, a mother is threatening to remove the only source of happiness her children enjoy in order to “move” the country forward. This is just like telling someone with a stomach upset that you will treat her  by giving her a cup of acid to drink and after some burning sensation inside her stomach, everything will stabilize and she will be normal again.
Successive governments in Nigeria have always developed the trick of giving us good reasons any time they wanted to commit one evil or another against our collective destiny. At last what happened? They would shamelessly come to give explanations while their theories failed. Some would tell you that their hands were tied and others would say they were under pressure, they should be ignored.

Right from the days of IBB, General Abacha, Obasanjo and till date, we, the innocent masses have always been fed with several inferior and unintelligent arguments “not based on sound economic logic." and explanations on why we should embrace hardship as a way of life while they would be busy fixing the country. They brutal truth is that they are not fixing any country; they are in Abuja enjoying everything absolutely free of charge.
The argument of Okonjo-Iweala is that we are spending a huge sum of money to subsidize fuel. Can a parent tell his children, “I am spending a lot of money in training and feeding you, I think the best option now is to allow you feed yourselves and pay your school fees so that things will normalize for the family?”

Madam Minister, you are aware that America predicted that Nigeria would totally disintegrate by 2015, (I pray the prediction will never come to pass) please do not act a lead or minor role that may in any way lead to the disintegration of our beloved Nigeria through your World Bank and IMF-coated reforms that are “not based on sound economic logic.”.

To assist you to deliver a good service to Nigeria  let me offer you some solutions on the way forward.
Precisely in November 2009, the Venezuelan Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. E. F. Arrundell, granted an interview to a Nigerian newspaper where he really exemplified the sympathy OPEC countries have for Nigeria. Please hear him out;  "In Venezuela, since 1999, we’ve never had a raise in fuel price. We only pay $1.02 to fill the tank. What I pay for with N12, 000 here (Nigeria); in Venezuela I’ll pay N400. What is happening is simple. Our President (Hugo Chavez) decided one day to control the industry, because it belongs to the Venezuelans. If you don’t control the industry, your development will be in the hands of the foreigners."

Venezuelans have no business talking of fuel subsidy because they know what the mathematics and politics of petroleum business demand. For over 10 years, no increment in fuel price! Can you imagine that?  Venezuela is an oil-producing country like Nigeria.

 My younger brother has been living in Ivory Coast since 2001, he said from the day he moved into the poor country to settle, till date, the country had never had a need to increase fuel price and yet Ivory Coast is an oil poor  importing nation.

My view here is that there is an urgent need for you to judiciously use your good office especially now that President Jonathan had conferred on you the Senior Prefect of ministers and look into corruption and mismanagement and give us a new Nigeria. You cannot do this by inflicting more pains on Nigerians by the removal of fuel subsidy, citing reasons that Nigeria spends a lot of money to give her citizens fuel to move around.

According to the Sunday Punch of August 28 2011, Nigeria has refining capacity of 45,000 barrels daily and a total of N 72.8b is spent monthly to subsidize fuel. Big amount of money right? Now hear this: Nuhu Ribadu, the former boss of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC, while delivering Professor Wole Soyinka’s 76th Birthday Lecture, not only said that Nigerian leaders were lazy but he also told his audience that politicians alone loot $10 billion monthly from Nigeria. He did not tell his audience the stupendous amount of money civil servants loot as well.

During his tenure as the EFCC boss, Ribadu told us that he recovered billions of US dollars from looters including the Abacha loot. Till date, no one knows where the recovered funds have been put into. Also just recently, 22.5 million pounds sterling from the Isle of Jersey in the United Kingdom were recovered and sent back to Nigeria by President Jonathan according to Reuben Abati. Where are these monies?
From these pictures, every Obinna, Segun and Musa will agree with me that the problem we have today is not and will never be the removal of fuel subsidy. The problem is corruption and laziness.  Too bad that all these funds are released from the ministry of finance and that is where the Senior Prefect is manning. The  number one solution is that you and GEJ should use your experiences (if you want Nigerians and the world) to take you seriously and fight both official and unofficial corruption. The issue of the removal of fuel subsidy or calling for one single term of six years should not take a front page at this time.

Another problem you have to face is the total waste of government resources on trivialities by government officials.  A friend of mine who went close to a state governor in the South East confided in me that commissioners usually forget their girl friends and mistresses in hotel rooms always, on the bill of public funds before or after taking them out for shopping. This is applicable to federal officials and some “home-boy” governors and senators who have a long list of personal assistants and official drivers who feed on the economy daily.

If President Jonathan who has just spent a 100 days in office can afford to recover such a huge amount of money, what do you think will happen in the next one year in view of the recovery of public funds if actions and programs are sincerely implemented?

Finally, madam Minister, you should team up with the Ministry of Petroleum and set up a committee that will oversee the revamping of our broken refineries. This committee will work and conclude its works within three months and from now till the next one year, our refineries will come back to life. The option of removing the subsidy on fuel is suicidal and will seriously dent the image of the presidency, your own personal image and the entire nation. The consequence is that, the masses will revolt against the operation or civilian dictatorship because by then, the shock absorbers have completely lost reliability and strength.

Finally, I have some few questions to ask: if the fuel subsidy is removed, which will surely make life more difficult for Nigerians, is there any guarantee that the economy will bounce back and prices of goods and services will drastically drop? If the fuel subsidy is removed, will that ensure that there will never be fuel scarcity in Nigeria again? If the fuel subsidy is removed, where is the assurance that there will be no increment in the pump price of fuel again in Nigeria? If the fuel subsidy is removed, can Nigerians have the opportunity to enjoy for the first time, what other citizens from other OPEC countries enjoy? And finally, if the fuel subsidy is removed, will it create employment and address other social ills such as armed robbery we are witnessing today as a nation? These questions are begging for answers.
Robert Greene, the dreaded American writer, strategist and a master in the art of social engineering and political mathematics in his book, The 48 Laws of Power  indirectly spoke to Nigerian government officials: Never underestimate the hidden conservationism of those around you. It is powerful and entrenched. Never let the seductive charm of an idea cloud your reason. Just as you cannot make people see the world your way, you cannot wrench them into the future with painful changes. They will rebel. If reform is necessary, anticipate the reaction against it and find ways to disguise the change and sweeten the poison.”
Finally and under similar circumstance, Jimmy Cliff, a Jamaican human rights activist who used music to fight social ills, looked at the world as far back as 1976 and wrote a song titled, Re-make the World. In the song Jimmy Cliff sang: So many people are suffering, so many people are sad. So little people got everything while so many people got nothing: remake the world with love and happiness”

I have a great sympathy for Jimmy Cliff and Dele Giwa, Jimmy did his song when the world was just a social virgin and crime-free while Dele Giwa wrote his article when Nigerians had had no shocks at all. I really wonder how Jimmy will be feeling now that the world is Going Mad. No doubt Delel Giwa will be angry in his grave.

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There is a need to remake Nigeria with love and happiness and not with pain and tears.
Darlington Ojy Onwukwe is the founder , Crusade for Positive Change CPC and he can be reached on [email protected]

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