Finally, what started during the Iranian crises of the 70s as a cushion for Nigerians now has a definitive expiring date – June 2023. It all started in the days when a dollar exchanged for around 80 kobo, and Nigeria produced almost all her needs, including cars. During those years of the windfall, all our refineries were producing, such that the country even exported petroleum products. In those days, brake pads, tires, and windshields were manufactured here, and our refineries were working. But that was some eons ago when patriotic Nigerians were allowed to roam freely, making their marks in every industry. Over the years, the issue of fuel subsidy has turned out to be a controversial public policy. In recent times, the issue of fuel subsidy in the annual budget has transformed into a national headache that only borrowing can assuage. From the outset, fuel subsidy was never meant to be normative, but then, corruption was not a thing in Nigeria at that time. However, since that time, multi-faceted corruption has gradually but surely hemmed Nigeria in on every side: corruption in the NNPC, as well as corruption in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, and of course, general corruption in every past administration to date. Due to corruption the country now survives only on the oxygen of debt.
Last year, there was uproar when the NNPC made a request of N3 trillion from the Ministry of Finance to cover fuel subsidy for 2022, but the lack of transparency in terms of how N2.565 trillion was spent for the same policy between January and August 2022 has only been met by an unholy silence. Surprisingly, the projected spending in the 2023 budget from January to June is a whooping N3.36 trillion – clearly, this is not sustainable by any stretch, and experts, politicians, and even ordinary Nigerians agree. Nevertheless, this humongous figure deserves interrogation. For instance, what is our daily petrol consumption? To put this question into its proper context, consider the response of the comptroller-general of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Hammed Ali during an appearance before the House Representative Committee on Finance on the 2023-2025 medium-term expenditure framework and fiscal strategy paper (MTEF/FSP) in September, he said: “The issue is not about the smuggling of petroleum products. I have always argued this with the NNPC. If we are consuming 60 million litres of PMS per day by their own computation, why would you allow the release of 98 million litres per day? If you know this is our consumption, why would you allow that release?”
“So, how did you get to 60 million litres per day? That is my question. The issue of smuggling, if you release 98 million litres in actual and 60 million litres are used; the balance should be 38 million litres. How many trucks will carry 38 million litres every day?” In this response lies the crux of the matter, because this high volume of consumption forms a major plank of the government’s argument. The Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) had put Nigeria’s daily consumption of premium motor spirit (PMS) at 66 million litres as of September 2022, but in May 2022, the NNPC reported a daily consumption of 93 million litres. Is the difference reconcilable? I doubt. In recent memory, the time of Dr. Ibe Kachukwu as Minister of State for Petroleum Resources was the only time, Nigerians saw a semblance of transparency in daily fuel consumption figures.
These ghost figures lend credence to the idea that petroleum industry cabals and the Nigerian rich are the only ones benefitting from the current subsidy regime. Conversely, should the poor suffer because of criminal-minded oil tycoons? This columnist is in full support of the removal of fuel subsidy to forestall a state where Nigeria becomes insolvent. However, out of laziness or outright wickedness, previous governments, and Buhari’s government in particular, have been unable to put structures in place that would seamlessly ease the country into an era of full deregulation. Besides, deregulation should be orchestrated in such a manner that the poor are protected against monopolies and oligopolies. All political parties and the majority of people in decision-making positions in the country agree that the current subsidy regime is untenable. All the Presidential Candidates have voiced their commitment to remove fuel subsidy if elected, to this end, former Vice President, and Presidential Candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar was saying he would do away with fuel subsidy in 100 days if elected. In light of the 2023 budget, Atiku’s commitment is inconsequential, in that the outgoing president has already done the heaving lifting. But, at what cost?
According to the Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed: “The plan is, by June 2023, we must have completely exited subsidy, and it has to be gradual.” So, how gradual has it been since last year? In fact, Nigerians have been witnessing a gradual suffocation thanks to Buhari and his team. The gradual suffocation is intended as a prelude to NNPC’s projection that fuel would sell at around N462/L when subsidy is removed in June 2023. However, with all the comparisons that have been made in the past regarding the price of fuel in neighboring countries, a reasonable estimate might be N700. It is an irony, that a man who, eight years ago as a private citizen commented that fuel subsidy do not exist, is ending the same policy after spending more than N10 trillion during his tenure. So, did he lie in 2015, or, was it a case of finding oneself in the belly of the beast (cabal)? We may never know.
At the minimum, before the Federal Government can remove fuel subsidy importation should have been away with. At least, the Port Harcourt Refinery that is being refurbished, and the newly built $19 billion Dangote refinery must have started production. Secondly, the Gas – to – Fuel policy conceived in 2020 by the Buhari administration ought to have been completed, or accelerated. Thirdly, mass transit systems ought to have been deployed in every major city (Lagos is already light years ahead of most major Nigerian cities in this regard). This was the ‘Change’ we expected when Buhari won in 2015. Then again, has he actually failed, or is he plain wicked? If you follow the news the way I do, you might notice that something does not add up. For example, the 650, 000 bpd Dangote refinery was projected to be completed in the third quarter of 2022, but that date has been moved to mid-2023. Interestingly, at full capacity, the refinery can produce up to 50 million litres of petrol per day. Secondly, Phases 1 and 2 of the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt Refineries will restore a processing capacity of 189,000 bpd as of December 2023 which will inject more than 14 million litres per day. Thirdly, some modular refineries are already producing. Undoubtedly, this might sound like a conspiracy theory, but numbers don’t lie.
Clearly, the NNPC monopoly is being primed to give way to the oligopoly of Dangote and BUA in the petroleum industry. Ordinarily, there is nothing wrong if these Nigerian giants are the major players in the petroleum downstream, except that since the deregulation of the cement industry, their activities in the industry have not been very favorable to Nigerians in general. For instance, a 50kg bag of cement sold for as low as N2000 in 2014, and then N1500 in 2015. However, since that time, the price of cement has continued on an upward trajectory to its current price of N5000 per 50kg bag even though the product is manufactured in Nigeria with Nigerian raw materials. Another case in point is the unbundling, and deregulation of the power sector; a situation where supply is epileptic and quality of service remains abysmal, yet Nigerians are compelled to bear unmitigated tariff hikes and humongous electricity bills. Sincerely, had President Buhari made good on his promises, subsidy removal would have been a non-issue. Sadly, with half-truths, and ineptitude his administration has thrown the millions who voted for him under the bus.
Indeed, President Buhari has brought change, albeit a retrogressive kind that is virtually hard to imagine considering where the country was in 2015 and the fact Nigerians did not put up a fight in petroleum pricing. His failure reminds me of my good-natured History teacher, Mr. Similalayim Jaja, who was fond of retorting, “If you don’t know it, you don’t know it” during his tests. Apparently, his promises in 2015 were irredeemable promissory notes at best, but removing fuel subsidy after eight years without getting the refineries to work, or improving mass transit systems in the country is the worst parting gift.
By: Raphael Pepple
Peace In South East: That Soludo’s Offer
Which reasonable person is not perturbed about the level of insecurity in the South East? Which person, which leader who means well for Nigeria would not be worried that lawlessness has been the order of the day in a section of the country for about two years now? From available records, no fewer than 37 police officers have been killed in the five states that make up the zone and over 35 police stations burnt or destroyed since 2021 when the insecurity situation in the area escalated. Just last Sunday, hoodlums reportedly burnt down the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, office in Enugu South Local Government Area, LGA, Enugu State. The gunmen also shot and killed one of the security men guarding the commission’s premises.
For people living in Enugu, Abia, Imo, Ebonyi and Anambra States, it has been a hellish period for them as they have been forced to sit at home every Monday since August 9, 2021, by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) following the arrest and imprisonment of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu. In a statement declaring the sit-at-home day, IPOB vowed to cripple the economy of the country until Kanu was freed and that is what has been seen in Igboland for about a year and half now. Not even a dying person is allowed access to the hospital on a Monday. Schools, banks, markets, offices and so on remain closed on Mondays.
Though there were stories about IPOB’s call – off of the sit-at-home order in April last year, the “ghost Monday” has not ceased to exist. Rather, a faction of the secessionist group led by one Finland-based Simeon Ekpa, has taken the “agitation” to the next level by sometimes declaring a whole week as sit-at-home and wasting innocent lives for whatever reasons within those days. A friend’s only brother was killed in Onitsha, Anambra State during one of such periods and is yet to be buried. There are also insinuations that some hoodlums have been perpetrating all manners of crime in the zone – kidnapping, killing, maiming etc. wearing the toga of IPOB and ESN. The just celebrated yuletide season was a far cry from what it used to be in the South East as many people from the region did not travel home for fear of falling victims of criminal activities perpetrated by unknown gunmen and other criminals who have taken over the land. Some who dared to travel are still narrating their ugly experiences at the hands of the criminals who abducted them.
In view of these, one had expected widespread commendations for the governor of Anambra State, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, for his efforts towards ending the insecurity in the South Eastern Region. In a recent appeal to the federal government for the unconditional release of Kanu, who has been in detention since 2021, though the Appeal Court discharged him, Soludo said, “I am making a passionate appeal to the Federal Government to release Mazi Nnamdi Kanu unconditionally. If he cannot be released unconditionally, I want him be released to me and I will stand surety for him. We need Nnamdi Kanu in the roundtable conversation to discuss the insecurity in the South East. We must end insecurity in the South East and we need Nnamdi Kanu to be around.”
But his appeal incidentally, did not go down well with members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, who through its Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, was quick to disagree on Soludo’s appeal contending that their leader, Kanu, was discharged and acquitted by the Court of Appeal and therefore needs no surety to be granted freedom. Of a fact, the reason given by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubarkar Malami, for the continued detention of the IPOB leader is very ambiguous. Malami had claimed that the Court of Appeal only discharged Kanu, in its judgment but did not acquit him of the charge for which he was facing trial and that new legal grounds would be explored to nail Kanu.
The federal government had since filed an appeal before the supreme court to challenge the appeal court’s judgment. It also filed an application seeking to stay the execution of the appellate court’s judgment which was granted by the court of appeal.Many Nigerians, lawyers inclusive, have not stopped frowning at the action of the AGF, terming it a violation of the rule of law. Worthy of mention is the comment of the Chairman, Board of Trustees, BoT, of International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, Intersociety, Emeka Umeagbalasi. He said, “It must be clearly and strongly stated that the only option available to Nigeria’s Attorney General as the Law Officer of Nigeria is to fully consent to the landmark judgment or go on appeal within the stipulated time frame. Consenting or not consenting to the landmark judgment is however immaterial to the order of the three Justices-led Court of Appeal.
“Should the Nigerian Government decide to head to the Supreme Court in the exercise of its right under the country’s body of laws, then Nnamdi Kanu must, first of all, be set free- the worst-case scenario is to place him in civil liberties-compliant movement surveillance if in the sincere opinion of the Nigerian State, granting him total freedom of movement, expression and association will be injurious to the pendency of the apex appeal (if any) and its final determination”. Incidentally, the federal government did not heed to the advice. Kanu is still in detention as the Supreme Court is yet to rule on the case.However, maintaining a hard stand by both IPOB and the government will only continue to prolong the carnage going on in Igboland. Going by the narrations above, IPOB may not be right in insisting that Kanu does not need a surety to be released.
What anybody who truly loves Igboland should be seeking for at the moment is an amicable resolution of Kanu’s case so that he will be released and hopefully peace will return to the region. Of course, the return of peace to the region will not be automatic knowing that a lot of water has gone under the bridge but it will surely make a whole lot of difference.Meanwhile, it must be stated that causing chaos in the society is never a good way to register grievances against the authorities. South East, just like people from other parts of the country, have every right not to like the leadership style of President Muhammadu Buhari; they may not be happy with the nepotism, sectionalism, tribalism, injustice and unfairness that have characterised Buhari’s government; they may be sad about the increasing economic hardship in the country, the insensitivity of the government to the plights of the citizens, but making the region ungovernable, subjecting the people to untold hardship is never the way to go.
What will the country be like if every zone, every ethnic group that has grievances against the government takes laws into their hands? On its own part, the federal government should, in the interest of peace and security in the South East Zone and the country at large reconsider its position towards the release of the IPOB leader in accordance with the Appeal Court judgement. It does not speak well of a government not to obey court judgements as has been seen severally in the current administration. What about solving the matter politically which has been canvassed by many groups and persons.
As the founding Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Chekwas Okorie, admonished, “The time for President Muhammadu Buhari to show magnanimity and leadership in the vexed issue of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is now. “The presidenti just returned from Mauritania where he received an “African Award for Strengthening Peace’’. Let him justify the award by taking every step to ensure peace and security in the South East and other parts of the country, especially as the election dates draw near.
By: Calista Ezeaku
Profiling Youth Exco For Peaceful Co-Existence
About three years ago, the present administration of Rivers State led by Chief Nyesom Wike initiated the policy of registration of youth organisations in the State. And the Government, through the Ministry for Youth Affairs, committed to ensuring that the executive members and those vying for leadership positions were profiled.
The aim was to get the youth organisations free from cultism-infested leadership. It is also designed to give credibility and recognition to the youth organisations.
This idea was welcome considering the unique place youths occupy in society.
Aside the fact that the youth constitute major population group in a growing population such as Nigeria, where the population will conservatively hit 250 million by 2030 according to demographers, the youth population is also growing geometrically like a phoenix.
The tendency of youths to be exuberant is rife and inevitable because they are adventurous, energetic and enterprising. These and other sterling qualities make some of them vulnerable to vulgarism, anti-social behaviour and flagrant criminality.
It is speculated, based on statistics reeled out by security operatives on those caught in various crimes, like stealing, robbery, prostitution, arson, that youths are predominantly the culprits or suspects.
This populace of dynamic and energetic youths cannot be led by people who are clueless and without vision. According to John Maxwell in one of his best seller books, “Leadership Gold”: Every human organisation rises and falls on leadership. The leader sets goal(s), gives direction, provides coordination and focus that fosters achievement of collective goal. It is therefore pertinent for ascension to leadership to be based on attainment of prescribed and stipulated standard of the organisation. The truth remains that nobody gives what he does not have, hence a renowned world evangelist, D. L. Moody said, “to train a child in the way he should go, parents must be in that way”. In essence, leadership must be exemplary. Those who are in the saddle of leadership should commit to and intentionally embody and live out those qualities they intend members to imbibe or cultivate.
Leadership is contagious. If a leader is bereft of sound moral qualities, there is the possibility of their followers being negatively impacted by the lifestyle of such leader. If a leader has a violent disposition they will breed followers that are correspondingly hostile, violent and brutish. Though the leader may preach peace such message will be counter-productive because it is not the product of the real speaker.
This explains why we have pockets of violence induced by cultism, inordinate ambition, rivalry, greed and selfishness among youths across the country.
The Rivers State Government and security operatives should not rest on their oars of ensuring that only youths who are free from cult affinity, drug addiction, violent tendencies and other social vices are allowed to vie for leadership position. In fact, those with known criminal antecedents lack the pedigree and needed character to lead youth. A youth leader should be level headed, articulate, visionary, motivating/inspiring, exemplary and above all, God-fearing .
The youth is transient. It is transition to adulthood and the next generation of leaders, so those who are leaders should have what it takes to lead well. Politicians should not see the youth as ready tools to achieve their selfish goal and ambition. Youths should be involved in the decision and policy making processes for adequate representation of their interest in policy and sustainable development blueprint. This is feasible when youth leaders know what is the felt need of the people they represent. And they will not be in a frame of mind to mortgage the collective interest of the youths for penchant gratification.
More often than not, some mischievous chiefs and traditional rulers have exploited the moral weakness of some youth leaders to polarise, create disaffection and sow the seed of discord among the youths so that they can achieve their selfish goal while the youths wallow in the orgy of discord. Most youth crisis in communities that border on royalties, chieftaincy, politicians’ largesse oil firms bounties are masterminded and orchestrated by some chiefs and elites such as the Bukuma crisis of October 8, 2003 that resulted to the burning and or destruction of 31 houses and cannibalistic murder of defenceless people of the community.
Though affinity may be pluralistic, differ and relative to individuals, youths should have a collective interest and intentionally commit to philosophy and maxim: injury for one is injury for all. There should be a reasonable commitment to kill greed and selfishness among youth leaders. The sanctity of the human life should be held sacrosanct that no life should be sacrificed for interest of selfish men or women. It is speculated that more often, youths are the ones used to clear or “delete” those deemed as the human “ obstacles” to criminal elites or perpetrate elitist criminality in communities. A situation where some youths reduce themselves to killer-squad for some elites, with impunity, is repugnant to good conscience and respect for moral values.
Leadership of youth groups should not be infiltrated by criminal elements, cultists and people of queer character.
Profiling as a pruning process and when done without fear or favour, will produce people of good character to lead youth groups. This will lead to peace and development in our society.
By: Igbiki Benibo
Socrates As An Idiom
The obtuseness and hypocrisy of humans had long been recognised as plight which no human agency or law is in a position to change. Rather, the ailments have been portrayed under various guises, especially through literature, as providing some camouflage for the accommodation of other weaknesses, with vanity as a fuelling factor. Apuleius, author of an ancient book: The Golden Ass, gave some insight into the common flaws which humans must strive to check. Socrates, an ancient philosopher whose wisdom was commended by the Delphic oracle above that of all living men in his time, was sentenced to death, as spreading anti-social philosophy. It was by the treachery and jealousy of a wicked clique in Athenian politics and judiciary that he was found guilty of corrupting young people. He died by drinking the poisonous hemlock cup, which, like crucifixion, was the form of doing away with condemned criminals and public enemies. One young man who loved Socrates and his ideas, was heard as asking: “Are you surprised that judges are corrupt?”
The truth was that the philosophy of Socrates was directed towards bridling, rather than, inflaming the passions of young persons; questioning the status-quo and established opinions and belief system, rather than embrace blind faith. Like the more recent era of The Inquisition and religious persecution or dogmatism, the judicial murder of Socrates left an indelible stain on the reputation of Athenian politics and judiciary. There grew a wide-spread conviction that force, treachery and hypocrisy were ready instruments of maintaining the status-quo. To describe Socrates as an idiom is another way of saying that power is an asset whose custody provides the due for the judicial murder of Socrates as a philosopher of human happiness and well-being. Custody of power is synonymous with maintaining the status – quo which demands that radicalism should be kept in check, even through the use of force, treachery and corrupt means. So it was that when the radical influence of the philosophy of Socrates was considered to be an affront on prevailing power structure and belief system, it became necessary to check the “dangerousness of the radical philosopher”.
There were no lack of witnesses and hired agents of prevailing power structure to testify that questioning every issue or idea and putting them to the test of verification before accepting them as true, was a dangerous philosophy. That was how the radical philosophy of Socrates became a danger to society by corrupting young persons. That old strategy of hunting and putting a security tag on radical elements in society has not stopped, neither are the motives for such sneaky surveillance always noble. Especially with regard to the hunt for and custody of power, there is no limit to what power-merchants can do to see that they are not taken by surprises, via undue radicalism. Wole Soyinka would say that: “The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny … In any people that submit willingly to the daily humiliation of fear, the man dies”. Among the antics and strategy for holding on to power are the use of force and tyranny, where money and other means fail to achieve the goal of mass submission to power. Keeping the masses in a state of ignorance helps to keep them in a state of docility, such that any radical person or group waking them from slumber, becomes a security risk.
Socrates of Athens (469-399 B.C.) was a philosopher and a radical agent of change in society, whose goal was to induce people to think and make judgements for themselves, based on personal conviction. Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany was to say many centuries after; “What Luck for rulers that men do not think.” Thus those who hustle for and hold power usually hold the opinion that “men do not think”, but can easily be swayed by material inducements, promises or threats. Thus the masses remain in bondage.Robert Ingersoll, a self-professed agnostic, in spite of his non-association with religious views of life, would say that “Free thought will give us truth. When all have the right to think and to express their thoughts, every brain will give the best it has”. From the earliest history of man, there has always been the tendency on the part of rulers in all fields of human activities, to prevent the masses from thinking for themselves and from expressing their thought freely. Thus radical agents of social change who challenge this suppression of freedom of thought and expression, have been regarded as capable of corrupting the masses, as Socrates was accused of.
After the sad death of their master and teacher, some pupils of Socrates considered it fit to preserve the cream and substance of the philosophy handed to them. One of such pupils was Plato. Because of the prejudice and tyranny of the clique and cabal that brought about the death of Socrates, Plato resorted to the use of idioms, parables and figurative styles to express the philosophy of his late teacher. One of Plato’s idioms was that humanity had reared a deadly and ambitious beast that would stop at nothing to ensure that no one is spared that is not willing to submit to it. When asked what that figurative beast was, Plato pointed a finger at his own head and said: that dangerous beast lurks within everyone, ready to destroy those who try to expose its strategies and antics. That idiomatic rendition of the philosophy of Socrates by Plato, became such an enigma that commentators on the works of Plato often skip or gloss over reference to “the dangerous beast lurking within”. Even in the modern times, little is known about the death of Socrates being an idiom for humanity: derailment!
The cup of hemlock that ended the life and teaching of Socrates of ancient Athens, is not different from the cross of crucifixion which sought to end the life and message of another “upstart in Nazareth”, about 500 years between the two events. People who take keen interest in the interpretations of idioms, parables, symbols, etc, would tell us that an ambitious, dangerous beast, has to do with the abuse and mis-use of power. Strength and power are two different resources. Late Ken Saro-Wiwa used to tell his friends that power in the hands of weak and immature people suffers abuses. When mad crowds join abusers of power, there is havoc. Leaving out the person of Socrates of ancient Athens alone, the idiom and message arising from his death, can serve as useful indicators that human beings have rarely changed over thousands of years. While many writers have pointed out, through their works, how power and positions have been abused in human history, there is hardly any indication that such abuses no longer occur. Methods and strategies may change, but the motives and key source of the venom remain enigmatic. What accounts for the obtuseness, hypocrisy, vanity and bestiality of humans?
By: Bright Amirize
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
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