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Same poison, different container

15 June 2016, 14:09 Ndili Stephen E.

Is it still possible for us to build Nigeria of our dream? How long will it take us to realize our potentials, considering that we are exceptionally endowed with natural and human resources? Seriously, I think we are grossly deficient in terms of development, which is occasioned by corruption and ineptitude (Ineptitude being the worst of the two evil).

Every election is supposed to afford the electorates opportunity to vote in new leaders and expectedly change their fortune positively. However, it seems the electorates in Nigeria are usually rewarded with the opposite of their bargain.

During the last election campaign that ushered in President Mohammed Buhari, I was doubtful about the sincerity of purpose of both APC and PDP campaign manifestos. Their ideas and what they tend to achieve was obviously disjointed. Their manifestos were determined by the facilities/infrastructures that were lacking in their campaign environment. Most towns in Anambra state were promised erosion control, States that don’t have airports were promised airports, in riverine areas they promised bridges, in general, they promised Naira will be equal to dollar, at Onitsha the manifesto swung in favour of construction of second Niger Bridge and dredging of River Niger. The promises were endless and apparently unachievable. On the Election Day, some of the electorates that had voters card, voted candidates of their choice, while others assisted politicians in rigging the election. At the end, President Mohammed Buhari was declared the winner. This was made possible by the then incumbent president, who congratulated the General turned politician even before the announcement of the final result.

At the final announcement of the presidential election result, virtually all electronic media (formal and informal) were agog with the news of president buhari’s victory. I still recollect that I and my good friend Oluwalowe at a gathering with over One Hundred other Nigerians were watching the election result collation process at a viewing centre close to my abode then in Abeokuta, South-west, Nigeria. The crowd was so jubilant about the outcome of the result and celebration continued into the middle of the night.

At some point in the wee hours of that night/morning, an unusual moon suddenly appeared in the horizon to the surprise of the cheering crowd. Though so many of us could not put a meaning to the occurrence, some other people attributed the moon as a sign of good omen. These set of people continued to echo the word CHANGE repeatedly, to the excitement of the jubilant crowd.

At this point, my emotion almost betrayed my earlier conviction that a black man does not have the capacity to rule over other black men (My opinion has not changed and will not change in the nearest future). If you ask, my reasons are almost inexhaustible and a discussion for another day.

Don’t get me wrong, I know President Mohammed Buhari is a good man and passionate about the success of Nigeria and Nigerians. I became very skeptical about his genuine concern for Nigeria immediately he decided to join forces with some corrupt elements in the country, who had earlier talked him out of retirement. Our president lost his integrity when he agreed to team-up with these elements, whose major objective was to push out the leaders at that time. The president swallowed his own vomit by contesting another election even when he had publicly declared himself unavailable for future elections after he was defeated by then incumbent in 2011.

 In fulfillment of the wishes of these elements and what also seems like a desperate attempt to realize his age long personal ambition, he opted for a bank loan to purchase his APC primaries nomination form, which depleted his personal economic value with over Twenty Million Naira. Subsequently, In a campaign characterized with threats of jailing looters and other bogus promises, bankrolled in multibillion Naira fashion, suitable for a mediaeval carnival in the most corrupt Asian Nations of the 70’s and 80’s, it was obvious that once a honorable man was ready to compromise his integrity by taking what looks like a final shot on the “Czarship” of the Nigeria State. On this carnival-like campaign, he traversed the length and breadth of the country on a chartered aircraft, billed on hourly basis, without giving a thought to the accumulated cost of servicing the loan he took to invest in APC Presidential nomination form.

Finally, President Mohammed Buhari was sworn-in on 29th May, 2015, in a much awaited dawn of CHANGE. His speech was that of hope and enthusiasm. In addition to inestimable campaign promises, he knowingly/unknowingly made the mother of all promises, when he said “he belongs to everybody and belongs to no body”. He resumed duty on this date and started running the country like a sole administrator (belonging to himself alone). It took over three months to articulate and nominate perceived credible Nigerians as minsters. At the end of the wait, most of the ministers he nominated were retrieved from the countries “archive”, those with unprecedented history of underperformance and gross inefficiency in management of Government resources. While some others, were given portfolios that are not related to their area of specialization. For instance, a lawyer was appointed as Minister of Works and Housing (Just like having an Engineer as Attorney General of the federation) and yet some Nigerians are still optimistic about change, when nothing has changed from the usual way of doing things. Also, a medical Doctor was appointed minister for labour and productivity, yet the change slogan is still loud. In all of these, professionals and their Associations did not deem it fit to engage the Government on issues of appointment of political office holders. The argument here is that procedures for appointment of political office holders has not changed from what it used to be in the past but again, has success really been recorded from this crude way of doing things?

Consequently, in less than six months after appointing ministers, Nigeria and Nigerians started experiencing a lot more hydra-headed problems than was left by the immediate past administration, which now take pride in challenging Nigerians to make a choice between two inseparable evils. The immediate past president, now goes about with his head high, even when his only obvious achievement was handing over power peacefully. In recent time, the administration of the immediate past president has been in the news for every wrong reason.

In addition, amongst those that were appointed minister is a thorough breed professional lawyer, with specialization in Energy, Petroleum Law and Investment, who was appointed as the czar of NNPC. His appointment was hailed by those who knew him in the oil and gas sector. His approach to work was not much different from that of former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, who chooses to address press conference at will instead of minding his job as a professional. In one of his unguided statements, he talked about “Unbundling” of NNPC, which he later retracted and used the word “Restructuring” in place of “Unbundling”. He continued to immerse himself in controversies. In another instance, he was repeatedly talking about subsidy removal, while the President was saying his Government will not remove subsidy. He continued in this fashion, until he started speaking from both sides of the mouth.

As an “economist”, he has convinced Nigerians that competition will drive the price of fuel down in no distant time, that is yet to be seen (We all know that shylock petroleum marketers are not in any way in competition but instead they collaborate/corporate to make things difficult for Nigerians).

It has become obvious that there is total disconnect between Junior Minister of Petroleum and his Principal (PMB). While PMB is continually saying there is no subsidy on PMS, the former is insisting that subsidy must be removed.

In a bid to defend the hike in pump price of PMS, he has explained that the country no longer earn enough exchange rate required to fund the import of PMS. As a result, marketers are to source exchange rate from the secondary market (which is not regulated by CBN). The consequence of this statement, is the immediate negative distortion of the exchange rate, due to anticipated increase in demand for foreign exchange (Note; the forces of Demand and Supply are yet to take effect).

Again, how can we explain the fact that after about three weeks the federal Government was hailed for reaching agreement with Chinese Government on currency swap deal, which is intended to reduce the pressure on our local currency. The same federal Government by its import policy is keen on granting licenses to willing importers of PMS that meets certain import quality specifications. This policy will definitely increase the demand for foreign exchange, thereby weakening our local currency. So, the question is, what happens to the pump price of PMS when dollar exchanges for N1,000/$? (This is my predicted price of N/$ in the nearest future, considering the attraction of super-profit inherent in importation of petroleum products).

The Minister also struggled to justify the reason why controlled exchange rate should be sacrificed to “Jankara” exchange rate (Secondary market rate), which is a major reason adduced for increase in pump price of PMS. Yes, agreed the Government is not earning enough foreign currency to accommodate the demand sought by Petroleum Marketers. The Federal Government also said marketers most times get exchange rate at controlled price and sell at parallel market price, thereby making more profit than when fuel is imported. Again, this exposes the Government inability to control the financial system. The CBN can create a special purpose vehicle in conjunction with commercial banks to make payments on behalf of the marketers and also have a regulatory body that will monitor the whole process of importation until products get to the final consumer. The National Assembly can also make a law in the interim that will prohibit importers from selling currency obtained at controlled price to parallel market operators. These could serve as temporary measures until we are able to refine enough products locally.

The Minister also mentioned activities of marketers involved in product diversion to neighbouring countries, where petroleum products are sold at higher prices.  This is a clear indictment on our security agencies. For God Sake, Petroleum products are diverted using trucks and other water vessels and not glass cups. However, this is also an untapped opportunity that could create Tens of Thousands of jobs for our teeming unemployed youths, increase the value of our Gross Domestic Product and also have the capacity of creating value chain in the entire system. We urgently need to increase our local refining capacity by granting incentives to private investors both locally and internationally, build additional refineries and making the existing refineries fully functional. This way, we can meet our local consumption requirement, have refined products available for export and also solve the problem of product diversion. An average modular refinery with a capacity of 500 to 20,000bpd cost less than Ten million Dollars and requires a construction period of less than one year (source: Google)

Moreover, the present Government instead of being on the defensive should take a clue from past administrations in order not to repeat the same mistakes. It is very glaring that all our past administrations have governed this country with the “rule of thumb”. There are no consistent plan and even when there is plan, it is so disjointed and difficult to implement.

We can no longer suppress information in this digital age, so there is no hiding place for our present Government. The major undoing of the immediate past administration is the availability of electronic media (Formal and Informal). Any Nigerian that has access to a smart phone is a journalist (lol).

In conclusion therefore, I sincerely concur that blacks have succeeded in so many endevours but not with leadership, especially as it concerns Africans, Caribbean’s and other parts of the world where blacks are dominant.

I wish the present Government can do things differently but unfortunately, they are “THE SAME POISON IN A DIFFERENT CONTAINER”.

Ndili Stephen E.

- MyNews24

Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.

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