Vanguard Newspaper 14 February 2018
40—Vanguard, WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2018 IN response to my examination of the issue of poverty and begging in the country, I received numerous comments and contributions from readers. One of such was received from a young Nigerian named Okoli O.G. I found his view very enlightening and for this reason I have decided to publish some portions of it. He wrote as follows: “After reading your article on “Poverty; The role of Government...” I felt compelled to send this piece I had written earlier, to you. It is no secret that the average Nigerian is suffering from the many failings of the Nigerian Oil industry. These failings have directly led to the unavailability and in-affordability of petroleum products and indirectly has led to the loss of opportunities, extinction of jobs, and reduced economic returns for the government, among others. “The first step towards the consolidation of the current progress within the Nigerian Oil and Gas sector is to re-evaluate the journey so-far. The result of which would set the stage for us to reinforce or improve on the strategies and actions that have yielded positive results, as well as, change or modify actions or strategies that have failed to yield the intended results. To put this into perspective, the brief flirtation of Nigeria with recession is thankfully over. In line with the above, while we Poverty and begging: The oil doom (7) celebrate finally exiting the recent recession, it is important that we identify the mistakes of the past and how a country as blessed as Nigeria fell into recession in the first place. Then we can decide, looking at the facts, if those mistakes or deliberate errors have been corrected so as to avoid a repeat. It is also important to acknowledge that as a result of the currently employed policies that govern the Production or Importation, Distribution, and Sale to the final consumers of Petrol in Nigeria, the supply framework is rather too complicated and easily entangled in economic disagreements to be of any real benefit to Nigerians. I therefore start the problemsearch by stating that, chief of our problem is the attitude of our great nation and its managers to the Oil revenue. We have grown too reliant on the proceeds from this sector; an unfortunate circumstance that has led to an unhealthy addiction of the government (both at federal and state level) to “sharing the money”. This habit has so far discouraged states from passionately seeking greater economic independence from the federal government. Efforts of most states towards creatively generating local revenue are insincere or at best abysmal. Sadly, this also has led to a systematic abandonment of other important sectors and industries, leading to a gradual extinction of revenue generating opportunities, jobs, and important skill-set. …. Devoid of ethnic, religious, or political affiliations, there is a c o m m o n consensus on the fact that the status quo needs to change. It has to change for the better, for our economic fortunes to positively turn around. Tried and tested The consensus is therefore that we must embrace tried and tested world class solutions and in the same vein, abandon the “local” practices that have so far resulted in; recurring union/ workers strikes, non- functional o r underperforming refineries, unaffordability and unavailability of petroleum products to consumers, environmentally degraded and polluted oil producing communities, intellectual/skills drainage and migration, exit of f o r e i g n investments, a m a s s retrenchment or redundancy of workers, etc. I therefore suggest a twoprong approach for tackling this challenge; 1. Firstly, that the pricing of petroleum products in the downstream sector of the industry be largely left to market dynamics with private marketers freely competing against each other for market share as successfully implemented in the Nigerian telecommunication sector. The government however would retain its oversight role/function. 2. Secondly, the NNPC maintains its 50-60% presence in the downstream sector & sustains a reasonable level of its product’s subsidization as an alternative to the common man; therefore serving as a government-backed active participant/competitor in the downstream market. This suggested subsidization is to be wholly financed by the interests of the NNPC with the economic intention not to incur losses but reduced profit margins. Also, considering that a significant portion of the pump price of PMS is the cost of importation, storage, and other related costs, we must work towards becoming self-sufficient as a nation through increased local refining capacity. With the first approach on one hand primarily focused on providing security as regards product availability, while also guaranteeing a best price scenario in the long term; resulting from a rapid increase in the rate of supply, unmatched by This approach will serve as a welcome catalyst for further encouraging local private participation in the sector and as a result, the economic interest of the common man is further protected a more steady increase in demand. The second approach on the other hand is primarily focused on ensuring affordability by guaranteeing price security in the form of an alternative for the common man. All of these would once and for all put a stop to the incessant strikes and agitations of these oil importers, producers, or distributors as the problem had always revolved around profitability. The other benefits of these measures include that; it takes away from the government, the burden of subsidizing about 50% of the nation’s consumption need, while also arresting the fraud perpetrated by some of these marketers who export these subsidized products to other neighbouring countries (thereby contributing to commodity scarcity) or those that away from the prying eyes of regulators still sell at exorbitant prices. Also, this approach will serve as a welcome catalyst for further encouraging local private participation in the sector and as a result, the economic interest of the common man is further protected. With this recommendation, the subsidised products would only be distributed at NNPC terminals/ Gas stations, at the fixed prices, and directly to the final consumers. All other marketers would source for and sell at their discretion but restricted by competitive market forces. In situations where the NNPC, through maybe its refineries decides to sell to other marketers, the commodity would be priced at the international or standard price (not subsidized and with all the factors and cost of production considered). These marketers also would be forced to sell at a fixed price that accommodates a reasonable and fair amount of profit. Government’s function role/ In implementation, the Government’s role/function would include, but not be limited to: the discouragement of any form of monopolisation within the Oil and Gas sector/market through the enactment and implementation of policies that encourage small and medium scale private sector participation; the prevention of any manner of exploitation by petroleum marketers; and, the assurance of maximum economic recovery for the State. Another recommendation has to do with the sharing of the oil revenue. The current system has largely encouraged two scenarios: 3. The looting and mismanagement of these funds at Federal, and State level. 4. The gradual abandonment of other formerly lucrative sectors leading to a gradual extinction of certain skills, opportunities, and jobs, and by extension, a lack of diversity in our economy. The solution to this is to ensure that the proceeds of the Oil and Gas sector are strictly injected into building human capacity and boosting other important and profitable but less financially viable sectors such as Agriculture, Healthcare, Education, I.C.T., Sports, Entertainment, etc. Backed by the necessary laws and policies, the money should be invested and not “spent”, as is sadly the case today. By so doing, the government would have created various industries that in turn, create new jobs and opportunities, Tax returns for the government, and encourages Local investments. Thank you very much indeed Okoli Esq, I hope that someday, those in charge of policy formulation and implementation will give our views some serious consideration.
Vanguard, WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2018—41 LIBYA RETURNEES —Libya returnees disembarking from MedView Aircraft, after the arrival of the 5th Batch of 136 persons at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Yesterday. Photo: Nwankpa Chijioke. Workers flee as herdsmen overrun LG offices in Ondo Continues from Page 5 not an attempt to create crisis in town. “The herdsmen went as far as injuring staff of the council who had made frantic efforts to prevent the wanton destruction carried out on the farm. “It is so sad that no major arrest or prosecution had been made by the Police since the attack on Chief Olu Falae’s farm. Now the arsonists who parade themselves as herdsmen target the local government as their next point of call. “His Majesty wishes to call on President Muhammadu Buhari not to treat the issue of these notorious herdsmen with kid gloves as their activities are becoming worrisome and unbearable. “Akure people can no longer tolerate the excesses of these herdsmen who are now making life unbearable with their nefarious attitudes.” Soyinka slams Buhari Meanwhile, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, yesterday, said the attitude shown by the President on herdsmen attacks across the country indicated someone under trance. He lamented that despite the achievement recorded under the present NAIRAWATCH administration, it had continuously committed unforced errors in different facets of the society, including herdsmen attacks. Soyinka, who further described herdsmen attack as deadlier than Boko Haram insurgency, lamented that efforts currently being put into tackling herdsmen menace should have commenced six months ago. While decrying the present state of affairs in the country, Soyinka raised concerns over total failure of the Federal Government to protect the lives and properties of the masses that relied on the government for protection but allegedly allowed to be murdered by the herdsmen across the country. He described as unacceptable and irresponsible the nonchalant attitude of the government in handling the herdsmen crisis, noting, that it had reached a point where the people would have to protect themselves. Soyinka who stated these at a press conference at the Freedom Park, Lagos Island, Lagos, said if he would have the opportunity of meeting Buhari today (yesterday), he would tell him that he was under a trance, noting that the sooner the President got out of the trance, the better for Naira depreciates to N360.22/ $ in I&E By Adaeze Okechukwu The naira yesterday depreciated for the first time this week to N360.22 per dollar in the Investors and Exporters (I&E) window of the foreign exchange market. Data from the Financial Market Dealers Quote (FMDQ) showed that the indicative exchange rate for the window rose to N360.22 per dollar, yesterday, from N360.03 per dollar on Monday. This 19 kobo depreciation of the naira was in spite of the 36 percent increase in the volume of dollars traded in the I&E window. The window recorded a turnover of $151.55 million yesterday from $111.03 million on Monday. Vanguard investigation revealed that naira remained stable at N363 per dollar in the parallel market for the seventh consecutive business day. the nation. He said: “If I meet the President today, I will tell him I think you are under a trance. Many things are happening across the country which he needs to address. And sooner or later he gets out of it, the better for the country.” Soyinka further decried series of cow invasion of his premises and some other parts of the Southwest State, saying he had reported to the police several times and warned that next time cows invaded his territory, drastic measures would be adopted. He opined that the crisis between farmers and herdsmen was not new, noting that the way the crisis had been ignored in recent times by government created the present problems. “We need to understand that the confrontation between farmers and the cattle rearers are not new. But the issue of concern is the way the attack had been handled by the government and the lies that followed after the attacks, especially from remarks from public office holders, especially from the Minister of Defence. Attacks and lies “Can one imagine the minister of defence opening his mouth to utter words in support for the attacks perpetrated by the herdsmen across the country? With those words, why is that man still in office? What sort of government is that? “I expected that when the killings started escalating, the president should have ordered the military to stop whatever they are doing in other regions especially Operation Python dance and others and ask them to address the herdsmen issue. In other words, what is happening now should have been done over six months ago. “Situation like this requires holistic approach. The long term plan which the Federal Government proposed, the ranches, is not sufficient to address the issue. There must be provision for the livestock to sustain them within the ranches. “We need to ask questions on what happened to the ranches earlier established by the Federal Government. I remember several years ago whenever we go for haunting, we often ran into government ranches filled with well-fed cattle. After some years, the cattle in those ranches started to disappear,” Soyinka added. He said further that he could not imagine why Buhari should reinstate the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, Prof. Umar Yusuf, who was being investigated for alleged financial impropriety. Soyinka said: “I cannot say the type of trance he is presently under. But there are so many unforced errors going on in the country. For instance, the case of the man, who was sacked by the minister of health but was reinstated, that is what I mean by unforced errors." Calls for organised resistance The Nobel laureate called for organised resistance against herdsmen invasion in territories in order to avert the wanton killings that occurred in Benue State and some other states in recent times. Soyinka urged voluntary organisations and associations like hunters associations to form themselves into groups to disarm any herdsmen found with arms. According to him, once a herdsman was found with weapon, the police should first be reported to for prompt action and that if the police failed to act, the voluntary organisations, such as Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, hunters associations and others should move in to disarm such herdsman or herdsmen. He charged the various associations to intensify surveillance to nip in the bud, herdsmen invasion in their communities in the South West if the police could not do their jobs properly, leaving the people with no choice than to defend themselves. Kick against cattle colonies Soyinka also kicked against the proposed establishment of cattle colonies as a way of solving the herdsmen/farmers crisis, saying ranching was preferable, as it was being done in other parts of the world, adding that no business should warrant killing of people for whatever reason. “Establishment of ranches is the solution that many countries have adopted to prevent clashes between these two set of people. There is something I called governance body language. "The body language of the government is sad and it has allowed the attack to continue for long. The long term planning proposed by the Federal Government has not gone hand in hand with the security necessity,” he stated. Backs State Police The Nobel laureate also joined state governors to demand for creation of state police, saying the governors were only chief security officers of states on paper. He said: “On paper, the chief security of every state is the governor but that is not the reality, if the police in the state can receive order from someone in remote area or posted out without considering the governor before the posting. ‘’I am very happy that we are back to the issue, that is, we need to decentralize the country’s police formation.” Herdsmen could be worse than Boko Haram — Sagay Similarly, Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, PACAC,. Prof. Itse Sagay, SAN, yesterday warned that failure by the Federal Government to curb the incessant attacks by herdsmen in the country might be disastrous, saying they could be worse than Boko Haram insurgents. He, however, lampooned the Minister of Defence, Brig. Gen Monsur Dan Alli, retd, for allegedly justifying killings in Benue and other states, saying such remarks were not helpful. Speaking with Vanguard, the legal icon called on President Buhari to tackle the herdsmen with force, since that remained the only language they would understand. He said: “I think the only language the herdsmen will understand is force. They should overwhelm them with federal fire power because it is a big mystery to me that herdsmen are killing various security agents, they are killing police and civil defence corps and they get away. "Nobody has produced one herdsman for us to see. They just come and kill security agents, kill farmers, rape their wives and get away. That is the shocking part of it.” President not under trance — Sagay He also disagreed with Professor Wole Soyinka’s remarks that the President was in a trance regarding the activities of herdsmen. Sagay said: “I don’t agree because the President has given firm instructions to the various agencies and the Nigerian Army which has moved in.” He said: “I must say that the comments of the Minister of Defence about 10 days ago, in which he was justifying killings by herdsmen, it is not helpful. That might affect the attitude of the military. It may affect their willingness to protect the people. “For me, that is a minus otherwise, Buhari is determined to stamp out what these herdsmen are doing. What he (Buhari) should find out is what those under him are doing and find out those who are recalcitrant in carrying out his direction.” Speaking further, he said: “It is like there is a conspiracy to allow these people (herdsmen) overrun Nigeria. I understand what is going on. This is a major problem. We have to be careful otherwise, it will overwhelm the whole country. It will be worse than Boko Haram the way it is going if they are not countered by superior force and stopped in their tracks.” Northern Coalition seeks state of emergency In a related development, Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG, has accused political leaders and elders in Benue, Kaduna, Taraba and Zamfara states of sponsoring the wave of killings and violent altercations between herders and farmers, asking President Buhari to immediately declare a state of emergency in those areas. “We call on the Federal Government to declare state of emergency in the front line states of Taraba, Kaduna, Benue and Zamfara and suspend the current political structures in those states and replace them with sole administrators until conditions improve,” it stated. At a news conference yesterday in Abuja, the coalition also accused the retired Christian Generals Forum, led by Theophilus Danjuma, of aiding and abetting the attacks. The group stated: “Another pointer to this is the hate-filled outburst of a certain retired Christian Generals Forum powered by Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma that intentionally harped on a fictitious story of plans to Islamise Nigeria.” Spokesman of the CNG, Abdulazeez Suleiman, while reading the coalition’s resolutions, equally said the growing attacks in the north was part of a 50-year design which is now being sponsored by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, to annihilate Muslims in the north. The coalition, which had last issued and rescinded a ‘quit notice’ to Igbo living in the north, said what the Igbo could not get in the 1966 coup, it now seeks to get through the current herdsmen-farmers’ killings. The coalition said the attacks in Benue, Numan in Adamawa and Mambilla in Taraba “were undoubtedly planned and sponsored by leaders and elders of these states.”