By Josef Omorotionmwa
IS it really necessary to remind ourselves that in government, what people intend is often different from what they bring about? In trying to evaluate a governmental action, one ought to consider likely, even if unintended, consequences.
Quite often, governments do the same thing, the same old way, while expecting different results. We have been at a loss to understand why, back to Governor Peter Odili’s years in Rivers State, a large cache of sophisticated arms and ammunitions was recovered from militants of that era who were beating a retreat from militancy and the weapons were set ablaze.
Yet, we kept complaining that our military and our police force lacked the type of sophisticated weapons that we were setting ablaze. At a point, we virtually surrendered to men of the underworld because of their sophisticated weaponry.
As we approach the area of the Nigerian Customs, it becomes more difficult to place appropriate actions. The propensity to burn those exotic cars that are seized as illegal imports may be very low. Such would be better auctioned out at ridiculously low prices or given out as birthday presents to friends and relations. As long as it serves the deterrent end of discouraging illegal importation, of course, why not?
Cartons of frozen turkey or chicken could be more combustible than vehicles. Or rather, there is the practice of burying the seized products. It may not matter much if the buried products are exhumed as soon as the officials turn their back. Burials here may be fulfilling all righteousness as a good percentage of the seized products may have found their way to the market before the burial arrangements.
On Wednesday, 12 December 2012, eleven tankers used for bunkering activities in Edo State were destroyed by security agencies. Evidently, it is bad enough that certain elements would go and plunder the common wealth of the whole people. It is also painful that vandals would consistently engage in stealing crude oil and other petroleum products in spite of the risk involved.
On 26/12/12, a barge laden with smuggled crude burnt in Warri waters, courtesy the vigilant JTF.
Again, if we were to scratch our body the way it itches, we would end up bruising the entire body. That is why we would want to dwell on the available methods of destruction: Maximum, medium and minimum destructions. In most cases, decisions are made without public scrutiny of cost-benefit analysis.
No matter how one looks at it, the destruction of eleven tankers would result in a colossal waste. The mathematics would be quite simple:First, we are looking at the liquid content of at least 330,000 litres of crude, granting that each tanker was carrying 30,000 litres. Secondly, putting each tanker at a conservative cost of N10 million, the cost of the 11 destroyed trucks would be N110 million. Then, there is the allied cost of destruction – man hour plus cost of procuring condemned tyres and other fire enhancers. This could easily come to another N5 million.
Other hidden costs, which would come in the form of negative effects on the people and the environment, are not easily quantifiable in Naira. For all we know, considerable damage has been done to the soil and the total environment where the burning took place. In the next 15 years or more, nothing will grow there. Although in a smaller form, what we had in the place of burning and its precinct was a re-enactment of the infamous Odi disaster of the Obasanjo years.
After that, we shall look at the depletion of the ozone layer and the consequent green house effect as well as the health hazard posed by that singular act not only to the inhabitants of the area but also to all those who were in the area on the day of the burning.
We shall now return to the modes of destruction. A less refined society would have opted for the maximum method of destruction in which case, they would have bundled the bunkerers into the tankers and burnt down everything. As it were, such society would have thrown away the bath water, the bath tub and the baby! Thank God, we have outgrown that crude level.
Instead, we opted for the medium destruction method. This involved the sparing of the lives of the bunkerers. Let them go and face the law while all items used for the bunkering escapade got destroyed, if only to drive home the point that anyone who wants to use his vehicles for criminal activities stands the risk of having them destroyed when apprehended.
On the whole, however, we recommend the minimum mode of destruction, which is more humane and more environment-friendly. This method involves the sale of the liquid contents to the oil companies which will be very ready to buy them instead of striking a match on them.
Secondly, rather than set the vehicles aflame, they should be sold at a public auction in which the auctioneer and the government would make money and the vehicles would still be useful to humanity. The psychological and deterrent value of this is enormous: For instance, each time the original owner of the vehicles sees them, he would be further tormented to the marrow of his bones, unlike the case of outright destruction where the pains would be felt once and for all.
Thirdly, this method obviates all negative effects involved in burning. We have no moral right to talk of poverty if we are destroying the little we already have. Destruction by fire is arson – a clear case of one bad turn deserving another!
Our appreciation of the vigilant people of the State should not remain at the level of abstraction. From the sales of the products, they must be empowered to remain ever more vigilant. After all, eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. And true vigilance cannot be sustained for too long in an empty stomach.