By Sonny Atumah
It is one country with many more contradictions and they bother everybody. Privileged Nigerians have become cogs in our developmental strides. Nigeria is in dire straits for a hunt down of patriots that would stand up for our hassles to be puzzled out. President Muhammadu Buhari in history has got the real privilege of why balloters in a collective decision expressed their feelings to bring him to power in 2015.
Buhari’s mandate subsists for our leader in the heroic mold, but not the experiences rulers that are complete and prevent any movement of change. These potentates have not got people to sit them down and tell them the truth; Paul Biya of Cameroon in power for 34 years, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda -30 years, Omar al-Bashir of Sudan -27 years, Idriss Déby of Chad –25 years, Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea -25 years, Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia – 22 years, Denis Sassou Nguesso of Republic of Congo – 19 years and the jolly great grand pa, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe with 36 years on and still counting at age 92.
Indeed Buhari has got challenges that need some advices that are not petrified. He needs genuine patriots who would not be part of his problems but those would enable him have good judgment in the management of state affairs and resources. The worry of President Warren Harding who led America from 1921-23 is instructive: “My God, this is a hell of a job! I have no trouble with my enemies . . . but my damn friends; they’re the ones that keep me walking the floor nights. It is our fervent prayers that our President must have reduced night mares.
The President we know has an excessive and emotional display of patriotism and history beckons on him to open conversations on difficult issues. Recent report that the President has asked the NNPC to import crude from Niger Republic is a fretful one. In the proposed package Nigeria would construct 946 kilometres of pipeline from Agadem, Niger Republic to the Kaduna Refinery which may cost about US$1 billion. Niger’s crude oil production capacity is 80,000 barrels per day and it has 20,000 barrels per day Soraz Refinery at Zinder commitment. Niger Republic is in partnership with the China National Petroleum Corporation.
The reason for the action is that the Kaduna plant is not getting feedstock from the Niger Delta where militia men that have taken up arms against the state are on the prowl to destroy critical petroleum assets. The Niger Republic at the best of ties may not give Nigeria up to 50,000 barrels per day because of its commitment to Soraz Refinery and China. Even when considered as an alternative plan it is a hasty advice given to the President.
We must do a cost-benefit-analysis of the project before that headlong plunge. The Kaduna Refinery and Petrochemical complex is a 110, 000 barrels per day facility and with a distance of about 677 km from Warri where it gets crude. In the spirit of ECOWAS and a friendly neighbour we can collaborate with Niger Republic. But we should know that Niger is connecting a pipeline from Agadem to Chad a distance of 193 kilometres and another 400 kilometres in Chad to connect it to an existing pipeline to export crude via the 1080 km pipeline from Doba fields, Chad to the export terminal of Kribi, Cameroon.
Have we also contemplated disruptions from insurgents like the Boko Haram in the future? It is just a thought. Niger Republic is among the states of the Maghreb and the Sahel affected by insurgency that is yet to end. Who secures the pipeline which two-thirds of the almost 1000 km facility runs across the border into Niger Republic. We may have trans-border security to contend with and that would mean too many fronts for our gallant men and women in uniform.
Many inconceivable ideas are being sent to the President to attempt hard decisions. It was time we examined carefully and introspectively the relevance of unwarranted advice that get knuckled in disbelief. Nigeria is seeking external borrowing of US$29.96 billion for infrastructure, and another US$15 loan from India. We want to spend scarce foreign exchange in Niger Republic pipeline when the intended refinery cannot be rehabilitated. Nigerians may not benefit from the employment and technological skills associated with the project. It is more an offshore project that may not translate to economic benefits to Nigeria.
We have expected and still expecting that President Muhammadu Buhari who as Minister of Petroleum Resources in the late 1970s superintended the construction of Warri and Kaduna refineries should not be bogged down with that idea when we do not have refining capacity. Successive administrations have come and the attitudes have been the line of weak resistance approach.
The problems have been the sleaze and mismanagement that bedevil the industry. The clientage of aristocrats has put the country in a cliffhanger. Chatham House in the UK revealed that Nigeria loses about $8 billion yearly from Oil theft. And it is an organised racket that may not be ruled in our Niger pipeline adventure. President Buhari’s request for external borrowing is the result of his inability to recover about $150 billion oil fund loot and stashed in western vaults in global financial hubs of New York, London, Geneva and Singapore.
Some say the President has a slow approach to handling the economic woes of the country but there is no naysaying that such funds if recovered would have been succour for infrastructural investments in Nigeria. For obvious reasons President Muhammadu Buhari has not been able to open up a front in the industry to bring his war against corruption to a crescendo. He should beam a searchlight as crude may rise in the next few months of OPEC production cut. Products imports have drained the scarce foreign exchange earned from crude export.
Nigeria’s upstream petroleum sector, that is the exploration and production of crude oil has progressively contributed 95 percent export revenue, 85 percent public revenue and 14 percent gross domestic product, GDP. It has been the working capital for Nigeria’s survival for about 50 years. Crude oil which we have relied upon all these years from the point of primary commodity sales has become a problem to Nigeria.
As an incurable optimist, the solution to the Niger Delta problem requires genuine dialogues as well as attempts at developing the area. Excuses about people from the area not doing enough may not solve the problem now. Spend US$1 billion in the Niger Delta there would be peace. I believe a lot more needs be done to bring sanity to the troubled zone. Let us think Nigeria and conceptualise projects that are of real benefits and remove primordial sentiments on critical national issues.