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A petroleum industry bill for Diezani

By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
IT must be, arguably, the most anticipated Bill,as far as legislation goes in Nigeria. That is the much-vaunted Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB); and talking about the typically Nigerian hype, the PIB was hyped! It is described as panacea for every problem associated with Nigeria’s petroleum industry.

You could literally close your eyes and see the PIB, rather like a magician’s wand, in Diezani Allison-Maduekwe’s hands: she waves it around and corruption disappears from oil fields; oil thieves are out of business; transnational oil giants retain absolute control; Nigeria’s comprador oil bourgeoisie is in business; more money flows into oil bearing communities, ensuring a bigger slice from Nigeria’s oil revenue; the North pays more for fuel, with the scrapping of the petroleum equalisation regime (afterall, Diezani on behalf of the South-South, can say “it is our oil” so let them pay more!), and so on.

To underline PIB’s importance, Nigerians were inundated with tales of various versions of the Bill: a patriotic version, aimed at strengthening a nationalist regime in the oil industry, drafted by patriots in the industry. For their effrontery as patriots, they were allegedly side-lined and eventually weeded out of the NNPC.

Then a version, preferred by oil majors, with the express intention of ensuring that in the long run, the patriotic version of the PIB, didn’t see the light of day. And finally, Diezani’s version of the PIB! Whichever one chooses, there can be no gainsaying the fact that PIB hopes to change the management of Nigerian oil resources forever. What we might not be able to vouch for is whether in the long run,a restructured oil industry will be in Nigeria’s best interest.

Don’t get me wrong please; a few people will continue to feed fat on the huge returns that oil industry brings; but the question is whether we want to entrench a few rich men and women in the oil business at the expense of the rest of us. Whatever the touted merits of the PIB, it must be appreciated in the context of the broad neo-liberal capitalist economic choices made by the ruling elite since 1999.

They are not policies in the best interest of the Nigerian people; Diezani’s PIB cannot therefore be isolated from economic choices foisted on our country since the PDP came to power.

If an individual can become the face of a particular law in Nigeria, then Diezani Allison-Maduekwe, is the face of PIB. And she is quite besotted with it; at least with her own version! I last saw Diezani on the night of June 24th, 2012,at the Aso Villa, soonafter the Presidential Media Chat. She spoke like an enthusiastic salesperson attempting to sell a product (genuine or fake didn’t matter!).

She said the PIB was the next great assignment of her job as Nigeria’s Petroleum Minister; without doubt, the most powerful minister of the Jonathan regime and as many people believe, the only minister with a secure tenure. Lucky lady that one! In the past week, Diezani’s version of the PIB was adopted by FEC and submitted to the National Assembly just as it was going on recess.

But the little we have seen of Diezani’s PIB, titillates, rather like the proverbial lady’s skirt: long enough to cover essentials but short enough to be suggestive! Diezani has drafted a Petroleum Industry Bill around her own very ambitious and tall ego indeed! As DAILY TRUST, of Friday July 20th, 2012 noted, the new PIB will make Diezani “more powerful than she already is”, if passed by the National Assembly.

Why? She “will become chairman of the boards of plum parastatals in the ministry and also have powers to scrap the Petroleum Equalisation Fund which ensures the uniformity of petrol prices allover the country”.

Absurd and self- serving provisions

How the obviously absurd and self-serving essence of these provisions was allowed to pass by FEC remains a mystery. But it is clear, that if passed, as is, Diezani will literally become the petroleum industry itself! The PIB provides that Diezani will become chairperson of PTDF; the National Petroleum Assets Management Corporation and Petroleum Equalisation Fund and aside from chairing the agencies, she will “be responsible for recommending to the President who to appoint as chief executives and as board members. Diezani will similarly directly supervise “the activities of the Petroleum Technical Bureau and the Upstream Petroleum Inspectorate, and also recommend its officials for appointment”.

It is incredible that Diezani’s PIB plans to make a superhuman out of a lady who runs the industry largely because she is close to the President and is from the Niger Delta! It is also the intendment of Diezani’s PIB, to set up a Petroleum Host Community Fund; with it, all oil companies will pay 10 person of their profit from upstream activities.

The hundreds of billions expected will go solely to the Niger Delta, along with funds already provided through Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC); Ministry of Niger Delta and 13 percent Derivation! Instructively, President Jonathan’s letter to the National Assembly asked for “expeditious passage”.

Diezani’s PIB is tall enough to fit her ego while giving more funds to the Niger Delta. As the saying goes, the devil is in the detail. People continue to lament that Ghali Na’abah’s House of Representatives was heavily bribed to pass the law that abrogated Onshore-Offshore oil dichotomy.

Hypocritical selectivity: They recall Arunma Oteh but refuse to reinstate Justice Salami

LAST week, most newspapers carried the picture of workers at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), demonstrating with placards, against the recall of their boss, Ms. Aruma Oteh; she had been suspended from work, owing to controversies around her leadership.

Her recall was preceded by her attendance of a meeting of the Economic Team, while still on suspension. There must be something the entire nation, including the National Assembly, cannot see, about the woman, which made it imperative to return her to work.

The government through Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, appealed for SEC workers’ understanding while firmly stating there was no going back on her recall.

The hypocrisy of the Jonathan administration has become frightening! The government suspended Justice Ayo Salami, on the basis of a recommendation by the National Judicial Council (NJC). The same NJC cleared Justice Salami of all allegations and recommended his re-instatement as President, Court of Appeal.

But just like scoundrels hide behind patriotic declamations to commit unpatriotic acts, Jonathan’s government hid behind sandbags of cases against Justice Salami that were allegedly ‘sub judice’ to refuse his re-instatement.

The government operates hypocritical double standards: what is good for Aruma Oteh is apparently not available for an upright, honourable judge! Oteh is a privileged member of our ruling caste, like those who the French novelist, Balzac once said, have earned the right to commit any misdemenor and go scot-free!

But Justice Salami is not recalled because his forthrightness and honour affront the decadent PDP regime that holds our nation in a stranglehold. For that reason he must suffer! No country prospers on the basis of injustice!

There is similar apprehension today, about what Aminu Tambuwal’s House of Representatives will do with Diezani’s booby-trapped version of the PIB.Nigerians please ‘shine your eyes well, well’, with Diezani’s Petroleum Industry Bill!

 It’s a good month for Dame Patience Jonathan, this July!

THE gods must be smiling on President Jonathan’s wife, Dame Patience; and its looking like this month of July, is her “Season of Harvests”, as Pentecostal churches might describe her fortunes. A few days ago, like a bolt out of the blues, Dame Patience was appointed Permanent Secretary, by Jonathan’s proconsul in Bayelsa, Seriake Dickson.

It turns out, according to the account, that she had been collecting salary, well, for no job done, since 1999 (this can only happen in the ‘Anything Goes’ Federal Republic of Nigeria!). In a display of a dollop of her much-fangled “wisdom of the Dame”, at her swearing-in, Patience offered the “earth-shaking” constitutional amendment seeking recognition of wives of political office holders.

Dame Patience said “it is regrettable that the role of the wives of political office holders was not included in the constitution”, but thanks to her active advocacy, things might be about to change: “the proposed inclusion in the anticipated amendment WILL ENABLE THEM HAVE BENEFITS AT THE END OF THEIR HUSBAND’S TENURE OF OFFICE (HEAR! HEAR!!)”

And while we were still chewing the chord of incredulity about an absentee Permanent Secretary, last week, sychophancy landed with funfare in Abuja! A certain Defence Police Officers Wives Association (DEPOWA), (whatever in hell does that stand for?!) named  a “refurbished”  DEPOWA to Shehu Musa Yar’adua road after Madam Patience.

The VIP beneficiary of the (sycophantic!) gesture, Dame herself, said it provides “an evidence of the capability of our women to initiate and execute projects and programmes critical and beneficial to the well-being of our nation”! Indeed!

Such profound thoughts! I have a humble suggestion for President Jonathan. Didn’t Dame Patience once work “briefly” in a defunct community bank? Given that background, can’t she be appointed the next CBN Governor after the “troublesome” Sanusi Lamido Sanusi ends his tenure? Dame Patience will surely bring relevant experience to the job of stabilising Nigeria’s monetary policies.

It will also be an opportunity for a woman to hold the position for the first time!Nigerians did not recognize for a long time, that we had a gem on our hands, hiding under an “umblela”; it took President Jonathan’s Bayelsa sidekick, Seriake Dickson and the Matriachs of DEPOWA, to remind us of what we have long been missing; and believe me it says a lot about our “manhood” in Nigeria that we didn’t see what they saw in Dame Patience!

The Dame’s overdue recognition is in tune with her “Season of Harvests”; this month of July!


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