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A government not listening to itself

The greatest predicament that this country faces from time to time is the inability of government to listen to itself. A greater percentage of our problems should have been deciphered by now if only government has listened to itself. Let’s take two issues, the recent National Conference and the sustenance of the oil subsidy which is the greatest conspiracy against Nigeria and the Nigerian people.

Just like the on-going campaign agenda styled Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria, the idea of the National Conference was conceived by Oronto Nathan Douglas from Okoroba in Nembe area, Bayelsa State. A man with big ideas but highly elusive,Oronto carries the title of Special Adviser to the President on Research and Documentation.He is more than that. He is the alter-ego of the President. Other alter-egos of the President include Diezani Agama Alison-Madueke, Godknows Boladei-Igali, Ita Ekpeyong, John Olatunde Ayeni, King Amalate Johnie Turner, Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyesegha, Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, Mujahid Dokubo Asari, Senator Emmanuel Izibefien Paulker, Steve Oronsanye, Hassan Tukur,High Chief Government OweizideEkepemupolo alias Tompolo.

Oronto was part of the legal team that represented the Ogoni leader, Kenule Beeson Saro-Wiwa (1941-1995).I have not seen Oronto since Saro-Wiwa was executed on November 10, 1995. He later became the Commissioner for Information and Culture in Bayelsa when the state was created on October 1, 1996.

Oronto, a background worker, romanced the Afenifere to come on board for the National Conference and to be sympathetic to Jonathan’s Presidency. The National Conference was inaugurated on March 17 this year with 492 delegates-an assembly of the best brains that we could boast of.

The conference ended on August 14 this year and its report was submitted on August 21 to the President who assured that it “will not be wasted”. On October 5, the President set up a seven-man panel headed by then Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr.Adoke BelloMuhammed fromOkenein Kogi State. That was the last we have heard of the National Conference. With the help of my friend, Senator Musa Adede from Ogoja in Cross Rivers State, who was the Chairman of Committee on Transport, I was able to read the report of the National Conference. I must confess that I commend members of the National Conference for a job well done.

Now party politics is in the air and with the election fever that has gripped the nation, at best, the report of the National Conference, like the Justice Niki Tobi/Sule Katagun/Bishop Matthew Kukah report of 2005 dialogue conference, the Justice Kutigi/BolajiAkinyemi’s report will end up in the library of the Office to the Secretary to theGovernment of the Federation.

In June 2000, there was a national strike over the hike in prices of petroleum by the Federal Government. President Olusegun Obasanjo then set up a committee of all stakeholders to look at all aspects of problems associated with petroleum product supply and distribution through widespread and genuine consultation with the entire spectrum of the Nigerian society. The 33-member committee was headed by Chief RasheedAbiodunGbadamosi(70) who is the son of the late industrialist, Chief Sule Oyeshola Gbadamosi, the late Otun of Ikorodu.

Other members of the committee were Chief Rufus Giwa, Mr. S.O. Luwoye, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, Alhaji A. Umaru,Mr. Lucas Damulak, Mr. Joseph Akinlaja, AlhajiUmaru Ndanusa, Dr. Pat Utomi, Alhaji Umar Abba Gana, Chief Nkem A. Ekwechi, Alhaji A. Chachangi, Chief A.E. Ilodibe, Pastor E.A. Ogun, Mrs. Emily Aig-Imokhuede, Chief Richard Uche, Mr.Ray Ekpu, Alhaji G. Hamman, Dr. Imo Itsueli, Prof. E. Edozien, Prof. ‘Dotun Phillips, Chief M.O. Onoja, Dr. S. Usman, Mr. A.S. Okoye, Mr. Sylvester Ejiofor, Funso Kupolokun, Rev.(Dr.) T. Adeboye, Dr.Samaila M. Kewa, Mallam Wada Maida, Mr. G.D. Loma and Mr. C.O. Iwuozor.

The Secretary of the Committee was Chief Olusegun Olujimi Oloogunebi Ogunkua, who is now the Baba Ijo of St. Thomas AnglicanChurch,Isikan, Akure. He retired as a Permanent Secretary Ministry of Finance, August 2006. The committee was inaugurated on August 14, 2000 by my then boss Chief Ufot Ekaette(75) who was then then Secretary to the Government of the Federation at that time.

The Committee submitted its report on November 15, 2000. The NLC members of the committee headed by Comrade Oshiomhole wrote a minority report. On November 26, 2000, the government set up a five man panel headed by Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, then Minister of Economic matters, to reconcile the two reports. Other members of the panel were Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed,Mr. A.O. Adeyemo, Mr. Arubisan Okegbe and Prof. P. T. Akhire.

Chief Gbadamosi’s committee made 47 suggestions and the government accepted 42 of the suggestions, especially on price support and market liberalisation. Only one of those suggestions has so far been implemented and that is the establishment of Petroleum Pricing Regulatory Agency with the appointment of Dr. Oluwole Oluleye as the pioneer Secretary.

The Gbadamosi committee insisted on the complete deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry so as to resolve most of the issues in cost structure pricing and subsidy of the petroleum industry. The committee also insisted that deregulation of the industry will mean that market forces of demand and supply, will be the determinants of product prices.

Suffice it to note that the four refineries that we had were no longer working.

After failing to implement these recommendations, the government unilaterally increased the prices of petroleum on January 1, 2012 resulting in massive protest by all Nigerians and the establishment of a pressure group known as Occupy Nigeria which has become moribund now.

No other subject has drawn the attention of Nigerians more the issue of oil subsidy. The latest figure indicates that Nigeria has so far spent over N2 trillion on oil subsidy alone.

With the way things are going and with the sustenance of oil subsidy and the global drop in the prices of petrol many poor states like   Adamawa, Benue, CrossRivers, Gombe, Osun, Ekiti, Ebonyi,KogiKwara, Jigawa, Kebbi,Taraba and other landlocked states will run to economic problems by January.

Certainly if we have implemented Gbadamosi committee’s report, we would have faced some problems at the take-off in 2000 but by now,we would have overcome those problems.

We are now held captive expecting the inevitable.

On March 18 this year the Minister of Petroleum, Mrs.DeizianiAllison-Madueke (54) raised an alarm at the Oil and Gas conference in Abuja that the payment of subsidy to oil marketers can no longer be sustained by the Federal Government”the subsidy policy cannot be sustained any longer, this is because the subsidy payment did not benefit the poor it was targeting but rather benefitting the rich” she declared. Only Mrs.Madueke can identify the “rich”, she referred to. On May 28, the Senate Committee on Finance headed by Senator Ahmed MuhammedMarkafi (58), former Governor of Kaduna state,demanded the removal of oil subsidyJust recently on September 15, the Federation Committee Allocation Committee ended in a deadlock when the Commissioners of Finance of the 36 states insisted that the oil subsidy should be withdrawn because of the drop in the oil money allocation to the states. The question we need to ask is why can’t this oil subsidy be removed?

With the way things are going and with the sustenance on oil subsidy and the global drop in the Prices of petrol many poor states like Adamawa,Benue,CrossRivers,Gombe,Osun,Ekiti, Ebonyi,KogiKwara, Jigawa, Kebbi,Taraba and other landlocked states will run to economic problems by January.

Now we are finding it very difficult selling our oil.

Certainly if we have implemented Gbadamosi committee’s report, we would have faced some problems at the take-off in 2000 but by now,we would have overcome those problems.

We are now held captive expecting the inevitable.

With declining capacity in the real sector, poor performance of major infrastructural facilities, large budget deficit, rising level of unemployment and inflation and with the impending devaluation of the naira soon to be announced, we are heading for economic depression.

As the say in Spanish,” Recojetuhenomientrasque el sol luziere which means make hay while the sun shines”. And the French also said “aide toi et le cleit’aidera which also means help yourself and heaven will help you”.

There is Economic doom in the horizon.


Eric Teniola, a former Director at the Presidency, wrote from Lagos.


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