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We celebrate Junetwelfth

By Sonny Atumah

Last Monday June 12 means many things to many people. The dream of a good year that was waning was manifestly rekindled with the Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbajo giving the presidential assent to the 2017 Appropriation Act. The ceremony orchestrated camaraderie for the executive and legislative principals in the Presidential Villa Abuja. Many Nigerians were frenziedly emotional that at last the pregnancy of the belated 2017 budget was given a meaning.

On the African political turf June 12, 1964 commemorates Nelson Mandela’s sentence to life in prison in the defunct apartheid South Africa. Back home in Nigeria government’s activities tend to ignore June 12 democratic history. Celebrations have been localised with holiday and fanfare in the six south western states. But it has not diminished the popularity of that day Nigerians in 1993 voted for Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola popularly called MKO. The annulled election by the General Ibrahim Babangida military government was devoid of religious and ethnic sentiments, without ballot box snatching or stuffing. There were no ballot papers and ballot boxes to be snatched by hired thugs, characteristics of many discredited elections in Nigeria.

The day June 12 might have been deliberately chosen believing that the rainy season in Lagos and other parts of Nigeria would disrupt the election. But as nature could have it there was no drop of rain in any part of Nigeria on that day. With a clement weather there was no confusion to reign and discredit whatever result that emerged. As a senior editorial staff member of old Daily Times in 1993, we were all mobilized to monitor the election. The Humphrey Nwosu led National Electoral Commission, NEC option A4 was hailed by the Daily Times June 16 editorial describing the election as the “people’s triumph.”

Many Nigerians including the electoral umpires may have undermined the activities of the infamous Association for Better Nigeria, ABN led by Francis Arthur Nzeribe. He had on Thursday, June 10, 1993 secretly procured a court order in the dead of the night restraining NEC from conducting the presidential election. The candle light court ruling of Justice Bassey Ikpeme was that the election must not hold but that the NEC was free to ignore her order. Justice Dahiru Saleh relying on Ikpeme’s order, on June 15 granted the ABN’s petition and declared the June 12 presidential election null and void on the ground that it was conducted in violation of a restraining order. By moving heaven and earth a state of play result declaration was scuttled through machinations of state.

The June 12 episode among other political issues heralded the misfortunes of the petroleum sector still on a cliffhanger. We started importing petroleum products on a massive scale in 1993. With a turbulent political situation, increased local demand and corrupt practices we became net petroleum products importer. Unbelievably refined products exported from the new Port Harcourt refinery earned Nigeria US$280 million in 1992.

As many have celebrated it was time for one to celebrate. Two years ago, my good friend and colleague Onochie Anibeze, whose imprint on this paper as Editor encouraged me to start this column “Oil and Gas Summiteer.” The column’s debut was on June 12, 2015 when the Muammadu Buhari’s administration was just 14 days old. It is ones belief that the Vanguard Media could pride itself as hosting the first and only column on oil and gas in the Nigerian media industry.

It has been a journey of campaign for transparency, accountability, building capacity and competences in a riotous and chaotic petroleum industry. The column delved into the protracted and intractable problem of local refining capacity in Nigeria. It has campaigned for environmental rights and justice in the blighted Niger Delta. The issue of the tea party in the Lake Chad Basin has also been canvassed as Nigeria appeared to have been left out in exploration and production, E&P there.

The Summiteer has kept tabs on conferences that discuss the economics and geopolitics of global petroleum as well as the politics of technology, renewable energy and climate change. We have had discourses on legal and regulatory frameworks that would lead to improvements in doing oil and gas business in Nigeria. As we enter another year, the Summiteer would continue to further the cause of critical thoughts on how best to utilize our oil for the greatest number. The issues discussed here have elicited reactions to hold our petroleum resources managers accountable, within the ambits of established professional norms without deliberately infringing on their rights.

Who owns the oil and who has right to explore and produce it in Nigeria? At two one pours libation using Crude Oil in honour of subsidy that would never die globally. One celebrates our teeming readers that have kept faith with me. Let’s celebrate Junetwelft!


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