Rotimi Fasan

By Rotimi Fasan

WE will not allow a few criminals to have unfettered access to the nation’s crude oil supply, hence I have directed our security agencies to speedily bring to a halt the activities of these vandals in the Niger Delta.” The statement goes on to say:“There should be no hiding place for such criminals, and our cooperation with neighbouring countries in halting these crimes is being strengthened and tightened.” 

The above are the words of President Muhammadu Buhari in a statement released on his behalf by the Presidency condemning the increasing cases of the criminal pilfering of the country’s crude oil by sundry categories of oil thieves. The thieves operate from hidden points in the hinterland of the Niger Delta to the high seas, right under the nose of or in collusion with security agents being paid with Nigeria’s tax payers’ money to forestall such activities. The statement (they are almost always statements, alas!) is the President’s response to the threat posed to the country’s economic survival, its very jugular and main revenue source, by those he has himself called ‘a few criminals’ in his statement. 

But what does he do about it? He issues yet another statement as he has been doing in the last seven years (going on eight) of his administration in the many other instances of saboteur activities against the Nigerian state, perpetrated alike by Boko Haram insurgents, or terrorists irresponsibly called bandits, kidnappers and common marauders armed with both light and heavy weaponry and misusing their ethnic connections with particular regions of the country to pose as nationalist defenders of their motherland. 

But when one reads the lame excuses of statements that are issued at points of crisis or criminal breach of security in the name of the president, statements meant to be as red lines never to be crossed by troublers of Nigeria, it is hard to imagine that the President was ever a General of the Nigerian Army. But, perhaps, that is what old age does to both the mind and body- it weakens its ability to respond to situations in the expected manner. The President is not only failing at his responsibility but also in what should be his strongest point- his background as a military officer of many years. 

It may seem a stretch to hold him responsible for the manner the country appears to be unraveling. It would be unfair to put the blame on just an individual but it is impossible not to hold the President accountable where his mandate concentrates in him the coercive powers of the state that he has failed to appropriately deploy through self-appointed surrogates that are in the main bench warmers wasting precious national man hours in offices for which they are not prepared to take responsibility. How do you hold these individuals responsible without demanding responsibility from the President? 

In the present instance of oil theft at a time of war between Russia and Ukraine when expectations of increased oil revenue have not materialised, the so-called subsidy on petrol continues to deplete the nation’s income and the country can use every kobo that comes its way, the President as the Minister of Petroleum Resources sits atop a ministry that loses $1.9 billion in crude oil theft on a monthly basis.

That is the figure,which could be very conservative,from the Group Chief Executive Officer of NNPC Limited, Mr Mele Kyari. Things have gone so bad that even security personnel have joined in the looting spree. No less than 13 Nigerian Navy personnel are standing court-martial trial in Lagos for their alleged part in oil theft banditry alongside other thieves and pipeline vandals.

How could this be happening in a country where government, according to the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, pays about N19 billiondaily for oil subsidy that goes into the hands of criminal business men and women while the universities have stayed shut for six full months over disagreements on the funding of the universities and salaries of teachers?It’s fantastic leakages on all fronts. How can any country survive with this level of corruption?

Again, all the presidency has to say is tell Nigerians through Garba Shehu, a presidential spokesperson, that Abuja would soon release the names of highly-placed Nigerians responsible for the ongoing massive theft of the country’s crude oil. Who didn’t know that the thieves cannot possibly be among the hungry, immiserated, average citizen that is constantly struggling to put food on their table? Who has the means to hire or own super tankers with foreign crew as was arrested last week off the coast of Equatorial Guinea,laden with Nigeria’s crude,by authorities of that country-who can be in control of these vessels if not the criminals and their cronies at the top? 

Is this what President Buhari meant in his statement about strengthening and tightening cooperation with neighbouring countries to halt oil theft- outsourcing the country’s responsibilities to foreigners? Things would be different if this government could be seen to be doing its bit. But it’s all about pushing its responsibility to others. What is the point in the Presidency telling Nigerians of its intention to arrest robbers of our commonwealth rather than rounding them up and prosecuting them in short order?  

This is the reason the President is being called to account- first for his own lack of accountability both as president and minister, and his failure to demand accountability from his appointees! This is a president that knows how to hire (even if wrongly) but cannot fire (to save anybody’s life) for failure to deliver. This was the point being made tongue-in-cheek by Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, in his recent interview with Channels’ Seun Okinbaloye. He, like many of the President’s staunch supporters, are obviously disenchanted by his refusal to demand accountability from his aides. 

How does the President explain contracts, at costs to the tune of billions of naira, to a private citizen to protect NNPC pipelines and stop the theft of Nigeria’s crude oil, the country’s main source of revenue? This was a man, Government Ekpemupolo, aka Tompolo, that was until very recent years viewed as an outlawand fugitive from the Nigerian state. That’s Buhari’s man to stop oil theft? This is creating a frightening picture of state failure and break down of law and order. Before now it was Gani Adams’ OPC under the Goodluck Jonathan administration. 

What more surprises does this government, that has topped the worst excesses of its predecessor that it criticised, have up its sleeves? How can the few praiseworthy things, policies and projects executed, done under this administration, be appreciated where there is so much failure and irresponsibility to be seen all around?

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