•As EFCC re-arraigns Belgore, Sulaiman By Lukman Olabiyi Timothy Olaobaju, the first prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Muhammed Dele Belgore and a former Minister of National Planning, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman, yesterday, before the Federal High Court, Lagos, revealed how former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke,…
I am not one of those southerners overly discomfited by the seeming desperation of the President Muhammadu Buhari regime to either find oil in the North or take a sizeable chunk of our country’s oil business to the North.
I’m also not suspicious that the North would want to break away from Nigeria as soon as it discovers oil. Rather, I prefer to look at the positive side of things. I see the oil find in the North making our country more united. If, for instance, it is said that more northerners, than southerners, own oil blocks in the Niger Delta, it means southerners can also own oil blocks in the North. That way, we would be more appreciative of the sensibilities of others when indigenes of oil-producing communities tell us that the things we capture in our balance sheet as oil block and company assets are actually some other people’s ancestral land. That way, too, when we push for special revenue allocation, to meet the special needs of oil-producing communities, we’d all be on the same page.
But those are not the things that excite me the most about the about-to-blossom oil business in the North. I’m excited by what would become of the current oil communities of the South.
Many residents of the Ikorodu area of Lagos, and Arepo axis (in Ogun State), where robbery and kidnapping businesses are currently experiencing a boom, for instance, have a ready explanation for the increased tempo of this form of “business.” They say that since soldiers were deployed to the area to check the activities of pipeline vandals, the soldiers have since taken over the “business” and rendered “professional” vandals jobless. The latter have, as a result, resorted to robbery and kidnapping, which many of those who have been caught so far confess is not nearly as lucrative as the business of pipeline vandalism.
Even at that, with the increased activities of the Niger Delta Avengers (who are bombing the main source of oil, both crude and refined), I’m told the pipelines are fast running dry, as oil is no longer flowing in them.
So, when the security agencies (both military and paramilitary) beat their chests that they have drastically reduced pipeline vandalism in the country, don’t mind them. The truth is that the vandals have stopped vandalising pipelines because there’s no more oil in the pipes. Why would anyone go bursting pipes, when it’s only breeze that would gush out?
But there is ‘good news’ for the vandals: NNPC recently announced that President Buhari has directed the laying of another 1,000-kilometre pipeline from Agadem (in Niger Republic) to the Kaduna refinery.
What this means is that pipeline vandals can transfer their businesses up North. While those interested in illegal bunkering of crude oil would operate between Agadem and Kaduna, those who would rather wait for the refined products can site their ‘businesses’ anywhere between Kaduna an Lokoja (stretching to as far wide as Sokoto to the West, and Maiduguri, to the east).
Yes, it is not only the legit businesses that would move up North, all these other ‘businessmen’ causing us sleepless nights in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Warri, Bayelsa, Imo etc would also have to move to the new business frontier. There, cattle rustlers, gun-wielding ‘herdsmen’ and some Boko Haram insurgents who would wish to ‘diversify’ their current terror businesses would join them.
Yes! While we are now set to tell the Niger Delta to go to hell with its oil, we are also transferring the bulk of the ‘business’ that comes with crude oil and its refining to the North. This is more so if we also factor in the fact that we would soon be sucking out crude oil from both the Lake Chad Basin and the Gongola plains.
Of course, I have deliberately kept quiet about gas flaring, oil spillage and all the other environmental hazards that come with it. But in my quiet moments, I shudder at the thought of what havoc a combination of oil spillage, gas flaring and desertification would wreak on the environment. I guess, that’s why oil is more of a curse than a blessing – which is why I laugh at Lagos State when it gets unnecessarily excited over its new oil-producer status. Hmmm! The uninitiated child mistakes (juju) herbs for vegetables.
Our MMM economy
Just yesterday, on one of the many Whatsapp forums that I belong to, we were discussing what we thought was a very serious issue of President Muhammadu Buhari’s dizzying foreign exchange regime and Nigeria’s prostrate economy, when one member threw in this suggestion from an older post:
“I’m just thinking aloud… What if we use the 2017 national budget to do MMM for three months? It may get us out of recession. Or what do you think?”
And the comedian (for that’s what we initially thought he was) would not let us dismiss the post as just another joke.
According to him, if the Keke-Marwa economy that Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP bequeathed to us some 18 months ago has now degenerated into an Okada economy, it’s then very clear that there is no serious thinking going on about the economy in government quarters. We might, as well, just invest in the only thing that seems to be working right now – MMM! And our president can monitor the investment from Malabo, Afghanistan, Peru, Fernando Po or whatever other country he might choose to fly to.
According to our group comedian, everyone else (including top government and public service officials) is into MMM. He would not be discouraged by the fact that the MMM, like the wonder banks before it, would soon collapse and investors would lose their monies. In fact, he knows that much, but insists that he’d recover his money before the crash, and that Nigeria could do likewise with the 2017 budget, since it’s clear that there is no clear-cut economic blueprint.
Reminded that what he was advocating was akin to asking Nigeria to play pool with its entire revenue, he countered that MMM was better and more secure than pools betting, or even the national lottery. With MMM, you always win, but with pool and lottery, it’s a game of chance.
My friend’s defence of MMM instantly reminded me of the Facebook post of another friend a few weeks ago. This other friend had sent me the photograph of a man whom he simply identified as a member of the House of Representatives. The accompanying message was: “This is the idiotic lawmaker who moved a motion that the National Assembly should ban MMM in Nigeria… Useless man! Of all the other big problems facing the country, it is this MMM that is providing food for the poor masses that they now want to stop… please, continue to share and repost, until his constituents recall him from the National Assembly.”
Of course, I was shocked that my Facebook friend, who holds a Master’s degree, is also hooked on this Ponzi business, which I had thought was the preserve of the not-too-educated. How wrong I was! As the economy goes from bad to worse and recession progresses into depression, we are gradually being turned into petty gamblers – from regular pools to Baba Ijebu, BetNaija, Soccerbet, SureBet, one-armed bandit, etc.
While artisans, labourers and touts patronise the motor parks and street corners, staking their entire daily wages, the more affluent head to the casinos, big hotels and nightclubs – where they stake their houses, yachts, vintage cars, and even their wives.