Toward repositioning Nigeria's petroleum industry

Since its discovery some 150 years ago, oil has never stopped ruling the world. Just like money, oil has brought both affluence and quandary to the world. While it turned some once forgotten parts of the world into economic centres of the universe, it also turned some others into irreparable desolate lands. Little wonder when not causing conflicts around the world (including the two horrific world wars), the black gold is causing cultural and religious collisions.

Discovered at the very peak of western industrial civilization, not only did western governments deploy their enormous imperial power to expropriate the black gold from powerless nations endowed with it. Western oil giants too did not hesitate chokingly force these oil rich nations to surrender their oil wealth to them.

That is what is going on in Nigeria since oil was discovered in 1958. To make Nigeria the easiest prey, besides keeping the three major ethnic groups in perpetual war, both the oil companies and their governments they have never stopped incessantly amplified our differences. That the country is home to the world’s best and most sought-after light and sweet make no nation schemed, cajoled, threatened, bullied, cheated, sabotaged, and mercilessly and ruthlessly forced into perpetual fear and silence the way Nigeria has during the past five decades.

Being the right place for oil vultures in the world to feast, Nigeria attracts all kinds of international oil fraudsters and ruthless intelligence hoodlums. Such a state of powerlessness, sheer ignorance, poverty, and religious and ethnic rivalries blossoms our exploitation with little or no resistance. While as humiliating and brutal as colonialism could be, the chilling cold of inferiority accompanying our stolen confidence and pride as a result of our mental occupation has been the deadliest weapon of mass destruction our oil exploiters can’t stop using to keep us perpetually afraid of them. Making it worse is the filling of most of our leaders’ cupboard with embarrassing skeletons. These skeletons have enabled them remote-controlling these leaders into promoting and protecting western interests at the expense of those of their own nation.

Little wonder, Nigeria today is in a state of oil tyranny, only likened to J.C. Welch’s 1883 description of the presence of Standard Oil as a political and economic hostage taker, and whose owner Rockefeller he irately called, ”an oil emperor whose occupier style of business is bolted and barred, hedged round, covered over, shielded before and behind in fully secrecy.”

As if not enough, full-spectrum domination of Nigeria has since led to advanced Machiavellian-Darwinian realpolitik, including Hegelian dialectics: Thesis + Antithesis = Synthesis, unfortunately well-known practice for its devastating multifarious layers of constructed peace and security destabilization. With such dearth of patriotism and sheer greed, as well as ethnic, religious, and group rivalries and suspicions, there is no better place to practice Hegelian dialectics with sheer success than in Nigeria.

It was this presence of powerful invisible occupation of Nigeria by the west that William E.B. Dubois was trying to convey to Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe during his November 1960 to Nigeria, when he wrathfully demanded: ”.…Do we call this independence? We call neo-colonialism independence? At least, colonialism made the West undoubtedly visible. But now, transformed into neo-colonialism, the enemy has finally become as invisible and deadly as an electric current…” Distressing DuBois was the sheer naivety displayed by the guardians of our new nation in their match and dance with their unsympathetic, cunning, heartless and nauseatingly ‘devil may care’ Machiavellian-Darwinian survivalist western counterparts.
Without allowing us any breathing space, the enemy has not allowed us re-examine the up and down of this matching. Not even accounting who and why assassinating our great patriots like Murtala Mohammed for attempting to establish NNPC in mid-1970s, the hanging of social activists like Ken Saro-Wiwa for wanting social and environmental fairness and justice his Ogoni people, and the poisoning of legendary Pan-Africanists like MKO Abiola for signalling the end of business as usual. Not even their stage-managing our civil war, nor their propping up some of worst military dictators has forced us to come to the understanding that their only interest in this relationship is how to endlessly exploit us; and should it require brute force or soft power, no night sleep is lost.

The signing of the National Security Study Memorandum (NSSM200) into law by President Gerald Ford in November 1975 signalled more advanced version of occupation — full-spectrum invisible domination of resource-rich countries like Nigeria. Nigeria in particular remained a special case given its endowment with the world’s best oil wealth, which Washington deemed so essentially important for America’s continued economic growth supremacy. Making Nigeria ungovernable was the surest way of ensuring that Nigerians are deprived the consumption of their oil, being believed to be better made available to American consumers. Little wonder we now consume with we don’t make and make what we don’t consume.

Understandably, Nigerians should make do with imported adulterated petroleum products not believed to be good for environmentally conscious western people. It is one thing to know that what we consume is adulterated imported fuel; it is another to fully comprehend the immense economic and social costs associated with imported adulterated fuel. It is so unbelievable how much ignorant Nigerian motorists are or when knowing are ready to demand full explanation why it is they that have to consume fuel with such low-octane number and high sulphur? Maybe no one has truly computed the high costs associated with adulterated fuel’s inefficient combustion, fuel loses caused by constant misfiring, as well as the high engine wear, frequent engine knocks, that are common with adulterated fuel?

It is so unbelievable how easily forgetful Nigerian motorists are that just few years ago our petrol stations were selling differentiated fuels: premium, super, ordinary, as well as unleaded and leaded fuels. How come there are no motorists demanding from petrol sellers graded fuel? Why not next time you visit a petrol station you try to demand from the pump attendant either premium, supper, or unleaded to hear the attendant’s response? Since we already know what response to expect, why not go further to demand a meeting with the station manager to find out the last time the station sold graded fuel and possibly which agency of the government should be responsible for?

Now that we want to dislodge the activities of fuel cabal, it would be good that we begin that with the PIB before our lawmakers. To ensure that adulterated fuel is made a thing of the past in Nigeria, experts should be appear before lawmakers to thoroughly explain adulterated fuel’s real costs to Nigerian motorists.

Making the petroleum industry bill encompassing should require lawmakers to assure Nigerians that henceforth the oil found in their country should first and foremost be to their own benefit, including setting in full motion the process of nationalization and scrapping of the so-called joint ventures and sharing arrangements, which have been notoriously used to dispossess us the flesh while leaving us with only the bone. The unheard-of bloated technical and managerial partnership costs, which deprived us local technical and managerial capabilities should cease with the passage of the PIB. In fact, to pass the PIB into law without clearly setting a deadline — possibly 2018 — when it should be illegal to export our oil unrefined should be shockingly unpatriotic on the part of our lawmakers.

For one thing, let us for the first time boldly demand whether Nigeria’s continued OPEC membership is worth it; is it truly beneficial t

o our economic and security interests. Getting to the bottom of this should include understanding why the oil cartel was part of the 1945 US-Saudi strategic marriage, secretly given birth during a meeting President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Saudi King Adbul Aziz (Ibn Saud) meeting on a US naval cruiser in the Suez Canal. Created by President Eisenhower and Saudi King during the King’s official visit to the US in the summer of 1958, OPEC was used to neutralize Soviet’s powerful oil card.

If we were then forced to join OPEC as soon as we became independent, are we not old enough now to decide for ourselves whether we still need to become to this organization or not? With the Cold War since over are we still compelled by US geostrategic reasons to remain in OPEC? By now we should have known better that it is the US national security establishment, with Saudi help that manipulated oil prices based on US interests. Having prices dramatically manipulated lower in the 1980s led to the spectacular crumbling of the Soviet Union. Applied in reverse order from 1999 to 2008, high oil prices failed to disrupt the ever skyrocketing Chinese economy. For how long should we play this escape goat role?

Frankly and patriotically debated, the petroleum industry bill should assure Nigerians our long treatment as a pawn in this high-stake strategic game of chess should now come to an end, no matter who it hurts. Hotly but intelligently debated, the bill should be all about repositioning Nigeria as an indigenous oil player. In other words, reclaiming our oil wealth should be done boldly with a new NNPC leading both upstream and downstream. NNPC to be truly national should by law sell its shares only to Nigerian. A new department fully responsible for oil refining and marketing should be created and by law only attracts Nigerian engineers and scientists to avoid foreign sabotage undermining its activities.

Since we all know how oil companies have, through financing the elections of local politicians, influenced important national policies. Because of the truism that he who pays the pipe always calls the tune, and since it is not easy to bit the fingers that feed you, the bill should make it illegal for oil companies to overtly or covertly support any politician. To ensure this is enforced, the current high cost associated with election campaigns in the country should be forcefully brought down through a campaign finance reform that caps how much politicians can spend on elections. This will require not only banning all forms foreign contributions but also publicly disclosing sources of campaign financing. Its effectiveness will require the creation of EFCC and SSS campaign finance surveillance unit.

The fact that NSSM200 is yet to be retired in Nigeria, the bill should mandate the creation of a joint counterintelligence to begin neutralizing foreign intelligence influence in our oil and gas. For this same reason all oil companies operating in Nigeria should be mandated by the law to not only localize their corporate shareholding but to ensure that Nigeria should have to right to accept or reject their top expatiate management if considered to be imbedded members of foreign countries’ intelligence community.

Local content should henceforth become both expansive and inclusive enough to ensure that the same way oil companies smiling to their banks should be the way host communities to smile to their own banks. Meaning that substantial shares of the oil companies should be free-of-charge handed to host communities. It also means that communities should have visible presence in personnel accounts (including participating and gaining the technical and managerial capabilities) and social corporate responsibility accounts of the oil companies.

Among the questions to be fully debated before the passage of the bill are: How would we react the day we all wake up to discover that oil is no longer the world’s preferred source of energy, since hydrogen’s carbonless energy has become not only green and cheap but abundant in infinitum? Without oil, what else should place it as our main source of revenue? Since it is only those nations that plan in advance that always win the races, shouldn’t we use our petroleum industry bill as the turning point for our national research on alternative energy?

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