The Robber State Can Now Drink Her Oil (2), By Erasmus Ikhide
White House Director of the US National Economic Council, Mr. Jeff Zients, highlighted Nigeria’s economic woes when he said a few days ago that the cessation of oil imports from Nigeria had to do with the significant rise in domestic US oil production.
Zients, US Labor Secretary, Thomas Perez, and White House Policy Council Director, Cecelia Munoz, told a few US journalists thus: “across the last several years, US oil production has ramped up significantly by more than 50 percent to now over eight and a half million barrels per day.” He explained that such a high turn up in local US oil production “has now dramatically reduced our dependency on imports,” Zients noted, adding that “in fact, we now produce more here than we import.”
The Guardian Newspaper reported that the White House official stated that the development is consistent with President Barack Obama’s energy strategy, which has changed “quite a bit over the last few years as we are much less dependent on oil imports.” That strategy has not only left Nigeria in the lurch, but has generally also driven down the international market price of oil to a ridiculous $60 range over the last few weeks. Oil prices, which soared around $100 in September, is now $56.52 for the WTI Crude and $61.38 for the Brent Crude oil.
But Zients and other US officials at the press briefing did not address the issue of the ongoing importation from other oil producing nations, including OPEC members like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and non-OPEC suppliers like Canada. In fact, as at last month, it was reported that, while US completely halted oil imports from Nigeria, it increased its importation from those three countries. Now, Saudi Arabia foreign reserve has hits $1.5 trillion dollars while Nigeria’s meagrely hovers around $39.5 billion dollars!
The reduction of US oil importation from Nigeria to zero is the very first time since 1973 that the US did not import oil from Nigeria. US Shale oil production is responsible for the infusion of “light, sweet crude,” said to be similar to Nigeria’s Bonny Light oil, and US refineries are said to prefer buying the locally produced oil, which is cheaper than Nigeria’s light crude.
Comrade Adams Oshiomhole aptly provided an answer to the question I put before Mr President a few days ago. Here is the question for emphasis: “Is it that Mr Jonathan knows a thing or two about the oil bunkering at the backwaters of the degraded Niger Delta region”?
Those involved in oil bunkering do not fetch crude oil with bowls or buckets. They do so with cargo ships, Marine tankers and ocean liners and, they are known. It’s alleged that the wife of Mr President, Mrs Patience Jonathan owns MT Patience cargo ships 1-10 that are involved in oil bunkering at the Forcados Terminal, Brass in Port Harcourt and other oil producing States in the Niger Delta. These gigantic marine tankers don’t have wings with which they fly. They are regularly being escorted by the Nigerian navy and other security apparatus across the coastal lines. Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer, accounting for more than two million barrels per day. But from investigation, more than 4 million barrel per day is produced, but only two million is accounted for. Even the Nigeria Liquified Gas, NLG is not left out of this bizarre business.
Speaking during a visit of the Association of Enigies from Edo South to him yesterday, Oshiomhole said, “Over the past 18 months, we have not shared the excess crude account and yet, the account is empty. Sometimes we are told they have taken money from it to fund subsidies including subsidy on kerosene but your royal highnesses, there is nowhere in your various domains where kerosene is sold for N50. So in the name of subsidy, large sums of money are being stolen.
“Things are tough now around the country because the Federal Government mismanaged our national resources and what is being stolen, nobody agrees it is being stolen. What is arguable is who is responsible for this stealing. When the Federal Government and the President talk about oil theft and the amount that is allegedly stolen is huge such that whereas we have the capacity to produce about 2.4 million barrels a day, what accrues into the federal government account is less than 1.8 million barrel a day.
“From the last time we had a meeting, the handouts they distributed shows that sometime for a period of two weeks, we were losing as much as 700,000 barrels a day and that has been on for the past twelve years. I am not able to understand why, suddenly, Nigeria cannot protect its territorial waters because the boundaries have not changed and the people are still the same and at the peak of the so-called militancy, we were still exporting about 2 million barrels a day.
“Then how can we explain that after we have resolved the issue of militancy in the Niger Delta, we have rehabilitated the ex-militants and even awarded contracts to them, that we are losing as much crude oil as that to oil thieves and to the best of my knowledge, there is no major known person who has been prosecuted and convicted for oil theft in a way that reflects the magnitude of what is being allegedly stolen.
“What this means is that our budgets have not performed over the past 3 years whereas the budgets have been based on an average of between $77 to $78 and $79 a barrel. The average price of Nigeria’s sweet crude has been around $108 per barrel. That gives a surplus of over $30. Ideally, we ought to be saving $36 per barrel and 2.3 million barrel a day over the past three years and if you look at these numbers you will find that what we have in our excess crude oil account should be over $30billion but as we speak, we have barely $3 billon in our excess crude account.
“Now oil price has dropped to $60 and because we have not saved, the naira is undergoing devaluation. Already as low as N180 per dollar and I believe by February when the elections are over, nobody is going to want to hold the naira. Wherever the election goes, I expect that the naira will hit over N200 per dollar. The inflationary consequence of it is that prices of goods and services will go up and part of the vicious cycle of the devalued naira in the manner that is being done is that the price of petroleum products imported in dollars will go up in naira and government will be asking people who are already poor to pay more money for petroleum products”, Oshiomhole said.
For years to come, Nigeria will lie outside the main stream of countries whose economy recharged itself by their Leaders’ commitment to development. The oil price fall is so devastating that it will take Nigeria several years of redirection and diversification to recover from it. Unfortunately, President Jonathan’s cringers and lickspittles belief nations grows naturally. There are no naturally grown nations; they stemmed or are forged from leaders with the intellectual capabilities to think through policy frame work. Savage corruption gives birth to political backwardness, economic stagnation and decimates its currencies.
The singular act of surging corruption will set Nigeria apart from and behind the other aspiring developing countries. Nigeria which has become a problem child of the globe, a nation of gifted, vigorous people aided in the past by military caste and by great intellectuals suddenly embraces an uncanny passion for unbridled corruption. The President couldn’t bring his earlier taunted virtues – modesty, toughness, forbearance and a blunt brute into collision with the treasury looters in his government and crush them into pieces.
President Jonathan has brought Nigeria into an artificially stabilised state at a medieval level of confusion and weakness. He could not fight Boko Haram insurgents, nor stop finical haemorrhage, or crude oil theft. His government depicts a logical failure of all that had gone before – or at least of all that had been glorious! The President has pulled himself up by his own bootstraps.
The Otuoke man rarely litters his mind on the crazy patchwork nation whose intermittent socio-economic status broadly reduces her stance in the comity of nations aspiring to become one of the largest economies in the world by 2020. Perhaps, our President needs to read Nietzsche in which Thus Spake Zarathustra was written: “I say unto you: it is the good war which halloweth every cause. War and courage have done more great things than charity”. Nigerians must make the right choice and resolve the nation’s leadership question in next year’s February election before insanity closes down our minds.
Erasmus Ikhide writes in from Lagos, Nigeria. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @erasmusikhide