What is alarming is not just that $1 trillion annually could easily put the current state of Nigeria’s infrastructure at par with those of the First World countries
Aug. 20, 2013
A casual observer of the Nigerian situation may hastily conclude that the Boko Haram menace is the greatest threat to the country at the moment. How wrong! The greatest and present threat to Nigeria is the uncontrolled theft of Nigeria’s crude oil that appears to receive the imprimatur of the government of the day. It is a very serious matter because, true or false, most Nigerians believe that key members of Jonathan’s government want the theft to continue. It is very hard to fault the logic behind this near-consensus. A serving minister with close ties to the president recently bluntly told a businessman who had brought a bright idea that would be able to stop oil thieves that they would never install that kind of equipment. It was like saying: who told you we want to stop the oil theft?
Crude oil thieves stole an average of $2 billion daily the last time anyone cared to check, and this puts the loss to the nation at nearly a trillion dollars annually. This should alarm anybody else but President Jonathan, it appears. What is alarming is not just that $1 trillion annually could easily put the current state of Nigeria’s infrastructure at par with those of the First World countries but the impression it gives the rest of the world that the country known and called Nigeria may indeed be a banana republic. I don’t know of any other country on Planet Earth where it is possible to steal this quantum of national resources where there is a government in place. Unless of course it is government people that are doing the stealing. If the constituted authority of Nigeria has lost control over vital swathes of its country, north and south, then, it should become a matter of urgent concern for the elites of this country. If the leader of any country, whether elected or not, is too weak or too incompetent (or both) to the extent that nearly $1 trillion (one trillion dollars) of the nation’s resources could be stolen annually, then, the elites of that nation should, as a matter of urgent enlightened self-interest, sit up and save themselves.
With each passing day, this theft continues with geometric vengeance. Every Nigerian complains about the maritime security contract the Nigerian president has awarded to Tompolo (who, by the way, the president still calls “general”), a former militant who had led criminal terrorist operations in the past that killed many of the nation’s security officers including naval officers who now have to contend with the humiliation of seeing a large part of their job ceded to Tompolo. In spite of the loud complaints, the president, who does not give a damn, has refused to review the contract. And it is after this contract was given that this whole stealing enterprise went from thievery to pillaging. There is a difference between stealing and pillaging, you know. Nigeria has always known corruption and government stealing. But what we see today cannot be stealing; it is pillaging. And what is worse, the money that is made from what is left after the theft is also stolen. Apart from this $1 trillion crude oil theft annually, it has also been estimated by those who should know that a further $1 billion (one billion dollars) is probably stolen every day from the nation’s exchequer through several dubious means. The details of the Malabu Oil ultra-scam and the obscene amount of money that was shared among some of the principal officers of this government could make a normal person throw up.
Recently, on a trip to the United States, a leading member of the US intelligentsia asked me why Nigeria’s sweet crude, which should normally sell at a premium anywhere in the world, was being sold by the Nigerian government at a discount. Of course, I had no answer for my friend apart from a few mumbles after which I quickly changed the topic. It can sometimes be quite uncomfortable to be Nigerian in some respectable discussions abroad.
It is frustrating discussing this same topic virtually every week on this page with no effect. It is as if one is talking to the deaf. But now that President Jonathan clearly does not want to solve the oil theft problem, has he given a thought to how he is going to run the country when the nation finally runs out of cash on his watch, as his finance minister recently warned? He had better start thinking about that immediately. Because, at this rate, it will soon not be possible for the government to pay salaries, even though the nation is supposed to be selling at least two million barrels of oil every day.