As Nigeria Runs Out of Cash By Sam Nda-Isaiah
A few days ago, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the finance minister, alerted us to the fact that the nation would soon run out of money to run itself. She hid under the alibi of the theft of crude oil, bunkering and pipeline vandalism. But there’s more to what the coordinating minister for the economy was willing to divulge. What she should have been very straightforward about is the level of barefaced stealing that is taking place in all facets of the Goodluck Jonathan government that could soon kill all of us. But let’s even discuss the oil theft, pipeline vandalism and bunkering that she talked about.
The first question any normal person would ask is why we should continue to experience oil theft and pipeline vandalism after President Jonathan has so scandalously awarded the contract for pipeline protection to militants and vandals. Why should anyone be surprised that the level of vandalism of oil pipes under President Jonathan is already threatening the survival of the nation? There will certainly be pipeline vandalism if you place the pipelines under the “protection” of vandals. That’s Common Sense 101. Even an idiot should know that. And if you award contracts for the security of our oil resources to oil thieves, what do you expect? What do thieves do anyway? The answer to this is clear to everyone except to President Jonathan, it seems. The president is even lucky that no one is accusing him of complicity. At least not yet, but, if this uncontrolled theft continues, it will not be long before that starts happening. The president has been urging leaders of western nations to come and help him fight the criminals stealing our oil. Why shouldn’t he then resign his office and hand over the running of the country to these foreign leaders?
Okonjo-Iweala said 400,000 barrels was being stolen daily. Other credible authorities have put the figure at more than 800,000 barrels on a good day for the thieves. And it is clear that if Jonathan does not wake up from his long slumber, the amount of oil stolen daily will surpass the amount left to run the country.
I don’t even know whether Jonathan understands the job description of the office of president of a nation. I cannot imagine how someone can be president and yet keeps asking other people to do the job of president for him. That is how, not long ago, Jonathan called on General Muhammadu Buhari to help him fix the Boko Haram crisis. And now he is asking foreign leaders to help him solve the problem of oil theft, bunkering and pipeline vandalism. Maybe the president will soon call on APC leaders to help him solve the problem of massive corruption in his government, which by the way is the real reason his government is running out of cash. Pipeline vandalism and oil theft are surely bleeding the economy but it is the corruption within the Jonathan government (which includes the oil theft anyway) that has virtually grounded the economy.
How would you not run out of cash when N1.6 trillion has been stolen in the name of fuel subsidy in one single year, and, now that election talk is in the air again, the whole stealing process is about to start all over again simply because nothing happened to the thieves of the last election season? And somebody is surprised that Nigeria is running out of cash? Why should the nation not run out of cash when over N100 billion of pension funds has been stolen and the federal government appears to be protecting some of the thieves? How won’t Nigeria run out of cash when it has been estimated that an average of $1 billion is stolen daily from the nation’s coffers without consequences? Until Jonathan begins to define corruption as a serious transgression against the nation and its people, he is going to drive Nigeria over the precipice. At the moment, he does not think corruption is a crime at all, and his lips and body language have given him away on the matter.
Whenever anyone attempts to talk to him about the stinking corruption around him, he gets visibly upset. Not too long ago, in response to those complaining about the corruption in his government, he declared that those who accused his government of corruption were more corrupt. That’s wonderful! What that means in plain language is that he accepts the fact that his government is corrupt; but even more troubling is what he didn’t say: if he knows those who are “more corrupt” than his government, what has he done? On another occasion, he declared that he does not “give a damn” on a vital issue regarding the fight against corruption. And, as his own seminal contribution to the art and science of governance, he recruited a militant who had been implicated in the theft of oil and handed the maritime security of the nation to him without any hint of irony or compunction. He then shared pipeline security contracts to other militants. And this man is surprised that the nation is being stolen dry? Sometimes, governance and leadership is a simple matter of common sense.
Maybe it is better for the nation to finally collapse under the weight of this free-for-all stealing that is currently going on. Maybe, just maybe, that is the trigger we need before we finally experience our own “Arab Spring”.
David Mark’s Senate
I have often been impressed with David Mark’s public service records. I do not always agree with the Senate president and I have had cause to strongly disagree with his politics in the past. But, warts and all, and politics aside, I have generally been impressed with the man. He is arguably the best governor Niger State has had so far. And, as Senate president, he has ensured stability. We all remember how the Senate presidency used to be a turn-by-turn affair when it was zoned to the south-east. Last week, David Mark’s Senate came out very strongly against the ongoing scandalous crisis in Rivers State, where the president and his out-of-control wife were indicted. The Senate did not mince words: Governor Rotimi Amaechi was accused of highhandedness. That’s also fair, even though highhandedness is not a crime.
The Senate committee under the competent chairmanship of Senator Kabiru Gaya, former Kano State governor, also recommended the immediate redeployment of the mercenary police commissioner of Rivers State. In any case, since he has failed to do the job for which he was rented to do, it is time for him to go. If the governor is the chief security officer of his state, I do not know how he will be able to achieve this with a commissioner of police that has taken sides with the hoodlums in the Rivers State House of Assembly. And, of course, the Senate has sealed President Jonathan and his wife’s ambition of impeaching the state governor with 5 of the 32 members of the House of Assembly by aligning with the House of Representatives to take over the duties of the Rivers Assembly in accordance with Section 11 (4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
But it is David Mark’s speech on that day that everyone is talking about: “Let me add that the National Assembly will uphold and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as we all individually swore to. This we will do at all times and at all costs. Let me leave no one in doubt that the impunity of the past remains in the past, and the past is gone for good.” Here, of course, he must be referring to the serial nonsense that happened under Obasanjo when it would have been possible for, say, 4 of a 40-member House of Assembly to impeach a governor, with the additional impunity of using the police to achieve this.
So as not to leave any doubt, Senate president Mark finally hit the nail on the head when he said: “…minority members of the Rivers State House of Assembly cannot remove and should, therefore, never contemplate the impeachment of the speaker of the state House of Assembly or anyone else for that matter and should perish the thought if they ever harboured it. Our institutions of state must also uphold the constitution at all times and must not in any way encourage the impression that impunity of the past is possible today.
“This National Assembly, for the avoidance of doubt, would resist impunity and unconstitutionality. This is the stand of the Senate. And, once more, I must emphasise that we remain neutral and we want to see an end to the crisis in Rivers State.”
Very well said. And that is how it should be. Leaders should not engage in sophistry when it is the security of the nation that is at stake.
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