Two Budgets and Counting….By Nasiru Suwaid
“You come from capitalist nations. You know what the market does…. For any commodity, what does it do? It goes up and down, up and down….have you seen me worried.”
Ali al-Naimi, Saudi Arabian Oil Minister, expressing lack of concern over the plummeting oil prices, while speaking to Reuters at the World Environmental Summit in Lima, Peru.
Indeed the scene was akin to an illusory mirage, which is the caricature of an event that should never have happened, at least not in the way it played, because, generally, to an environmental conference, an oil minister, those unique breed of human beings, who exploit the fossil fuels for cheap profit and in the process overheating the planet, while causing climate change. At such summits, they are indeed endangered species, who should only be seen and heard on the defensive but in this instance, the Saudi oil minister was coveted like the prince he is.
Unfortunately, these are interesting times in the world, especially to the world at the World Environmental Conference, where the delegate-activist became confused, on whether to gloat or agonize for a world of cheap crude oil, because, an affordable oil encourages more usage and more overheating the environment but it also signals the end of relevance and importance of Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries as an influential cartel, which could regulate production to hike prices or to put it more simply, the eventual death of an anathema of an environmental anachronistic monopoly.
Yet without the much vilified oil cartel, crude oil prices would not stay at the higher range, which would serve as an incentive, to opt for resorting to the adoption of the renewable energy as a viable alternative. Perhaps, it is the reason why an oil man became a star at the conference. It is also the reason why the Venezuelan oil minister was hailed and celebrated, when he challenged and accused his Saudi Arabian counterpart of the sabotage of collective group interest.
But what has that got to do with Nigerian budgeting processes, unfortunately, a lot more than you could imagine, because, by the presented 2015 Appropriation Bill, a projected budget expenditure estimate of N4.357 trillion naira, premised on a too ‘optimistic’ $65 dollars benchmark price and on a projected oil production of 2.278 million barrels per day, Nigeria is opting for a deficit budget but most importantly, a highly unrealistic appropriation estimate. This is because it is a departure from the fiscal tradition of the present administration, which is always conservative in setting its benchmark oil price, way below the speculated range of movement of the product in the global oil market.
However, as of today, the Nigerian crude is trading below $60 dollars per barrel and very importantly, most informed analyst have a unanimity of opinion and forecasted projection on the product not to rise above the $60 dollars mark. But, the normal method of making a balanced budget is to set the benchmark price, conservatively, below the speculated projected range, then, find ways and means to fund the deficit, mostly through international loans, grants and local debts, which builds certainty in the national financial spending document, as you just cannot make a budget on an uncertain and unattainable benchmark price, that is simply pure fiscal irresponsibility. Indeed, any informed observer could easily foresee, what was presented on Wednesday is only one in a series of many future 2015 budgets to come.
A poser that remains fundamental here is of what benefit is the ascension to the leadership of the Organization of Petroleum Exploring Counties, if the Nigerian Minister of Petroleum Resources could not use her presidency and tenure of office in the group, to seek to influence the cartel for lesser production of crude oil, a wish that is the position of her mother country, which she is even representing in the group and what better forum than the World Environmental Conference, where she has unlikely though very powerful supporters.
The simple truth is that there is neither cooperation nor cohesion or even consistency in the economic management team of this administration, because, if it is the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation that is the goose which lays the golden egg, you would expect it supervisory minister, to at the very least, make an effort to canvass for lesser production of excess crude into the world market, rather than the current waving of hand and expression of unconcern or cowardly defeat, that a very powerful Saudi Arabia could not be made to budge, on the harmful policy position taken to support the flooding of cheap oil into the global energy market, just to undercut further development of Shale oil production.
And this two other things:
JUSTICE VALENTINE ASHI’S BOOK ARREST ORDER
It is said that the worst enemies of the law are not the violent criminal offenders or perpetual civil wrongdoers, rather, it is those who make the law obsolete, indolent, ineffective and ineffectual, as in these times and season of the internet, e-books and social media mass content, banning a book only ‘titillate’ curiosity of every average reader. Unfortunately, it is this role of infamy, that Justice Valentine Ashi of the Federal High Court Abuja had inserted himself into last week, when despite the many calls by the highest judicial authority in the land, against the issuance of unnecessary ex parte restraining injunctions, still he gave an order that erred ‘in law’ as well as ‘in fact’. It erred ‘in law’, when it sought to bar a constitutionally guaranteed Right to Freedom of Expression and Opinion, it also erred ‘in fact’, when it wrongfully conferred ownership, to a statement that was merely ‘transmitted’ by Citizen Mathew Aremu Olusegun Akikiola Obasanjo, despite the fact, he only repeated and pronounced what was ‘announced’ by a United States of America court, declaring one Buruji Kashamu as a fugitive running from the law.
Generally, the basic essential characteristic of libel is the authorship or repetition of a word, sentence or statement with malicious intent to impugn the integrity of another party, in this case, surely the able judge is not imputing restating a court order as a personal opinion, indeed, how could we imbibe respect for the Nigerian courts, when we ‘aid’ others to flout court orders of other national jurisdictions, more so, in a case involving drug running, money laundering and financial crimes, a range of offences that have soiled the image of Nigeria. As if that was not enough damage, the Nigerian Police Force and the Department of State Security Service are to abandon the fight against an insurgency, which threatens the whole nation, for the gathering of a collection of books that purportedly discomforts a single man
YERIMA NGAMA’S CROCODILE TEARS
When he appeared on the national television, you could easily see that he was so shocked and dazed, that he was struggling to make any sense of what had just happened, in the Yobe State Governorship Primaries of the People’s Democratic Party held at the Legacy House in Abuja. Believe me, if he could bark, he would but what is the problem, which has put the former Minister of State for Finance into a suspended state of discomfort. Actually, he was just trying to understandable rationalize to himself and even comprehend, how just twenty one delegates instead of six hundred and forty nine, could be said to have elected his party’s nominee for the next year’s election, indeed, you would see that Ngama was doing all he could, to draw the sympathy of Nigerians, at the very least an empathy for the evident injustice meted out to him and other loosing contestants. Well, Dr. Yerima, democracy is an attitude not an event, when your party at the Nigerian Governors Forum election, declared that indeed sixteen could be greater than nineteen, you did not only kept quiet but fully supported it, in the full glare of the public and to the utter bewilderment of your countrymen and women, not knowing that a time like this would come in the future.
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