Dear President Buhari, how have the last few days been? Hope like the rest of the citizenry that you will be ruling for the next 4 years you have felt the discomfort of fuel scarcity & power outages. I hear you are away in England at the moment attending to matters abroad. I do hope for all our sakes that these matters concern the key issues you promised to address while you campaigned extensively across the nation.
At the moment a lot of us cannot wait for the 29th of May any longer, this has become such a concern owing to the near total system shut down by the outgoing administration as evidenced by the inactivity around state house, the lack of directive or statement from the administration regarding the current fuel scarcity and power failure. Mr. President, businesses are shutting down and daily livelihoods are being taken away because of this seemingly two pronged attack on the masses. The masses are truly the ones feeling this pain the most as a result of their meager income and their dependence on fuel and electricity to get them through the day. Not everyone can afford high capacity generators, inverters or solar panels, while efforts to get to our places of work are near impossible due to the increase in transport fare or the lack of enough means of transportation at the moment.
The people have asked questions Mr. President and the answers we have gotten haven’t been pretty. Oil marketers, oil transporters, the NNPC & co have decided to hold the country to ransom for one reason or the other; none payment of certain fees and costs, uncertainty about the incoming administration, sale of NNPC stake in certain assets, etc. These reasons have not justified how a handful of people and organizations will cause the major nerve centers of this country to come to a near halt.
Banks are now working half days, Media houses can no longer function 24/7, airlines have stopped being fully operational, telecommunication companies have warned of shortages in diesel supply affecting optimal operations. Let’s not now talk about hospitals and industries that need constant power supply to function efficiently. Hospitals require stable power supply to keep certain people alive like babies in incubators and people on life support machines or patients undergoing kidney dialysis.
It is unbelievable how all this can be permitted to happen. In a country that is supposed to aim for constant improvements in processes and systems this is totally unacceptable. It has been accepted for a while that improving power generation in the country is a herculean task and will take a while to get right, this has seen most establishments, organizations, individuals and families rely on alternative power supply in order to get by and all those concerned have managed the situation despite the climbing cost, watching as the cost of living in a developing country goes up without any improvement in the standard of living.
I am not one to point an accusing finger at anyone when things go wrong but in this case I am forced to make an exception. I have for almost a decade watched NNPC conduct itself like an imperial house which most of the time answers to no one. For long periods since the inception of the 4th republic I have often wonder what exactly this parastatal has succeeded in accomplishing over the years; no working refineries, lack of foreign investment, no significant improvement in local content or human capacity, continued gas flaring and unabated oil theft throughout the years. Forget the ones I have just listed, skimming through dailies over the past 5 years will reveal even more incompetence and that is before you decide to cast your eyes on the recently released Price Waterhouse Cooper’s audit on the NNPC. One which wasn’t fully carried out but still showed a most appalling level of ineptitude and corruption. Mr. President, Nigeria has had four refineries for over 2 decades yet all of them have ceased to function for the past 16 years. These refineries are under the care of the NNPC and have gone through over half a dozen Turn Around Maintenance yet we still hear they are not functioning while Nigeria relies heavily on the importation of petroleum products to keep its economy afloat.
In many ways this is heart breaking and gut wrenching, when you read about it while realizing that these issues are still ongoing. The byproduct of these issues has led to the creation of a close knit group of oil marketers who themselves have become so emboldened and empowered that they are significantly responsible for the current situation in the country. Or how else did we start hearing the word Oil marketers if not for the obvious inability of the NNPC to first and foremost properly manage and operate its refineries and then secondly properly handle crude oil lifting processes.
The NNPC’s international counterparts are miles ahead of it in terms of autonomy, the practice of international business practices, brand recognition, foreign investments, efficiency and productivity. Yet the NNPC leadership has no qualms with where it finds itself today; lagging behind and highly compromised. This shows a clear lack of leadership or vision implementation because based on my experience with the NNPC it has a clear plan of where it wants to be in a matter of years though that has come into question considering how poorly it has been run.
During the Obasanjo years the BPE was part of those charged with looking into better ways of making the system which over saw the oil industry much more efficient. An Oil & Gas reform paper was produced which I was fortunate to get my hands because I spent my youth service years working in the Oil and Gas department of the Bureau of Public Enterprises. What I came across was a most interesting document which I prayed would be implemented. Unfortunately that is not the case as several interest groups and self serving individuals have made sure the NNPC stays as it is free of reform because their bread and butter is derived from its present state.
In my honest opinion the NNPC has to go, to be replaced by a semi autonomous Oil Company, one who’s objective will be to create and exploit opportunities for the Nigerian people and will be built on Efficiency, Sustainability, Accountability & Transparency. The wastage must stop.
It will no doubt be a daunting challenge to make this happen seeing as the people who currently benefit from the current status-quo have significant political power and will go to great lengths to ensure things stay the way they are. It doesn’t mean that it is impossible. Mr. President, it is difficult for me to see you as the Change we have been yearning for owing to the current make up of your political association; people who I consider opportunist and land grabbers populate your current party rank and yet I understand that yours is a marriage of necessity but it still will compromise a lot of your earnest efforts at trying to clean up the system. It still does not mean you shouldn’t do anything. There is significant ground work to be done, ground work that can be helpful to subsequent administrations.
Seeing as oil marketers have decided to hold the country to ransom along with NNPC staff members despite knowing how vital the work they do is to the overall economy of the Country it is imperative the Presidency creates a parallel and unregulated market, purely funded by cooperative and/ or pension funds, one which can begin to exploit available resources such as the stretch of land along the Ondo state coastline or simply personally overseeing a proper Turn Around Maintenance of all refineries and restoring them back to peak performance levels. The challenges in undertaking these tasks are daunting considering the kind of opposition you are certain to face which is why the need for true transparency and accountability cannot be overstated. Once the intention of the task at hand is clear to all and proper information is presented to the public in the right way and at the right time, detractors will be left powerless and without a choice but to fall in line.
The power situation is one which I would love to comment extensively on but not properly versed on to delve into, despite that I know enough to say that there is much work that needs to be done in this sector and the future of our nation depends on how well you do in this regards. I wish you a fruitful and fulfilling 4 years in office sir and hope that challenges will not dampen your spirits for they will surely try to. May you live long Mr. President, Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria. May the struggles of our heroes past never be in vain. God bless.