Nigeria, a nation crippled by ineptitude and avarice
For the not-too-young, you will remember that it was in 1984, that the then military dictator General Muhammadu Buhari shocked the nation by cancelling the contract to build a modern metro line in Lagos. The man who is now the elected president has yet to explain to the people of Nigeria’s commercial capital why he took the inexplicable decision that has left Lagos in the dark ages. So, we are left to wander in our own imagination to seek reasons for the former military dictator’s motive.
The people of Lagos have been made to pay such huge price for Buhari’s actions but at least now, the people can dream of a basic mass transit system in Africa’s most populous city.
Some have said Buhari and his co-traveller, Tunde Idiagbon were unable to look far into the future of where Lagos as a commercial hub was traveling. As it was, they only saw corruption in everything even if the second incarnation of Buhari has seen corruption top all the ratings. Other analysts not so charitable will claim that the cancellation may not have happened if Lagos had been called by another name, if it were to have been in some other part of Nigeria. Because of Buhari’s action, transportation in Lagos is now arguably the worst among its peers globally and the city may never recover from the unforgivable misadventure of the former dictator.
In an age of energy shortage, senior executives in the oil and gas sector now bemoan another lost opportunity of an incredible size – failure to develop and harness the rich gas potential which now ensures that for months Nigeria lost its place as Africa’s top oil producer and the country is in throes of a fiscal and foreign exchange crisis during a prolonged high oil and gas prices. Before the end of the Obasanjo administration, the government worked out a viable plan to develop two liquefied natural gas projects at Olokola in Ogun state and Brass in Rivers state. Buhari and those before him like President Goodluck Jonathan, abandoned the plan having failed to see into the future. It is the view of senior energy executives that if Nigeria had built the two LNG projects, the two projects could by now have been fetching the country revenues in the region of $500m every week at today’s gas price. Russia has 300TCF of proven gas reserves compared to Nigeria’s 200TCF. Russia today earns between $800m to $1bn daily from selling gas to Europe. A simple arithmetic shows that if our leaders had been as smart as their Russian counterparts, Nigeria’s earnings from gas export today could be around 60% that of Russia. Imagine what the foreign currency earnings of that size would mean for the Naira today – nothing short of convertibility!
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Nigeria continues to pay a high price for bad leadership. This government has watched helplessly as a mindless petrol subsidy regime ate up virtually all its revenues and then it began to borrow to sustain the subsidy payment
Instead of building Olokola and Brass liquefied natural plants, the administration of Goodluck Jonathan and Buhari played with the future of Nigeria. Musa Yar Adua’s time in power was shortened and made ineffective by illness and resulting death. Then came the unforgettable Diezani Allison Madueke, the empress who was thought to be holding the flag for the young girls of her people in the Niger Delta. It is said she only wanted to be the head of NIMASA before being catapulted by good fortune to the office of petroleum minister where she fell to arrogance and unbelievable greed. Her story is now well documented in the courts. Estimates including some that have been made public suggest that Diezani and her cohorts may account for up to $2.9bn in stolen wealth but this tells only a small bit of the rot which the story of this woman who is now wanting desperately to return home. Some senior officials in the industry believe that the investment primed for Nigeria’s oil and gas sector but which her avarice shut out could top $35bn. CEOs of the so-called IOC’s queued on end hoping to see her and even foreign ambassadors based in the country waited for months for an appointment with this woman. Not surprising, Diezani’s time marked the acceleration of capital flight away from the Nigerian energy sector with the trend continuing under the current administration. A story is told of how a prominent businessman from her place had gone to see Diezani. He was on a 10am appointment and made sure he got to her imperial office before time. Having waited till just before 4pm, one of Diezani’s official rushed to him with the painful message that madam was about to leave for the day, and he must quickly position himself by the lift so he could have a word with her. This was not to be. When Diezani emerged, she insisted that the man cannot enter the lift with her.
Nigeria continues to pay a high price for bad leadership. This government has watched helplessly as a mindless petrol subsidy regime ate up virtually all its revenues and then it began to borrow to sustain the subsidy payment, putting the life of our children and those yet unborn in jeopardy.
Is it not the case? It is why this next election is such a watershed moment.