Sweet crude, distasteful, sweaty earnings!
It’s good to be back again, since 2010, before your eyes, ears and mind and sharing thoughts and views which you may not agree with. This joins a myriad of other commentators seeking to make happenings and development in Nigeria’s economic environment clearer and more understandable to the teeming millions of Nigerian stakeholders bewildered by the inexplicable carrying-ons of our leaders in both public and private sectors, governments and business, goods and services, with devastating effects on public life, lifestyles and living standards.
Therefore, the Petroleum sector of the Nigerian economy sticks up like a sore thumb capturing attention even from a six year absentee columnist/commentator, especially when the return from the exile is enabled by the Sweet Crude- a weekly pull out in the flagship of the Nigerian Press scene, the Guardian Newspapers, where the Left Handed Economist debuted in 1991.
Since oddity is a compelling news value it was easy to hit on “Sweet crude, sweaty earnings” for today’s returnee. The topic is very compelling because of the anti-thesis of sweetness (a pleasure) and sweatiness (an obvious painfulness) that has been our nation’s and peoples’ fate since the transformation of the oil boom of the 1970s to oil doom from the 1980s.
Since then it has been progressive decline and misfortunes for the Nigerian nation and nationals, across times, regimes, governments and political systems- military dictatorship or civilian democracy.
At the time that the existence of crude oil in super-abundant quantity was discovered in Nigeria in 1956, It was very good news for all. Nigeria jumped into the league of potentially rich nations whose super-rich natural resource base guaranteed national prosperity, accelerated socio-economic development, technological advancement and political emancipation. This was done through growing upholding of the principles/pillars of democracy, especially (1) civil democracy, (2) rule of law (3) separation of powers between the three arms of government, and (4) respect for human rights.
Nigeria not only became welcome into the comity of civilised nations and people during the hey-days of oil /OPEC dominance of world affairs, but was invited to all sorts of world bodies and international organisations. This was during the oil-power days of the first half of the 1980s.
Soon after Nigeria’s crude oil reserve was not only acknowledged as abundant and growing, but of higher quality than those of most other parts of the world. It became celebrated as “sweet crude” commanding higher prices than coarser crudes from Saudi, Latin America, Russia, and other high quantity oil producers who occupied top positions in the oligopolistic OPEC.
Thereafter, the twin ills that turn sweet oil experience to distastefully sweat earnings reared their very ugly heads in Nigeria. They are (1) corruption fuelled by greed, and (2) mismanagement arising from inadequate education, lack of managerial skills, and low-quality drag-down population.
The manifestation of these two oil-related evils in contemporary times is the “padding” brouhaha that has traversed from the executive arm of the government where the Budget Office of the Ministry of Finance/Presidency was literarily sacked over gross over-inflation of budget provisions in almost all budget sub-heads. It is on record that more than half of the staff of the then Budget Office were dispersed.
This budget padding saga then moved to the National Assembly when the president eventually presented an agreed budget for the Federal Republic of Nigeria for year 2016, as this government had to implement the 2015 budget already then passed by the out-going government of then President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Months into the implementation of the budget whose passage in the National Assembly was over-delayed, and whose authorisation signature the President withheld until a negotiated compromised was undertaken.
Note that the compromise was another form of corruption. Then Act 3 Scene 1, is the budget padding accusation and counter accusations between the Speaker and the House of Representative’s Appropriation Committee. This is related to crude oil because the greed that fuel corruption raised its ugly head in Nigeria, with the pig-headedness that came with anticipated extra wealth/prosperity that would come from crude oil export income.
This corruption evil over-fed by the madness/demon of crude oil anticipated incomes is worsened by the accompanying evil of mismanagement, both wilful and ignorant, which makes Nigeria unable to positively manage large-scale prosperity, without the wastefulness, ostentatious living, and undisciplined conduct that has become our national ethos.
Momoh is a lecturer at the Pan Atlantic University, Lagos.