Thursday, 20 November 2008

The Niger Delta Issue

The Niger Delta Issue
Now that there is momentary peace in the Niger Delta region, the President who has started very well by taking steps to do things differently from what his predecessors did by creating the Ministry of Niger Delta and a Technical Committee to advise him on the way forward in the Niger Delta, should take a step further to visit the creeks and see for himself the real state of the region.
He should let all the community leaders into his dream for the region and give a definite time for the actualization of the quick wins. For instance, it does not take an entire generation to find low cost houses dotting the creeks, setting the grand design to kick starting industrialization of the region, which will create employment opportunities to the teeming unemployed youths and graduates, provision of portable pipe borne water and electrification etc.
Having done this, all the community leaders must pledge to ensure that their communities will collaborate with the government to prevent criminal activities in their domain especially in the prevention of products’ pipelines vandalism, oil theft, hostage taking and smuggling.
Failure to fulfil their own obligation shall lead to sanctions. However, if the community leaders cannot give such a guarantee, anybody caught perpetrating any act(s) of sabotage like illegal bunkering, smuggling of crude and other petroleum products will be heavily dealt with by the combined forces and the community leaders should keep their peace at such times.
The warning from the Chief of defence staff to the armed forces on the active connivance of force men in this economic sabotage should be further reinforced by letting the top echelon of the military know that any commander whose officer is found culpable in the act of oil theft will also be sanctioned. This has become necessary because in the past, ships under protective custody have disappeared without qualms.
Government should separate the genuine agitators for the betterment of Niger Delta region from those involved in criminality to enable it deploy the machinery of government to deal with them as appropriate. After concluding this engagement process at home, the President should take a step further to make his case before the international bodies like the European Union (EU), United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU) etc. These bodies should be told to appeal to their businessmen and women to stay clear of Nigeria’s stolen crude and finished petroleum products. It is hypocrisy to preach transparency and good governance in any part of the world while aiding and abetting oil theft in another country.
If there are no receptacles and buyers for stolen crude and petroleum products, there will be no sellers and the incidence of pipelines’ vandalism and oil theft in Nigeria will greatly reduce. Failure to heed this warning will mean a case of aggression against the good people of Nigeria by those countries fingered in this dastardly act. It also would be taken as waging economic war against this country and they should be ready to face the consequences. We should not wait until they illegally run us bankrupt before we act. In time past, these same countries were used as illegal vaults for stolen money by our past leaders.
The Niger Delta region has become our own social Gustuv, Katrina and Ike. In the Niger Delta region, oil theft, vandalism of petroleum pipelines, traumatizing act of hostage taking and kidnapping of children, women and the aged for ransom reigns supreme. This is condemnable, unacceptable and must be tackled through a multi level engagement process.
The Energy Sector
We are endowed with overwhelming hydrocarbons, solar and hydro energies yet so poor in energy. It is estimated that we need about 10,000 Mega Watts (MW) to meet our basic energy needs but the country currently has less than 2,000 MW available for consumption. In this type of environment, no magic can stimulate technological and manufacturing growth because energy is the conveyor belt that drives technological and manufacturing activities.
Companies are now perpetually running on diesel driven generators. This leads to increase overhead costs, collapse of many manufacturing outfits with a spiralling effect on job losses and increased costs of goods and services.
While the energy available is insufficient, the wasteful attitude of consumers is not helping matters. A visit to any part of the country will reveal that almost all the security lights are on in the day time. The electricity usage in the home is even worse. The bulbs are perpetually on during the day. Also, the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) does not have effective tariff collection systems and therefore not able to recover enough funds for its operations. Some of its workers also connive with the consumers to tamper with the meters to make them run slowly with less charges to the consumers at the detriment of the organization. To make matters worse, vandals are not relenting in the vandalism of PHCN cables and transformers.
In the oil and gas sector, the situation is not better. We have so much crude and gas reserves yet the people suffer chronic perennial fuel shortages due to acts of vandalism, smuggling, uncoordinated policies, and sabotage to the chagrin of the international community. So much has been said on these issues locally and internationally that everybody knows what the challenges are.
The panacea to these challenges will include:
Effective tariff collection system like the pre-paid meter system should be aggressively driven. Pending when this shall be fully operational, it should use designated banks for the collection of its tariffs and stop any form of cash collection at any of its offices in the urban centres.
Stiffer sanctions for vandalism of PHCN cables and those caught should be treated as economic saboteurs.
Maintenance and upgrade of PHCN facilities.
Reinvigorating of the construction of the Nigerian Integrated Power Projects (NIPP).
Citizens should help PHCN by switching off light points that are not in use at all times.
Payment of tariffs as at when due.
Stimulate the floodgate of processed oil and gas products by building more refineries in partnership with the private sector.
Fast tracking the completion of the various gas pipelines’ projects including the West Africa Gas Pipeline (WAGP).
Conservation and effective utilization of gas through the faithful implementation of the gas flair out directive.
Genuinely addressing the Niger Delta crises.
Consideration of the use of solar and wind energy sources.
Aggressive research and development activities.
Building more refineries

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