Oil deregulation: Yar`adua`s lynching &disturbing silence- by Dr. Shilgba

Source: huhuonline.com
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It has been reported that on November 1, 2009, the government of President Yar'Adua would commence fully the total deregulation of the downstream oil sector. This means that Nigerians must be prepared for a regime when government withdraws any semblance of protection of the consumer against unguarded pricing of petroleum products. It must be stated for those who argue that deregulation would eventually lead to low pricing of petroleum products, and who are excited at citing the example in the telecommunications sector, that although diesel and kerosene are no more “subsidized” by government, their prices remain so high that manufacturers and other businesses which rely on their generators for electricity are running at a great loss as they must buy diesel at exorbitant prices for their generators, even as the government has been so deceptive and incompetent in all its highly publicized efforts to generate electricity for the public.

President Yar'Adua and his party, the PDP (which can fittingly be called Poverty Distribution Party) have been deriving tremendous satisfaction from seeing Nigerians suffer. While President Yar'Adua collects more than N2 million a month as “Hardship allowance”, he has no plan or thought for that Nigerian who is struggling to survive in a country that Yar'Adua and his murderous group have taken captive. While each Senator of the federal republic collects a daily allowance of 600 USD (I mean US dollars, not naira) as “lunch money” (Senate president, David Mark collects more than 1000 USD a day for “lunch”), the Nigerian worker is expected by those heartless killers to survive on N7, 500 or N5, 000 a month and to put in good service at work.

In the 2009 budget, N60 billion was voted for “Constituency projects” of the choosing of federal legislators. Each geo-political zone got N10 billion, which amount is under the control and use of the federal legislators in those zones. Each Senator, for instance collects N45 million every quarter for their senatorial district. Proper accounting is absent; the money is used up by those senators and nothing happens. Those guys in power, at the goading of Yar'Adua, are lynching our people! More than N1.2 trillion is spent to pay the salaries of less than 18,000 public officials in Nigeria! But the poor man and woman on the street must be made to suffer more and “sacrifice” for Yar'Adua's seven-point agenda. Where is the conscience of Yar'Adua and his group of looters of our commonwealth?

In all these, I can hear so loudly the complicit silence of our religious leaders and “men of God”. If a founder of a church, with millions of worshippers, a General Overseer or Bishop, whose words carry great weight, maintains disturbing silence in the midst of this raping and oppression of a nation, they will give an account on the day of reckoning. Recently, the Sultan of Sokoto spoke out against the poor governance in the nation. That was a flash in the pan. I don't know how President Yar'Adua responded secretly to silence the gentleman. It was reported that Bishop Oneikyan of Abuja also spoke against the present absence of good governance in Nigeria, and the PDP government reacted to silence him one way or the other. It goes to show the impact that those “men of God” can make if they (and they are so many) speak persistently without ceasing against the wickedness in high places. I would not want them to hide their words in bland euphemisms; they must speak out plainly and pronounce woes against wicked rulers such as Yar'Adua, David Mark, and the many governors who are destroying our nation. That is how men of God of the Holy Scriptures spoke on behalf of the people. O that I could have at my disposal the platform of those “men of God” in Nigeria! No SSS would stop my planned rallies then. I would speak straight to the powers of this nation. I would mobilize my worshippers against the oppression in the land. I would teach them what is in their Constitution side-by-side with the warnings of the scriptures: Woe unto you who have refused to speak on behalf of the poor!

But our men of God frolic with those thieves who have no compassion for Nigerians. They attend “Thanksgiving services” and “Holy Ghost” meetings, where conspicuous seats are reserved for them. So, our religious leaders have become a problem rather than the solution for a nation that has lost her conscience. Our traditional rulers are silent too. They only make pretentious noises when they suspect they are no longer getting from our corrupt political rulers the patronage they think they deserve. At that very moment of self-service they speak, ostensibly for the downtrodden. As soon as government accords the expected patronage they retire into their cocoons to enjoy their catch; the people are left tired and without a shepherd, exposed to any inhuman policies of government, such as the deregulation of the oil sector, without reliable and regular power supply, without effective public transport system, without social security system to assist the weak and poor in our midst etc.

Few years ago, Nigeria got debt reprieve from her international creditors. One of the humanitarian planks on which the deal was anchored was the agreement that the savings (from sovereign debts servicing) would be invested in critical human sectors such as health and education, with a commencing year of 2007. Then President Yar'Adua was sworn in on May 29th, 2009 as Nigeria's president. Has the Nigerian legislator cared to find out how these savings are invested? No. The 2009 budget records the lowest spending on education as a percentage of the total budget—2 percent! Yet, Yar'Adua is someone that once taught in a tertiary institution. With less than 12 years before the magic year of 2020, when Nigeria hopes to become one of the 20 most industrialized nations of the world, public universities (which should be well-funded and organized to produce the skilled man power for high-tech industries) were closed for 4 months under Graduate Yar'Adua. This man went to commission a university in Saudi Arabia during the closure of Nigeria's public universities under his watch. President Yar'Adua comes back to Nigeria, and surprises of all surprises, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) gives him an award! What a nation! What students!

I wrote NANS a letter this year about the problems of our nation, seeking their partnership in our efforts to rescue our nation. I got no reply. Then, I called them. One of their officials told me that they were watching a soccer match involving Manchester United of England; that they would call me back. They never did. Are those kids the future leaders of Nigeria? If so, we are truly in trouble. I was warned by my students against engaging NANS. My students told me that NANS was “corrupt”. I calmed them down and insisted that we must prove them first. Alas, my students were right! In any serious nation, the students are very useful in forcing the expected change. If the leadership of NANS has sold their fellow students and conscience for a pot of porridge, they have become a metaphor for what is wrong with our nation. If NANS would keep quiet as usual in the face of President Yar'Adua's policy decision to deregulate the oil sector just like they did when Nigerian students were forced by the closure of their universities to lose more than a semester at home, their usefulness to Nigerian students has evaporated. If NANS is not what I believe they have become— A corrupt group of students, using their offices to establish connections to the corrupt rulers in government—then they must arise for an unprecedented mass action across the nation that would shake up and wake up Nigerian oppressors to the cries of the people. They can count on my support and that of other Nigerians who cannot rest at this hour of mess-spewing in our land. The Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC) has become inept in recent years. They have lost the confidence of Nigerians. Their only reaction to the spate of bad policies of the government (I have written about those in my past papers) is inaction. If the NLC wants to be taken seriously, they must insist on the following while they shut down the entire nation:

1.The immediate reduction in the salaries and allowances of all public officials to reflect the national minimum wage. The highest paid public official must not earn more than 40 times national minimum wage.

2.The suspension of the planned deregulation of the downstream oil sector until the following are done:

Public power supply is 24 hours a day without interruption.Importation of petroleum products is replaced by sufficient local refining in refineries located in Nigeria.i. Standard railways are built to link all the six geo-political zones.ii. All federal roads are built into international standards.iii. A highly organized social security system including universal health care, college tuition assistance, old age care, and family assistance is put in place.iv. All basic amenities such as potable water, public health care facilities must be a given.v. No serving public official (including the president) must seek health care abroad.

1.The upward review of the national minimum wage to N250 an hour or N40, 000 a month.

2.A total ban on importation of generators within one year, to remain enforced until public power supply is regular and uninterrupted.

3.Public expenditure on education, beginning with the 2010 budget should be a minimum of 26 percent of the total budget.

4.The passage into law by 2010 of a new Electoral Act, which reflects the recommendations of the Justice Uwais committee.

If the NLC only succeeds in leading some Nigerians to chant vainly, “Solidarity forever more!” then it has only confirmed how useless it has become. But if the NLC will be a famous name in history, they must provide that vehicle through their structures for all Nigerians who seek actively to build a better union. All zonal NLC leaders must mobilize for action. There are Nigerians, both at home and in the Diaspora who can offer monetary assistance to help Nigerian workers whose salaries may be withdrawn by government as a result of a long-drawn strike. The fruits of success are too tempting for the pain at hand to weaken the mind. The minimum demands 1-6 above must be stuck to by organized labor without any compromise. Let all exports of crude oil be shut down. Let every economic activity be shut down until government bows to the power of the people.

The nation needs a total shut down; a bold confronting of the excesses of government. If labor has anything to offer, this is the time. If Nigerian students have anything to give for the growth of the nation, this is the time. The minimum I ask for is that our “men of God” should not keep quiet until Nigeria becomes a place of praise. They rail at the little sinners in their congregations and mingle with Nigeria's oppressors and looters. They strain at gnats but swallow camels. This silence is ungodly. Nigeria is in need of voices that will cry in the wilderness of our looted land. The NLC, NANS, and all Nigerian scholars must redeem themselves. What is the value of our education if our nation continues to flounder and we hold our peace?Leonard Karshima Shilgba Email: [email protected]

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