IS OIL A CURSE TO NIGERIA?
Nigeria has become a reference point to foreign commentatorswho wants to advise new-oil-nations on how not to spend their petro-dollars!Even if President Obama did not mention Nigeria in his 2009 Accra Speech wherehe warned Ghanaians not consider any bamboozling idea that oil would be a replacement for their cocoa, Amquite sure that, the country he had in mind before offering such advise wasNigeria! Before the discovery of oil in Oloibiri in 1956, Agriculture used tobe our pride! With Cocoa in the West, Palm Oil in the East, and groundnutpyramid in the North, Nigeria was better off. There was no youth unemployment, there was no Boko Haram, there was noMEND, there was no kidnapping, banditry was minimal and there was no baby-factoryin any part of the country where human beings are bought and sold like lifestocks. If you read the history book, you will say: “What Europe did to Nigeria”,but, if you read our newspapers, what
would you say? “Is it what Nigerians aredoing to Nigerians”? Please forgive me, if Am wrong! At the formative stage of the Department of PetroleumResources (DPR), its mission statement was, “To serve as the watchdog for thedevelopment of Nigeria's oil and gas resources by employing modern tools andtechniques to direct, influence and achieve the optimum exploration, conversionand utilization of petroleum and its derivatives for the maximum benefit toNigerians while ensuring minimum damage to the environment”. While the DPR waswatching, licensing, permitting, monitoring of oil and gas operations,collecting royalties and other statutory fees for the government, settingtechnical safety and environmental standards and guidelines etc, the Petroleum TechnologyDevelopment Funds (PTDF) was established to train Nigerians with the neededskills to drive the oil and gas sector. It is because of his fact, that a legalteeth was added to the oil and gas
industry in April 2010, when the Nigerian Oiland Gas Industry Local Content Development Act was signed in to law byPresident Good Luck Jonathan. This act was intended to return local jobs tolocal people by giving opportunities for employment and procurements toNigerians! But how effective have all these laws been? Can we say Nigerians arecompeting favorably with their foreign counterparts in the oil and gas sector?Are our tertiary Institutions producing the highly needed and skillful graduatesfor the sector or theorically-certificated graduates for the sector? The factis that, nobody would like to employ a certificated-novice all in the name ofabiding by our laws. “Protectionism” in the oil and gas sector should notencourage mental laxity; rather, it should subject students to rigorouspractical and academic works and studies. If I may ask, is the practice of PTDFsending our graduates for training in foreign land not an indictment on ourlocal
institutions? However, before Nigeria joined the Organization of PetroleumExporting Countries (OPEC) in 1971 as the 11th member of the organization,crude oil was selling between 45 United States Cents and 65 Cents, but, in1972, our Bonny Light Crude increased to$3.22 dollars, while the Arab LightCrude was selling for $2.48 dollars. This shows that our brand of crude fetchesmore money than the Arab Light Crude, but, can we compare the level of their developmentsto ours? Between 1971 and 1980, our Bonny Light Crude moved from about 65 Centsto $38.82 dollars per barrel, while the percentage of our exports moved from73.7 percent in 1971 to 96.1 percent in 1980. But has all these affected ourlives positively? The worst of it all was in June/July 2008, when the price ofoil in the international market reached an all time high of $147 dollars perbarrel. Petro-dollar is known to be lifting people out of poverty,building infrastructures and turning deserts to
commercial and touristsdestinations for countries like the United Arab Emirates (UAE), but ours isbeen shared every months. What is the essence of sharing the Excess CrudeAccount (ECA) every month in Nigeria, whereas our infrastructures are dilapidated,our power supply is epileptic, while some of our hospitals are mere consultingclinics? To tackle some of the infrastructural challenges, Jonathan'sadministration introduced the National Sovereign Wealth Funds (NSWF) to takecare of them, but our elected governorsare opposing it because, the money they gather in Abuja to share everymonth will now be channeled to the Sovereign WealthFund, where it will be used to construct new roads and rehabilitate old ones,build more power stations, facelift our airports etc, but state governors areopposing it without prosing viable alternatives. Is this leadership? With more African countries discovering and exploring crudeoil, the time has come for Nigeria to move
from depending on natural resourcesto building a knowledge based economy, while massively investing ininfrastructures. This can be done by carrying out a surgical operation on thecurrent structures in our tertiary institutions, because, the structure ascurrently constituted cannot take us to our dreamed destination. I know thisview may not be popular, but, it is a hard choice left for us, because, makingNigeria the hub of Africa's financial services requires knowledge. Therefore,we should start making hays now that the sun shines, so as to turn oil in toblessing and not a curse! Comrade Edwin Ekene Uhara is an activist and a publicaffairs commentator. He is also the National President of Young Nigerians forChange.07065862479, [email protected] 29, Ben Mbamalu Crescent, Achara Layout,Enugu State