– By Mideno Bayagbon
By Mideno Bayagbon
100 days after General Muhammadu Buhari became president, Femi Adesina, his Special Adviser on media gleefully announced that a new Sheriff was in town.
He told the world that corruption had nose-dived and taken a flight on the assumed body language of the President. Almost seven years and seven months later, with corruption more emboldened and running riot,
I am happy to announce that Buhari, dressed in that borrowed robe by Adesina has come out to denounce him and cede the position to the new kid on the block:
Government Ekpemupolo, otherwise known as Tompolo. He is the new Sheriff who has generously acceded to receiving only a monthly N4 billion salary to do wonders in the creeks. And what wonders he has started doing.
Tompolo, before now a feared Niger Delta militant and severally a fugitive from justice, has generously accepted a waiver on his warrant of arrest from President Buhari and his All Progressives Congress, APC.
What is left now is for him to be crowned the new Petroleum Minister. I dare say he should also be begged to combine this role with being Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Chief of Naval Staff, and DG Customs.
The reason is simple. What the combined occupiers of these offices failed to achieve all these years, Tompolo has done in less than two months after they ceded their duties to him. Tompolo has put up a typical Nigeria drama and we are all entranced in charmed guffaws.
Mercifully, the Petroleum Minister, Muhammadu Buhari; his deputy, Timipre Silva; the GMD NNPC, Chief of Naval Staff, DG Customs, etc., have not succumbed to shame, but have been typically Nigerian.
Thank God we are not in climes where occupiers of these offices would have been sacked, or think it wise to resign from office. In our well known culture, none of them will resign or be sacked or arrested.
None will submit themselves to investigation and possibly trial for their role in the humongous thievery which over the years has seen between 400,000 and 600,000 barrels of crude oil being stolen daily. No one will hold them culpable even if for negligence!
Instead we are expected to clap for their courage. We are expected to salute their boldness in going on photo-ops visits to the creeks of the Niger Delta as soon as Tompolo “discovered” hacked production and export pipelines. We are supposed to be impressed and should laud them. We should know, it is not them or their associates; it is not their conniving ignorance or deliberate blind eye but spirits and gods headquartered in Abuja, Lagos and other power bases who apparently rigged the pipelines. They, on whose table the buck stops, have gone beyond joining the rest of us in impotent rage at the billions of dollars the nation is losing monthly to oil thieves, and have gone themselves on sight seeing visits. That should convince us they truly mean well.
They know that the right impression, in the right quarters, is all they need to continue to enjoy their exalted offices. That is why it is foolish not to know that they want us to believe that they want an end to the sweet, stolen crude; it does not oil theirs and their friends private pockets.
They are adept players of the Nigerian game, to wit, that ordinary Nigerians deserved to be easily fooled. A little gimmick here and there; ethnicity here and religion thrown in there and Nigerians will move on to rant about other issues. They never seriously expect our almighty government officials to be punished . We are not a land of consequential actions visited on infractions.
Knowing that Nigerians are easily fooled, rushing to the creeks to display manufactured surprise that such theft is being carried out so openly is a classic act. That way, government officials are absolved. No impudent need to lie to Nigerians that the shut eyes of the President, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, and Customs, the Navy and all the military forces which swarm the oil producing creeks, are responsible. Of course with the media attention on the photo opportunities, and Nigerians being cordoning humans, no further action is required. No investigations should unnecessarily be expected as to the true identity of those responsible for this astonishing economic crime. No arrests, no trial or any further action is required. That is why the Petroleum Minister, President Muhammadu Buhari should not dignify the public shock and anger, that is why he should not come out to show he is aware of the goings on, and or to make any statement. What can Nigerians do but talk and talk and move on?
Sheriff Tompolo too is a typical Nigerian business man, that is, when he removes his militancy gear. He too understands Nigeria so very well. By pointing out a few of the points where crude oil is stolen, and with the collaborating appropriate authorities having visited and made empty speeches, it is over. Tompolo now knows he is well secured in his contract which had earlier unnecessarily generated a lot of criticism. That is, until he decided to shut the mouth of critics with a peep into the humongous thievery, no, self help, going on in the creeks. Mistake we make is to believe that the current exposure should lead to a stop of such nefarious activities.
Let’s take a few steps back.
The authorities have been lamenting that a large part of the crude oil being produced in Nigeria is stolen. Well established syndicates, who are ghosts and spirits, are reaping between $40 million to $60 million daily. And the government with all its security forces, with all its intelligence and surveillance officials and equipment is not expected to track and arrest them. Mathematically, it takes between only 20 to 60 huge ships carrying between one to three million barrels each, coming in daily, to ferry the stolen crude away. This is even against the backdrop of the NNPC, under the Buhari government, could only buy and install a N50 billion surveillance equipment to confront the daily self help.
This is akin to, and yet diametrically the opposite of what some ignorant Nigerians call a huge scam that is fuel subsidy. Nigerians must not forget it is not a Buhari government creation. Under the past governments it was rife. But under this one, the nation is said, incredibly, to be powering its vehicles with only 102 million litres of petrol daily. As a result, as we should expect, subsidy ran, and still is, into trillions of Naira yearly. That is, until, by some magic fiat, the president ordered the NNPC to reduce it to 60 million litres daily.
This is laudable even if 15 months earlier, even with the scam fully in place, subsidy was paid on only 38.5 million litres daily.
We ought to celebrate the impunity, the connivance of the syndicate in government and their collaborators. They sensibly only ballooned the subsidy payment to only 102 million litres. Think about it, If 40 million litres of imported petrol, which the NNPC Group Managing Director told the nation, not too long ago, is daily smuggled across the Nigerian borders into neighbouring countries, shouldn’t we congratulate the appropriate authorities? Assuming, but not conceding, that this is true, for this huge trans-border smuggling, 3200 tankers of 30,000 litres capacity each are required, daily. These trucks, their owners, drivers and funders are also spirits beyond the ordinary eyes of the NNPC and the security forces. Only the truly unpatriotic will ask how much lies a people can tolerate.
That is why what is left now, is for another annual N48 billion contract, akin to the one given to Tompolo, to be awarded to one of a troublesome person up north to help monitor and curtail the activities of the spirits who bring in 3200 fuel tankers into the country daily and abscond with 40 million litres.
With Tompolo handling the crude oil thefts and this fellow in the north handling fuel smuggling, two of our major economic bleeding points would have been plugged.
Try not to cry.
We are a house of comedy.