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Ending vandalisation of energy infrastructure

Vandalised pipeline

ONE of the reasons why Nigeria remains an un-developing under-developed country is that it is permanently in socio-political crisis on which it wastes enormous resources with a constantly fire-brigade approach. For almost every problem “solved”, there is virtually no permanently remedial or preventive template for their management. Forty-six years after the 30-month civil war, “agitators” from the same region are re-threatening secession even with incredibly similar justifications: while it was induced through marginalisation-induced (Decree 34, 1966) progrom by others in 1966, it is marginalisation-feared socio-economic terrorism (arson and truncation of economic activities) on others in 2016!

Moreover, Lassa fever succeeded Ebola fever in 2016 largely because the ad-hocist, panic-induced, promotion of simple personal hygiene in 2014 has been jettisoned. Now, it requires an international hygiene product company to budget N1 billion for re-educating Nigerians on the need to sustain these personal hygiene practices to prevent future epidemics, perhaps including cow/goat/fish/chicken fever next time!

The Niger-Delta area has, for several decades, become the permanent residence of insurgency with only sporadic, episodic and symptomatic responses that provoked frequent incidents of relapse on which expensive resources have been routinely wasted. Issac Adaka Boro was the region’s first “official” insurgent who drew the world’s attention to its mass pauperisation due to its marginalisation from the sub-national “neo-colonialism” in the area’s pre-independence and first republic politics just like the Tivs during the same period, which resulted in low levels of education and skill acquisition especially by the youths. Thus whereas Nigeria’s first petroleum refinery was located in Eleme, most of the local workers were from other parts of the country. Hence Diette Spiff, the then-Rivers-State military governor, resorted to importing Asians to teach Science and Arts subjects, including English language and History, in the secondary schools with round-the-year residence bills in Hotel Presidential, Port-Harcourt and awarding scholarships for pre-and-first degrees in foreign universities in a desperate catch-up race with the rest of the country!

The infamous Daniel-Kanu’s pro-Abacha one-million-man march that exposed the gross disparity between their poor living conditions in the creeks vis-a-vis the Manhattan island opulence in Abuja re-ignited their instincts for insurgency. But what they opted to ignore as being contributory to their plight was their systematic intra-regional marginalisation and oppression by their own elites and elders who appropriated cash gifts and other donations by the oil firms to themselves as eventually revealed in the bloody Ogoni-4-Ogoni-9 disasters which had been secretly perpetrated in the region for a long period. This corruption malaise is partly why the clean-up of the polluted Ogoni land has been delayed even with free funds from the court-awarded damages against Shell.

Such disguised costs are also partly why Nigeria, with only 3.1 per cent OPEC’s market share is the 8th highest cost producer (out of 20 countries) with $31.50 ( $16.20 capital, and $15.30 recurrent) expenditure per barrel of crude oil which may compel the closure of some oil wells if the price falls to unsustainable loss levels. Naturally, it paid these elites and elders to divert the “ex”-militants’s attention away from themselves to Abuja (like other regional political agitators!) and so far they have succeeded. On the other hand, Abuja has usually responded expensively (money, equipment and lives) and unproductively with military combat, starting with Odi to the current JTF operations.

Evidently the pacifying “Amnesty” deal, in addition to the creation of the NDDC and the Niger-Delta ministry, has been ineffective because of unconscionable corruption and its structural ultra-softness on the “ex”-militants. It was an unbalanced “deal” heavily weighed on the “quid” with a very weak, if any, “pro” (immunity for round-the-clock oil theft and sporadic vandalisation of oil/gas pipelines), hence the emerging mafia of outlaws among the “ex”-militants that seeks to hold the country to ransom. Certainly this is unacceptable and should be stopped decisively and comprehensively as most of the thermal electricity projects, which are gas-based, are located in the region even though many people dismiss these insurgents’ infrastructure-vandalisation activities with the “they-can-drink-their-oil-now-that-crude-oil-price-has-crashed” attitude!

Hence it has become necessary to change the template for addressing this problem both in the regional and national interests through a multi-tier approach that covers all the critical stakeholders in the industry: permanent maintenance of joint-security-force Intelligence unit to monitor all the energy infrastructure, acquisition and deployment of appropriate state-of-the-art technology for monitoring the security of these facilities (implying abolition of such contracts to any militia/group), stringently holding all heads of forces/agencies responsible and accountable for defaults in executing their mandates diligently, enactment of appropriate laws for punishing acts of vandalism on these facilities as crimes of economic terrorism and the enactment of deterring laws for recouping the authenticated losses from infrastructural vandalisation incurred by Oil/Gas firms, PPMC/NNPC, Gencos and Discos and the cost of repairs of the facilities thus: at-source deduction of 50 per cent from the annual budgets of NDDC and 50% from the 13 per cent derivation fund from the state(s) in which such vandalizations occur until full cost recovery is achieved!

Therefore, it is only if this type of balanced and holistic “deal” between the region, critical stakeholders and other regions is rigorously implemented that the urgent imperative for re-stimulating national and regional socio-economic development/growth through the non-oil sector can materialise. Otherwise, all the fiscal and infrastructural concessions to the region will remain a colossal rip-off and it will become unacceptably risky to borrow money for building power/ energy facilities where insurgents and their collaborators will continually hold the nation to ransom through sporadic vandalisation of such critical infrastructure.

Okunmuyide wrote from Lagos.