The State House is the official seat of the federal government, our equivalent of the White House in Washington, DC; 10 Downing Street in London and the Elysée Palace in Paris. These places are the official seat of government, the office of the president or prime minister, in the case of Britain, and they are reserved for official state functions and not for party events.
The fact that President Buhari is a member of the APC does not make the activities of the party a function of the state. Our State House, like 10 Downing Street in London, for example, is the institution of the state, or the people’s house, as Americans call the White House. The launch of Tinubu’s manifesto at the State House was therefore an abuse of power and privilege by the President. Joe Biden will never host a Democratic Party event inside the White House!
Now let’s move on to the main focus of this piece. Tinubu’s manifesto is surprisingly lacking in depth, detail and strategy, the most surprising element being what it omits. Little attention is paid to the issue of oil theft and how he would deal with this problem which has become the greatest threat to the country’s economy. The document is also surprisingly reticent about how it would fight corruption.
Oil theft has grown in complexity and scale over the past 10 years, becoming the second largest organized crime in the world, second only to the narcotics business. Of OPEC’s national quota of 1.8 million barrels per day, we have only produced about half in the past six months due to persistent and sophisticated oil theft operations – a decline steady from 1.3 million over the past two years. The economic loss to the nation is enormous and calamitous.
Due to a massive oil theft, Nigeria has been ravaged by a severe fiscal crisis, manifested in its inability to generate enough revenue to fund the budget. The government had to resort to huge borrowing accompanied by debilitating debt servicing. In August, I wrote an article titled “Who’s Stealing Our Crude Oil?”.
My conclusion was (and remains) that crude oil theft is a big criminal enterprise in which some governors, politicians, military and oil industry executives are involved. The Buhari administration, overwhelmed by intractable security issues, was unable to resolve the issue. That’s why I’m disappointed that a major candidate like Tinubu practically omitted it from his policy document. Doesn’t he know the extent and impact of this crisis? Who will save Nigeria?
The oil and gas section of the document also lacks technical depth. The document promises to end fuel subsidies and increase crude oil production to 2.6 mbpd by 2027 and 4 mbpd by 2030. The fuel subsidies will end automatically when the refinery of Dangote will start production in the middle of next year, increasing crude oil production from 1.4 mbpd to 4 mbpd in 7 years. is almost impossible. It requires huge investments, but the CIOs who have the money don’t invest.
On the contrary, they are disinvesting. Tinubu also promises to “deliver critical gas infrastructure projects, including pipeline infrastructure”.… Building gas pipelines without gas processing facilities is a waste of capital. The pipeline itself does not produce gas. It only carries gas. So you need a producer to develop the gas fields and deliver the gas to the pipelines. The business case for the investment is the gas price and buyer guaranteed payment, long term gas sales and purchase agreement. The next administration must figure out how to overcome this obstacle.
The document also pledges to “implement the Host Community Development Trust” which aims to encourage oil company assistance to host communities. I support all measures that will develop oil communities, but from experience, offering money or oil to communities is not the solution. The unrest was created because the government, both federal and state, failed to invest in communities. But what did the government do with the taxes and royalties it earned from oil production? Has the NDDC lived up to expectations? The issue the government needs to address is the proper use of oil revenues, not the distribution of money to communities. This will only aggravate the conflict.
The government should also sell the refineries, if it cannot run them, force NNPC to operate as a real business, and create an environment that will attract investors.
The lack of attention that Tinubu pays to the issue of corruption in its manifesto is quite worrying. A country in which one individual, a senior government official, was able to steal the colossal sum of 80 billion naira in one fell swoop is a candidate for failure and collapse. Nigeria can no longer survive if it continues to be plagued by corruption, oil theft and insecurity.
Corruption is pervasive at all levels of Nigerian government; ranging from huge bribes and padding at the top of governments (federal and state) to corruption, money laundering, embezzlement and other schemes. Candidate Muhammadu Buhari made the fight against corruption one of the three political axes of his campaigns in 2014. Over the past seven years, he has made good efforts and received international recognition for his initiatives in the fight against corruption. against corruption.
For the nation to progress, the next president must be determined and fierce in his fight against the monster. But nothing in Tinubu’s pedigree indicates that fighting corruption will be his forte. For one thing, his sources of prodigious wealth are questionable and many Nigerians believe he is still feeding fat from the Lagos treasury. Maybe I expected to delve too much into his manifesto for a word on how he would tackle corruption.
I expect the next president to focus on diversifying the economy through the agricultural value chain. The first thing to do to stimulate economic growth is to ensure that the nation produces enough food for domestic consumption and exports. I expect a presidential candidate to tell us how to make Nigeria a net exporter of rice and wheat in the next three years. The war in Europe has revealed that Ukraine is a major exporter of wheat to the world market, but this country is smaller than some of our northern states.
Ukraine’s wheat production for the 2022/2023 marketing year is expected to drop to 19.5 million metric tons from 13.5 million tons due to the war. Nigeria should therefore aim to be among the top five exporters of wheat by 2028 and the top three by 2030. For rice, the Buhari administration’s Anchor Borrowers Program designed by the CBN and commercial banks in 2015 boosted production in a significative way. We are now the largest paddy rice producer in Africa with an average annual production volume of 9 million metric tonnes, up from 4.5 million tonnes in 2015.
So I want a presidential candidate who is committed to increasing rice production to 15 metric tons per year over the next five years and 20 metric tons by 2030, enough for exports. This is not rocket science. We have land, weather and a capable CBN which should expand the reach of the funding program. Dairy and meat production through modern animal husbandry offers a different set of business opportunities in the agricultural sector. There is so much to do in the agricultural value chain to diversify our economy and drive growth and development. I am shocked that the Tinubu document does not mention them.
Etim, a public affairs commentator, writes from FCT, Abuja.