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Nigeria: The systematic reduction

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WEEKEND with Ibraheem Sulaiman

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For the umpteenth time Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Governor of Central Bank, tells  the Nigerian people the difficulties that lie ahead. The economy is at risk, and will continue to be at risk unless its structural weaknesses are addressed. ‘The key concerns [are] slowdown in global economic activities, particularly in the United States, Europe and China; slowdown in domestic output, especially sharp decline in agricultural output and oil and gas; possible softening of crude oil prices in the international market with potential fiscal revenue loses; and the likely pressure on foreign exchange market and exchange rate,’ Sanusi told journalists on May 22, 2012. ‘Others are the inflationary threat that has resurfaced in the first quarter of 2012, after having moderated in the fourth quarter of 2011; imminent increase in electricity tariff, which may lead to inflationary pressures; high interest rates in the face of declining GDP output and security concerns in the country.” Sanusi further pointed out in 2011 alone Nigeria lost about $7 billion to Oil Thieves.
Imagine what is likely to happen in the event of a fall in oil prices: civil servants, from local to federal level, will not earn salary; millions of families will not be able to feed themselves; children will not continue their education; markets, from Lagos to Onisha to Yenagoa to Kano to Maiduguri will collapse, farmers will instantly plunge into penury, ongoing projects everywhere which could stimulate the economy will stop: overall, a general climate of misery will envelop the nation, the misery compounded further by imposition of more financial burdens on the people, through higher tariffs on electricity, water, health and other services. Life, for this otherwise great and vibrant nation, will come to a halt. Remember that last month the Minister of Finance warned that if the present trend continues Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product [GDP] could collapse. What will not stop, however, are the usual business of governance, rooted in profligacy of the highest order, plus, of course, the Oil Theft. We are moving towards a new and critical phase in the gradual reduction of Nigeria in well being and in stature.
We are all accustomed to the fact Nigeria has no control over its oil, and the endemic theft of this strategic resource has reached an unprecedented scale, and apparently there is nothing that can be done about it. But there are other thieves, other cabals wrecking havoc on the economy.Take the case of what Tribune [14/5/12] calls the Telecom Thieves. The paper refers to an affidavit submitted to an Abuja high court on May 9, 2012 by Mr Solomon Ogundele, NITEL’s Principal Liaison Officer (PLO) to NCC between 1994 and 2000, and leader of the Nigerian team that drafted and prepared the first Interconnection Agreement with the Private Telecommunications Operators (PTOs) in Nigeria, including MTN. The gist of Ogundele’s deposition, as quoted by Tribune, is as follows:
‘At the inception of deregulation in the telecommunications industry in Nigeria, NITEL would have made more than One Trillion Naira for the Nigerian government. It could not make the aforementioned amount due to the fact that NCC did compromise its statutory and regulatory functions by fraudulently allowing MTN and others to use the telecommunications highway which only NITEL possessed at the inception of deregulation, free of charge. NCC has been colluding with MTN to ensure massive capital flight from Nigeria to South Africa with severe debilitating effect on the exchange rate of the Naira and the Nigerian economy as a whole. Its imposed, fraudulent Interconnection Agreement did divert the huge revenues that NITEL would have made on its telecommunications highways to MTN and others.
‘In 2006, Albert Mashi, the then Managing Director of Nigeria Telecommunications Limited did, at a press conference reported by ThisDay newspaper of 30th March, 2006, cry out that MTN was damaging NITEL’s Optic Fibre Cables.
The estimated cost of the systematic, nationwide damage done to NITEL’s Fibre Optic Network by MTN was in the region of Thirteen Billion Naira (N13bn). This fact of deliberate destruction of NITEL’s infrastructure was brought to the attention of NCC with whose collusion, MTN has, till date, failed/refused/neglected to pay compensation to NITEL. I was deeply involved in the interconnection issues by virtue of my former position as General Manager (Operations) of NITEL. MTN and NCC have, for many years, been working together jointly and have embarked on, and continue to engage in, activities radically inimical to the Nigerian economy and Nigerian interests and because of the dubious and anti-national-interests relationship that exists between them, any complaints, grievances, disputes or accusations against MTN directed, lodged, forwarded or submitted to NCC will not see the light of day or be acted upon by NCC.’
‘To all intents and purposes, NCC has accorded MTN the status of a National Carrier, through the backdoor. To a large extent, MTN is essentially or substantially operating illegally in Nigeria and NCC has failed to exercise its statutory and regulatory control over it. Despite the fact that MTN has embarked on massive destruction of NITEL’s plants and equipment under the guise of expanding its network, NCC has failed/refused/neglected to exercise its statutory and regulatory control and NCC was so reckless in liquidating NITEL that it created the situation where NITEL has also been compelled to settle invoices of MTN and others running into several billions of Naira which NITEL cannot verify with its own internal data because NCC prevented NITEL from doing so. The telecommunications industry in Nigeria has a cabal and MTN and NCC are prominent members of this telecommunications industry cabal.’
The truth or otherwise of these allegations is yet to be determined, but judging by the facts about the Petroleum sector, it would surprise no one that Nigeria has no control over the massively lucrative telecom industry, or that Nigeria did watch helplessly as its national assets were being systematically destroyed by a foreign company in broad day light, and for so long. What is more, we have witnessed the absolute collapse of NITEL, the national carrier, and the phenomenal rise of the others.
What we have been saying in the last few weeks is that in the last few years Nigeria has been losing control over its institutions, its strategic resources, its common wealth and, ultimately, its own affairs. Because of that systematic loss of control, things are happening in Nigeria which can not happen anywhere else in the world. Is there any other country which derives its income solely from petroleum but turns the industry into a Free Thieving Zone, where no law applies, no accurate records exist, no concern  for the future, and where no thought for the well being of the bona fide owners and primary beneficiaries, Nigeria and its people, is ever countenanced? To worsen the situation even further, the Nigerian people seem to have lost control over their political destiny.
Democracy Thieves, the supreme cabal, have stolen the lion share of Nigeria’s democracy. All the cabals and all the thieves in the oil industry, in the telecom industry, in the banking industry, in governance industry, and in all other sectors are very active in the political sphere and have almost wrested democracy from the Nigerian people. They handle democracy in exactly the same manner as they handle oil. Oil flows in their direction and in their interest, so must democracy. If the situation were to persist, what would happen eventually?

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