Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Yar’Adua Vs Cartel

THERE is little relief in hearing President Umaru Yar’Adua stating his intention to fight the cartel in the oil sector. He has just discovered the cartel and its destructive tendencies. The nature of the fight is unknown and most Nigerians would be pleasantly surprised if it ever took off. Nigerians have gone through years of unfulfilled promises and this may be one of them. Who are members of this
cartel that the government intends to fight? Why did the President not name them?

We think the damage that the oil cartel has done over the years to Nigerians would have warranted a more serious
approach to the matter. It is widely agreed – the President’s is just the latest voice – that the conspiracy of the cartel is responsible for corruption euphemistically called leakages in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector.

Billions of Dollars have been lost to the leakages, through inflated contracts, over pricing of products or stealing
of resources that would have been invested in improving Nigeria.

The last that would be heard about the encounter with the oil cartel could be the President’s promise. It is sad.
The President does not need our permission to commence the fight. He has the public’s support, but serving notice grants the enemy advantage.

His public declaration of a war gives the cartel time to string strategies to frustrate it.

Nigerians cannot be fooled by the promise. We have seen this sort of thing times over. When government is unable or unwilling to tackle a situation, it states a long intent to fight it, as the President has. It is insulting to treat
Nigerians in this contemptuous manner in an issue that affects their lives.

The refineries do not work and the present argument supports them never to work. None of these is new. Corruption is central to non-execution of the contracts to fix the refineries. The short fall in supply of petroleum products is linked to higher prices that result from the fuzzy practices in the oil and gas sector.

Government has ignored these. It pushes its programme to de-regulate the sector. Government and the cartel are in the same boat when it comes to interpreting de-regulation. It means increased prices to curb the inefficiencies in the sector. These inefficiencies are corrupt practices that government officials encourage by making no effort to
punish illegalities.

The most recent round of fuel crisis is another opportunity for government to wave de-regulation as the panacea for scarcities. This lop-sided position fails to recognise that existing high prices would dictate the de-regulated
prices for these products that are too critical to be left to the whims of cut-throat business people, who have prospered for years conniving with governments to cheat Nigerians.

President Yar’Adua would have a challenge of convincing Nigerians that he can act. For a cartel that outrightly
sabotages the economy, the President’s utterances about it are at best timid and unconvincing.