Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Nigeria: Oil Find in Chad Basin Key to North's Economic Progress

Nigeria: Oil Find in Chad Basin Key to North's Economic

Interiew With Nma Kolo, a supporter of former Nigerian military leader Gen. Ibrahim B. Banbangida
17 December 2008


The NNPC recently announced that it will soon commence oil exploration in the Chad Basin, which is believed to hold huge deposits of commercially viable crude oil and gas. What do you think are the prospects for the North?

I believe the prospects are quite high. I also think that it will mark a watershed for the North as an entity. Many Nigerians, especially in the North would naturally benefit from the project. It will also greatly assuage the feelings of the North, which has continued to be maligned and portrayed as a parasitic entity. I can recall that oil prospecting around the Lake Chad was earlier embarked upon by the NNPC in the late 1970s and was stopped in the late 80s in circumstances seen then as largely controversial.

I can also recall that some antagonists of oil exploration in the North, such as former Petroleum minister Prof. Tam David-West, who we know is neither a geologist nor a geo-scientist, had campaigned against oil prospecting in the region, warning that the idea was not cost beneficial and would end up as a wild goose chase. Tam David-West even accused some northern political elites of playing politics with the issue. For now, I think the 19 northern states governors must campaign vigorously to ensure the successful take-off of the oil exploration in the region and must therefore, bring pressure to bear on Mr. President to not only create a conducive atmosphere, but to also fast-track its realisation as it will certainly usher in a new era of prosperity for the North as well as help in repositioning this potentially great nation in its relentless search for a diversified economy. If success is achieved, the initiative would impact greatly on the lives of the people and transform the economic landscape of the North.

What is your reaction to the recent unrest in Jos, which led to the killing of over 400 persons, and the setting up of a committee by the Plateau State government to investigate the crisis?

Well let us first of all wait to see the outcome of the investigation. However, the sad fact is that in Nigeria, we only look for solution after a lot of damage must have been done and in the process, a lot of innocent persons are made to suffer unjustly.

For God's sake, the Jos crisis could have been avoided, if not for the selfishness, greed and lawlessness of some irresponsible persons. And talking about a commission of enquiry, what has happened to past enquiries into past disturbances in Jos? I was born and bred in Jos and my uncle even rose to the highest position in the civil service there. Those were the days when Jos was regarded as no-man's land, when there was nothing like an indigene or a non-indigene. Today, quite unfortunately, Jos has lost its innocence because some persons there feel they own the city. That is sheer madness. I think the time has come when we must first begin to see ourselves as Nigerians, before anything else.

The world is still basking in the euphoria of an Obama victory as the first African American to emerge as president of the United States. A man who even has his roots in far away Kenya and we are here still talking about religion, tribe, geographical zone, etc. It is such a shame that we have refused to bury our past shameful deeds and move along. I think as a people, we should be more concerned about the growing rate of poverty in our midst, the lack of enough potable water, the rate of infrastructural decay and so on, rather than engage in senseless killings just because somebody feels it is his or her birth right to win an election.

We know that elections all over the world are meant to usher in credible individuals who will serve the people selflessly and advance the cause of democracy by providing for their welfare. So you begin to wonder, why do people kill and maim others because they want to win election. I think the reason is that people want to acquire power at all cost just to loot government treasury and not necessarily because they want to serve the interest of the masses. The unfortunate riot in Jos presents a clear challenge to the Plateau State government and the security agencies to fish out the real culprits and especially their sponsors and immediately bring them to justice.

Recently, the media focused attention on the disappearance of the Nigerian Communications Satellite, otherwise referred to as NigComSat-1. Would you like to comment on this?

Let me begin by first stating that I am not an expert in satellite communication. However, I think government should be commended for venturing into the project because the satellite industry offers an opportunity for mankind to use space as a veritable means of livelihood and adventure. Some countries venture into space for various reasons, some to hold tight to and exercise power, strength and dominate other nations, while others for economic reasons. You will recall that Nigeria's first adventure into space was in 2003, when it launched an earth observation satellite, which I understand was designed to monitor our natural resources and other natural deposits.

Its second mission was the successful launch of the NigComSat-1 whose purported disappearance has indeed taken everybody unawares. But like I mentioned earlier on, I am not really competent to dwell technically on the issue. However, I think Nigeria should not chicken out now. This country needs to launch as many satellites as possible, to serve as backup to mitigate such occurrences in future. We must realise that today, the power of any nation is determined by the amount of its mission in space. Every serious nation must therefore as a consequence use appropriate technology to advance the level of its greatness and progress.

How would you rate the EFCC under its current chairman, Farida Waziri?

Well, given the benefit of hindsight, I should say the EFCC is doing fairly well, even though we expect a much better performance. You will recall that during the immediate past regime of former president Obasanjo, the EFCC operated more or less as an official tool of terrorism. Many will remember how EFCC under Nuhu Ribadu terrorised many Nigerians and subjected them to inhuman treatment, especially those perceived to be political enemies of that administration. During that period, there was a clear lack of rule of law and due process, but now, it appears the anti-corruption body is repositioned to curtail and abolish financial and economic crimes with recourse to the rule of law.

So back to your question, I think the chairman Mrs. Farida Waziri is doing a fairly good job, especially against the background that the anti-corruption agency, has so far recorded more than 25 convictions based on credible evidence. We still remember such celebrated cases of some former governors like Rasheed Ladoja, Saminu Turaki, Orji Uzor Kalu, Boni Haruna and more recent ones like those of Olabode George, Dabo Aminu, Borishade, Femi Fani-Kayode, Kenny Martins, Sen. Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello etc. But the truth is that, at this point of our national development, we need to be steadfast, sincere and focused on our resolve to fight corruption and prosecute criminals who loot our national resources, no matter how highly placed they may be. I mean, if we must arrest and prosecute petty thieves in our major parks and on our streets, then bigger thieves in the corridors of power and public officers who continue to steal billions of naira must never be spared as long as there are irrefutable and incontrovertible evidence to prosecute them.

Still talking about the EFCC, many Nigerians believe that its former chairman, Nuhu Ribadu is being unjustly persecuted as could be seen by recent developments. Do you share this view?

Well, you know that there is no smoke without fire. You must remember that before this development, there was an allegation of the disappearance or missing of important files on some former state governors under investigation from the custody of the EFCC.

These public officers were said to have been investigated during the era of Ribadu, but were not handed over to the new management under Farida Waziri. The said missing files were also said to contain petitions against some prominent personalities which included former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The question to ask here is, if files of similar public officers, tagged as corrupt, like former governors and former Inspector-General of Police, Tafa Balogun, who suffered humiliation during the tenure of Ribadu were not missing, how come those containing prominent personalities like Obasanjo and his daughter, Iyabo Bello- Obasanjo should be declared missing? I believe Nuhu Ribadu, employed double standard during his tenure as EFCC chairman. Like it is often said, what a man sows, that he shall reap. The on-going travails of Nuhu Ribadu should serve as a lesson to all public officers that power is transient and that no condition in life is permanent.

Ribadu, like every man is the architect of his fortune, so let him face the music.

This year's budget proposal of N2.8 trillion as recently announced by the President has continued to attract mixed reactions from the general public. Would you like to comment on it?

First of all, I think it is a very ambitious budget. It is however left to be seen how much of it will be implemented, because over the years, lack of proper monitoring and evaluation have constituted a problem to budget implementation. The president needs to be commended, however, for focusing on such relevant issues as the completion of on-going projects, community policing and also the issue of capacity building for the MDGs. Also, worthy of note is the attention given in the budget proposal to such areas as security, the Niger Delta, education, water resources and the efforts at realising the promises contained in the president's 7-point Agenda.

One major area of concern to me however, is that the cost of running the ministries and the National Assembly, especially as they relate to certain key officers is indeed too high. So you see, because of the high cost of running government, there is usually little money left for capital, which in turn does not translate to addressing the basic needs of the people. But, I think that is the price we have to pay for democracy.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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