Nigeria for all intents and purposes is a very funny country. It is a country typified by the famous Animal Farm drama. The pigs were the top rated animals that profess to be equal to all others, but were sleeping on beds while others were outside on ground in the cold. The truth is that whatever any one says, Nigerians are not all equal.
We operate a constitution that says all Nigerians are equal, that the government will strive to achieve an egalitarian society. Right from independence, the equality of Nigerians has been in doubt.
Every section of the country has at one time or the other felt marginalised by the powers- that-be. The thing is that among the ruling class, any time the various nationals that make up the country feel they are not getting enough, they cry foul, ‘we are being marginalised.’ Before now, it was the Niger-Delta that felt marginalised and took up arms against the state.
They got away with it and got their demands met. They were not only granted amnesty, but the President now who has the political power to dispense economic favour is one of their own. Restiveness in the area has abated. After June 12, 1993, the Yorubas were the ones who felt marginalised and they used the power of the media, concentrated in the South- West, to achieve their goals.
Obasanjo became the President. Though they had OPC, there was no amnesty, but those who went on self-exile and those who were accused of plotting to overthrow the government were pardoned and they returned to their homes.
The question to ask is ‘who are those who control the economic power of the nation? Today, it is the North-East that is feeling marginalissed and devastated by poverty. The youth there have taken up arms against the nation. They have killed, maimed and destroyed properties worth billions of naira for no specific reason and now the call for amnesty is on. The case of the North-East is very pathetic in view of the fact that those who milk Nigeria’s economy dry are from this zone.
Last week, the Chairman,, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Sen. Ita Enang, at the floor of the Senate advocated equitable distribution of oil bloc licence in the country. Enang made the call during the debate on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). He was reacting to the Northern Senators’ stand that the oil-producing areas receive too much money from the Federation Accounts. He said the oil blocs should be revoked and re-awarded to ensure that the federal character principle was applied in distribution of oil blocs, marginal fields and prospecting licences.
Enang, who spoke with Senate Correspondents after the plenary, alleged that most of the owners of the oil blocs were richer than their geo-political zone. “Some people who own oil blocs in the North-East are richer than their states. At least, one person is richer than the entire six or seven states of the North-East. Now, it is still said that the Niger-Delta is taking too much when one person is taking from the profit he makes from each of the oil blocs more than what even the derivation that the totality of the states are taking. Most of these oil blocs were awarded long ago. Most of the owners are so rich that the country becomes the poorer for it.
“These men are the ones who spearhead talks that poverty is the cause of Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East. What have they done with the money they make from oil bloc licences other than build mansions in these areas they can no longer live in. Besides, they are the ones that constitute themselves into a cabal that fund the stealing of crude oil in the country.
Because they are highly connected and are men of means, every government that comes into existence pleads helplessness in crude oil theft. How long can Nigeria continue down this road of some untouchables that make life difficult for the nation? Yet, each time, we come up with the argument of granting criminals amnesty. Very soon, we will be talking of granting amnesty to crude oil thieves whom government agencies know but have failed to do anything about them.
Nigeria should as a matter of urgency revoke all the oil blocs allocated to individuals or companies that have no expertise in crude oil exploration. It is criminal for governments – past, present and in the future – to grant oil bloc licence to companies just because of their political leanings or connection to powers-that-be.
Crude oil is the wealth of the nation. It is most of the wealthy operators in the oil sector that are responsible for the theft of oil and illegal bunkering in the Niger-Delta. I challenge the Federal Government to deny this. Crude oil is not stolen with teacup by the poor. It is stolen with ships and it is these rich persons who have these facilities that are capable of facilitating it, not the ordinary persons branded militants. The federal authority should muster courage and arrest these high profile thieves and put a stop to crude oil theft once and for all in the financial interest of the nation.