David-West And The Truth Of Subsidy Probe
“Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains taken to bring it to light” – George Washington
Professor Tam David-West represents truth, not the one many interpret from the religious angles for self-delight. His is the accurate denomination, where the body of knowledge is taught without preconceived notion. His philosophy and principles are aplomb and are the correct impressions that are not the formation of logic. His intuition to see beyond today stands him out.
David-West is a person known through intimate personal relationship and covenant with truth. This has become his life, his convention. He is in a marriage of souls with truth. But the Nigerian state is far to grasp with these instruments, because it has fall far dumpy of being able to think through the lens of reality. The report of the ad hoc committee on the fuel subsidy probe Wednesday 18th April 2012 has further vindicated David-West.
Before the aroma of the subsidy probe started perforating into the Nigerian scene with odorous scent, he had on December 10, 2011, said that Nigeria was in the most perilous time and if Jonathan stays till 2015, there could be turbulence in Nigeria that would threaten the unity of the country. He had a premonition that Nigeria was moving towards a very dangerous point and this was one nation that lives in self-denial. The Nigerian state was collapsing.
His fear was that our security agencies are overwhelmed because we have a Boko-Haram group that has been operating freely for the past two years and yet we have no clue. The economy is also collapsing, yet our leaders are deceiving us. He told Nigerians that a friend in the Central Bank confided in him that they don't really have the indices on the state of the nation's economy but have to produce figures that the economy is growing at certain percentages. And David-West cried out; “Our leaders are deceiving us. Things are not going well with us.”
He was of the belief that there's no guarantee that the Igbo'll be president in 2015. The issue of zoning is not dead, but on suspended vibrancy and will rise again in a fiercer form than today. And the only people that'll probably not lay claim are the Ijaw people. According to him, the April 2011 election was not free and fair, because a lot went underneath. He went further to inform that what the international observers saw that gave the inkling of success were orderly stand in lines, which does not translate to free, fair and transparent election. And their presence doesn't ensure credibility of the process, although it checked some tempers. “What they did was sample. They themselves confessed that Nigeria is so big, they can't be everywhere. Can they go to the creeks? Let's not deceive ourselves,” he inveigled.
The above narration was to bring the issue of the subsidy clear, the way it's in the eyes of David-West. Juxtaposing to that expression, he affirmed that this is the way the government talked about the removal of fuel subsidy, which he saw as sanctified falsehood and urged Nigerians to protest the planned fuel subsidy removal.
Hear him: “If they do it, we must all go to the street. People should not stay at home. Oil subsidy is a sanctified falsehood, absolute lies. I challenge Goodluck Jonathan, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Alison Maduekwe to prove me wrong. How can Jonathan stand on the way of the people? He is saying there is no going back on oil subsidy. I say NO, he will go back. It is a lie to say Nigerians are paying the least oil price in the world. Going by their analysis, Nigerian workers should be earning about N184, 000 to be at par with their mates in USA. They have killed refineries through sabotage. You are asking the masses to pay for your inaction and asking them to tighten their belts because their waste is loose while you grow belly and cheeks in Abuja. How can Okonjo-Iweala be talking about economy now when she is being paid in dollars? This is hypocritical”.
Was he not right? Against this backdrop, David-West said that it's not enough to expose companies benefiting from petroleum subsidy, they should be made to refund 70 percent of the funds received over the years to government. This was following the Senate revelation of the names of the companies involved in the importation of fuel. David-West said that the government had contravened Section 16 (2) (C) of the 1999 Constitution, which forbids concentration of wealth in the hands of a few individuals.
Hear him again: “In 1996, I revealed that the refineries have been sabotaged by a clique. I have been vindicated by the Senate. The breakdown of our refineries is an act of sabotage to create artificial scarcity and milk the economy under the guise of subsidy”. Was he not right? Meanwhile, a House of Assembly member in a state in the north urged the Federal Government to carry out a referendum on the wished-for extraction of fuel subsidy as a means of obtaining the true flavour of the opinion of the people on the issue. But David-West maintained that fuel subsidy does not exist in the true sense of it. He insisted that some persons with vested interest had destroyed the refineries so that they can import refined petroleum products into Nigeria even at the disadvantage of the economy. He satirized the government for encouraging the fraudulent concentration of wealth in the hands of a few of their cronies…
When it was but a rumour that President Goodluck Jonathan would use executive fiat to hike the price of petroleum products in 2012, David-West said Jonathan lacked such power and the decision would be challenged in court. Was David-West not right when he said that there was nothing like fuel subsidy? And that you do not remove what does not exist. He had then challenged President Jonathan, his Finance Minister and economic team to a debate, but the duos did not give in to the entreaty.
As once a Petroleum Minister, David-West's fury was that if the sabotaged refineries were working at their established facility the county would not be importing fuel and the present administration would have no good reason for wanting to fiddle with the price of the product which is the bastion of the Nigerian economy. He saw President Jonathan's move for the removal of the subsidy as a means to want to impose World Bank and International Monetary Fund economic recommendation on Nigerians. David-West was right when he said that the President should take a cue from the decision of the House of Representatives which had rejected the proposed removal of petroleum subsidy and realise that Nigerians were vehemently opposed to any sorts of price hike. He however expressed that the over N3 trillion purportedly spent on subsidy would have been enough to build many more refineries in the country.
David-West was after all right when he said: “Let me introduce you to the basics. Let us say a particular commodity like gari is sold for N10 per bag hypothetically and the farmers are producing to make us self-sufficient at N10. But at a time, they can't produce enough because of either bad harvest or natural causes, the government now says since garri is a staple food, the government goes to another country where gari is produced and buys it at N20 per bag and brings it to Nigeria to sell at N10 per bag. The government now writes off the extra N10 –– that is subsidy. The extra N10 the government pays on behalf of the people for them to still buy at N10 is the subsidy paid on that commodity?”
In his assertion, no government should exist if it can't serve the people because government is a trust. “But these fraudulent people will take our oil, refine it and bring it back and sell it at foreign exchange,” this pains him as fraud in the highest place. “Why is it that during Buhari era, with three refineries we were self sufficient but at their time, with four refineries we are now importing fuel?” He said that he personally signed the contract of the fourth refinery which Nigerians call new Port Harcourt Refinery in 1984. It was one of the best in Africa, with a capacity of 160,000 barrels per day. The first refinery, in Port Harcourt, was built in 1965; Warri refinery in 1978, and Kaduna refinery in 1980. According to him, a newly constructed refinery can't have major problem for about 30 years; the problem they will not tell you is that after Buhari, every Minister and Head of State became an oil sheikh, except General Abdulsalami Abubakar. He affirmed this, saying that some ministers have petrol stations and oil blocs. Reiterating, he pummeled those who serve the country and at the same time gluttonously serve theirselves, because it is morally and spiritually wrong to serve two masters at a time.
“One must serve his country and the dividends of doing this are satisfaction,” he drilled. “Total capacity of our four refineries is 445,000 barrels per day. If the refineries are working even at 80 per cent, we will have more than enough products. They did not do that but sabotaged our refineries”. David-West has been hullaballooing since 1995 and has incessantly written that politicians are killing Nigeria and the poor men. And in 2009, the House of Representatives corroborated him by saying that refineries are sabotaged. One time a head of state, reacting to the state of the refineries, said he didn't want to open a box of scandal. Why did they do this to the common man? Who are the importers? Big people! A senator said this year (2011) that Nigeria spends N860 million on fuel importation and they projected that by the end of the year, over N1 trillion will be spent on importation of fuel when Nigeria's budget is N4.3 trillion. “Insanity!” David-West called this.
Dan Etete said they needed $250 million to repair the refineries but the same minister said Nigeria was importing fuel at $900 million. David-West would ask, “Is that not insanity?” He would also say, “If you need this huge amount of money to repair refineries, why don't you build new refineries? The money you are using to import, use it to build refineries. When Nigerians are worried that why did Obasanjo not repair the four refineries, David-West reiterated, “Olusegun Obasanjo is a great liar. They will not do so in order to continue to import fuel for selfish reasons.”
There comes within this period when the government was saying that Nigeria has the lowest prices of refined products among oil producing countries, and David-West said that Nigerians should forget Jonathan. Was he not right when he said that President Jonathan doesn't understand what he is saying and that he is only parroting what they told him?
“He talks like a parrot. Can he remove what doesn't exist? Can't Nigeria build her own refineries to serve Nigerians and remove the untold hardship politicians want to impose on Nigerians? Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the subsidy goes to the wrong hands. His uneasiness for battling the government was the fact that everything would increase. And the new minimum wage of N18,000 would become N2,000, David-West said, and berated a statement that was credited to Obasanjo that because it's built in phases, it would take about five years to build a refinery, saying that it's a lie.
“I told you Obasanjo is a liar. It took just two years to build the fourth refinery. I signed its contract. It is between two and three years. The problem is that there is intellectual laziness and physical indolence. In developed countries, the president will not just talk without being well quizzed. But in Nigeria, at a media chat once, Obasanjo shouted on journalists or talked to them as a teacher. They kept quiet. It doesn't take five years to build a refinery,” David-West cried.
Okonjo-Iweala talks about cushioning the effect of the removal of oil subsidy, and David-West says it is Rubbish! She is sermonising to seduce people to accept the callous oil subsidy removal. Things she promised are palliative, and nobody should agree. Labour and Nigerians should make it impossible because you don't take away what doesn't exist. Nigerians don't need oil subsidy to build roads, provide water and electricity; vote for capital projects has taken care of that. Degrees don't guarantee good governance.
“David-West – Roads to get N600b from subsidy savings makes the news of December 27, 2011. “Senate wants more facts on fuel imports. But David-West insisted that any probe of the corruption in the oil sector, which excludes past military and civilian leaders as well as oil ministers in their administration from 1985 till date, is unconvincing, to determine what goes wrong with the refineries. This is when there is an ongoing Senate probe of the fuel subsidy policy of the Federal Government. The Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), Magnus Abe, disclosed that the research of the contentious fuel subsidy has not been concluded.
David-West, on the other hand, insisted that the Senate has not been rewarded the comprehensive list of all those involved in the petroleum products' importation, which the government claimed it's subsiding, even when Abe, appealed to Nigerians to avail the committee with valuable information on the implementation of the policy. Abe said that the panel was working with the data provided it by the regulators of the industry.
“While the subsidy is yet to be removed, the Federal Government seems to have allocated the funds to sectors that would benefit from the abolition of the scheme,” observers said, following the intimation on the government's plan of 26th December, 2011, from the Works Minister, Mr. Mike Onolememen, who said that N600 billion of the expected subsidy funds had been allocated to the road sector. Onolememen also explained that the government stopped the use of kerosene in road repairs and construction, but the multinational firms handling the highways projects (and not poor Nigerians) were the major beneficiaries of the subsidy on the product. The call for all the former presidents and oil ministers to be probed was intensified, because of a report accusing them of owning petrol filling stations across the country.
“The list they (Senate panel) have published is a great step, but not the whole. Let them investigate every past president and oil minister after Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. Some of the oil ministers have petroleum stations. The list is not finished. It is a long way, yes, but it is not exhausted,” David-West directed. He nonetheless noted that the Senate investigation was a justification that some interest groups that now import fuel to the detriment of most Nigerians deliberately interfered with the refineries and recommended the government to stop deceiving the led that it was subsiding products consumed by them, adding together that the government was endeavouring to cut back corruption in the petroleum sector, which has led to deceptive getting hold of wealth by a few individuals in the country.
But Abe told newsmen that the disclosure of the names of some companies as major beneficiaries of the petroleum subsidy was not a foreclosure of the matter because the committee had not submitted its report to the Senate. This was reacting to David-West's comments; Abe whispered that the list released by the committee was made available to it by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).
“The Senate does not authorise subsidy. We confronted the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency and they gave us the list we are working on. If anybody has another list let him make it available to us. The committee is yet to submit its recommendations,” Abe confessed, and later said that he would not join issues with the Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, who was saying that there was nothing the National Assembly could do about the fuel subsidy issue, because he (Fayami) might have spoken from his understanding of the 1999 Constitution.
Onolememen told journalists in Uromi, Edo State after he was honoured by the Edo Central Senatorial District of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that he had ordered road construction firms to henceforth use bitumen emulsion for surface dressing because kerosene was for domestic use, he had discovered that one of the products the government was subsidizing, which was kerosene, was never available to the poor and he had found that in his sector that most road contractors, multi-national companies were the greatest beneficiaries of the subsidy on kerosene. He also said that he found out that for every one kilometre of road that our multinational contractors build, they use 26 tonnes of kerosene running into several millions of litres.
“It is only recently, as recent as last month that I ordered an investigation and consequent on that, I said specification for surface dressing, MC 1, which our contractors use kerosene on, should be changed so that they should henceforth, use bitumen emulsion and in that way, we are going to free tonnes and tonnes of kerosene…. Just imagine 1,000 kilometres of road consuming about 26,000 tonnes of kerosene, if you convert that to litres, you are talking of about 26 million litres and this is the product the government is subsidising. So, we are subsidising the multinational companies, which are the beneficiaries of this product hence the product is never available to the people who need it,” the minister said in 2011; the government added 1,000 kilometres to the national road network in terms of rehabilitation and reconstruction in the six geo-political zones.
Was David-West not right in his battles? Onolememen revealed that the government had already set aside its share of about N600 billion from the subsidy when it becomes operational to complete major dual carriageways in the country, which include the Benin-Ore-Shagamu Road, the Abuja-Lokoja Road, the dual carriageway from Onitsha to Enugu and up to Port Harcourt, and also use the subsidy to kick off and construct the second Niger Bridge and the Oweto Bridge.
A member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Dakuku Peterside, now asked the government to protect oil-bearing communities in Rivers State from extinction in a statement he made available to newsmen in Port Harcourt, the state capital, whereas Onolememen was busy saying that the government plans to extend the dualism of the Abuja-Lokoja Road to Benin City in Edo State at the cost of N100 billion? And if this was completed; the government would have succeeded in linking all the geo-political zones in the country?
David-West outbursts have never been ineffective as the probing of the subsidy has revealed to be highly scandalous and globally embarrassing moment on the Jonathan presidency. Today, other Nigerians are beginning to believe in David-West entirely, when he said that the fuel subsidy was fraud and does not exist. This is laughable.
While many Nigerians are commending the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee, Alhaji Farouk Lawan for job well-done, David-West should be commended the most for his foresightedness. Nigerians need people like him in the youth to lead tomorrow. Nigerians are wishing that David-West was among the investigators of the subsidy that every turned stones must be turned and all the unturned stones must be turned. The Nigerian populaces are losing confidence in Nigeria, but are reposing their confidence on David-West, because he is truthful.
Odimegwu Onwumere, Poet/Author, Media/Writing Consultant and Motivator, is the Coordinator, Concerned Non-Indigenes In Rivers State (CONIRIV); and Founder, Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA), Rivers State. Mobile: +2348032552855. Email: email@example.com