Buhari’s Fuel Subsidy Payments: There is none after all
Iyoha John Darlington
Today we supposedly live under a government driven by ‘change’. In the run-up to the general elections, the Nigerian fickle public saw that giving the APC presidential flag bearer their mandate would doubtless usher in a regenerative process that would produce sustainable developments in all sectors. This, above all, informed their interest and desire to heed his pleas and entreaties for their votes.
Late Achebe in one of his famous literary works ”Things Fall Apart” wrote that ”a chick that will grow into a cock can be spotted the very day it hatches”. Buhari assumed the reins of power about seven calendar months ago. Came with his government is the ongoing anti-graft war which this writer shall make the focus of his analysis. Nigeria belongs to over 170 million people, a country that parades world class intellects.
In order to derive optimal use from our resources, the immediate past administration was reportedly found wanting and a campaign laden with pure sophistries and terminological inexactitudes was launched and some gullible minds fell hook, line and sinkers. Amid a web of deceit, a cabinet of competent technocrats was shown the door. This happened between 2013 through 2014 and 2015 AD in the course of our nation’s history which is still on-going.
For the first time one of the ‘agents of change’ the former Lagos State helmsman heaped an encomium of praise on the former ‘clueless’ President Jonathan as the only former Nigerian leader that surpassed his predecessors in the area of roads construction and scored him as much as 50% in the power sector. This lends credence to the fact that you may have a billion lie but never a billion truth because there is only one truth which stands incontrovertible and undeniable. More power to you Babatunde Raji Fashola! You earn my respect here and shall continue to be my reference point.
To Buhari’s double standards in fuel subsidy payments and the ongoing anti-graft war, we must now turn. Only about three days ago President Buhari was said to have approved the payments of a whopping N407bn subsidy payments to oil marketers in order to bring to an end the lingering fuel crisis that has brought untold hardships to Nigerians. That amount of money is mind-boggling, in fact, it is a lot of money when there is every avenue to cut cost if the government he leads is genuinely out to regenerate Nigeria.
This writer shall give a brief explanatory analysis or put differently a statistical and detailed cost breakdown of a litre of fuel which when refined locally by our moribund refineries would meet our domestic demand.There is no denying the fact that our refineries have witnessed a terminal decline and, therefore, lack vitality and vigour. Moribund as they may be, but have the capacity to refine our crude oil to meet local demand and save billions of our tax payers money. Must Buhari who leads a government driven by change lose sight of this fact? Must he toe the line of others when he has supposedly come to show the way. Oh! this makes us move round in circles because there is nothing revolutionary here, all things considered.
Nigeria’s four refineries with installed combined capacity, reports say, can refine four hundred and forty-five (445,000) barrels per day but this has been drastically reduced as experts and analysts observe to as low as 30% due to ageing equipment. That is to say, we can only refine 133,500 barrels per day which will give us no fewer than 21.2 million litres.
Nigeria’s required domestic consumption according to official figures from the Federal Office of Statistics (FOS) is 12 million litres daily, a pointer to the fact that our moribund refineries can actually refine to meet our domestic consumption. We live in a country, I mean a frontline oil producing nation which does not consider the high import bill on the product it can refine locally which depletes our foreign reserves. This takes a disastrous toll on our economy as it spiral downward thereby toeing the line of the previous administrations which it depicts as clueless. Is this not a gross contradiction in terms? I ask yet again, where lies the desired ”change”?
Now let us take a cursory glance at the cost structure of crude oil production per barrel with particular reference to Qua Iboe. Findings and recent development show that production cost stands at $3.5; production cost stands at $1.5; refining stands at $12.6; pipeline/transportation stand at $1.5 while distribution/fund margin stand at $15.69.
According to experts, 159 litres make up one barrel which could be sold anywhere in Nigeria for $34.8 and you divide this figure by 159 litres it equals to $0.219, the cost of one litre of crude oil. The Nigerian Naira equivalent 0.219xN160= N35.02k- Add Tax N5 + N35.02 = N40.029)
I challenge the experts in collusion with the Nigerian regime in Abuja to refute this and tell the world why a litre of fuel should still be sold for as much as N87. In fact, how did they come about N87/litre?
There are in fact two questions that agitate this writer: Do Nigerians need their fuel consumption to be subsidised? From the detailed cost breakdown above, when the moribund refineries at home can effectively refine for us the 12 million litres we need at much less cost, why should Buhari approve a whopping N407bn for fuel subsidy payments? We really do not need FGN SUBSIDY as there was none in the first place. Is the President not caught in the web of corruption himself?
With reference to the ongoing anti-graft war, doubtless many former public office holders have been indicted and duly charged. In Latin ”Lex autem non est personarum acceptor” which is interpreted in English to mean ”the law is no respecter of persons”. Reports say between 1976 and 1978 a whopping N2.8 bn disappeared from the NNPC account under Buhari’s stewardship. It was after Obasanjo had handed over to the civilian administration of former President Shehu Shagari in 1979 that the first alarm was raised that N2.8 billion got missing in NNPC during Obasanjo’s regime when President Muhammadu Buhari was the Minister of Petroleum Resources.
Consequently, Shagari’s government was said to have set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry headed by Hon. Justice Ayo Irekefe of the Supreme Court, to probe the alleged missing fund. Before one could say Jack Robison, President Shehu Shagari was deposed in a coup by Muhammadu Buhari thereby leaving controversy to trail the findings of that commission. Vera Ifudu who reported the findings of that commission live on NTA was sacked. There is no restating the obvious that Vera Ifudu was sacked to shred the evidence against him over the missing funds. It is time President Buhari told Nigerians why he swiftly rose to sack Vera Ifudu which is tantamount to encroachment on the freedom of news desk reportage.
These were indeed interesting times! In fact, this is indeed a shocking discovery that that has been swept under the carpet by the successive governments when IBB’s palace revolution terminated Buhari’s junta some 30 years ago. Could that money have developed wings from the Midland Bank, London account of the NNPC during Buhari’s stewardship in the Petroleum Ministry? That contentious N2.8bn Midlands scam needs to be revisited if the current war on corruption is anything to go by.
Similarly, the world has a burning desire to know what again happened to the missing N27 billion in his days as PTF chairman under late Sani Abacha who Buhari swore did not steal Nigeria’s money. The monies reportedly disbursed from the former NSA office included the repatriated Abacha looted funds. But Buhari did say with all emphasis Abacha did not steal our money. Does that not make him an accessory after the fact of money laundering operations for which he ought to be standing trial?
It will be recalled that Buhari and his ADC Col Mustapha Jokolo supervised the smuggling of 53 suitcases filled with cash against the protest of Idiagbon which metamorphosed into a drama at the airport of Lagos and ironically Atiku Abubakar was the former DG of customs. These are all verifiable facts which ought to be revisited in the ongoing war against corruption.
Conversely, what the world sees in the ongoing stunningly arranged and orchestrated trials are nothing short of double standards by being tough on law and order yet allowing you and your own cabinet members and party partisans to escape prosecution for fraud. This, I dare say, amounts to sheer hypocrisy of a tsarist regime.
Iyoha John Darlington, a scholar, social activist and public commentator on national and global issues writes from Turin, Italy.