Nigeria: Stealing in the Name of Nuclear Power
Anytime you hear that a new great ‘developmental project’ is being planned and undertaken by the Government of Nigeria (GON), it is important to identify who the short, medium and long term beneficiaries and losers created will be. Consultants, contractors, traditional land-owners, traditional rulers, government officials, board members and special interests groups are the short, medium and long term beneficiaries with a mix of obscene upfront fees, atrociously inflated contracts, preferential job offerings, generous concessionaire privileges under privatisation and convenient abandonment clauses. The 150 million ‘everyday Nigerians’ who the GON take out odious “development debts” on their behalf without asking them (by default) become the permanent losers but projected as winners by GON. This ‘development’ winners/losers dichotomy has now been moved to nuclear power, oil is failing.
In July 2015 I wrote an article titled Nuclear Power in Nigeria: Another Crazy ‘Pole Vault’ (http://wp.me/p1bOKH-ha). That was precautionary coverage of the monumental risks of managing nuclear power plants even in the most advanced countries, Nigeria’s permanent failure to manage simple safer thermal plants, the sheer inability to clean up the Niger Delta, acute national security weaknesses it will create and attempting nuclear energy in a hyper-corrupt and the misgoverned nation is a natural disaster of its own. In one year, nothing technical or institutional has improved in those matters and there is no evidence they will get better in the not too near future. If the GON cannot maintain with any consistency or constancy, roads, universities, schools, hospitals, emergency services, man-hours inputted, water sources/supplies, how is it going to do so with the most ‘unsafe technology’ mankind has ever known?
You cannot just pole-vault a nation into nuclear technology use. Such is nothing short of madness when the questions are asked and answered. Which Nigerian university is a world-renowned nuclear research centre? Does Nigeria have world-class radiation medicine centres? How many experienced and competent Nigerian nuclear scientists and engineers does Nigeria have that are living in the country? Does Nigeria have a transparent reliable technology and method for managing nuclear waste? Will Nigeria not take another odious loan to finance such a project? How can the GON be sure that Boko Haram or other insurgents will not turn a nuclear power plant into a “sweet target”? If the GON can answer these questions robustly then it should go ahead but we know a priori (and correctly) it cannot even attempt to.
Take Geiger counters to the Niger Delta and you will be surprised at the surreptitious radiation afflicting many ‘everyday Niger Deltans’. That is in addition to the most visible and most egregious oil pollution and gas flaring in the world. Cleaning up ancient and cumulative oil spills are infinitely easier than carrying out the clean-up of nuclear accidents and nuclear waste management. Nevertheless, this is not a rant about the Niger Delta. According to experts in the field, it is very likely to find significant amounts of nuclear or toxic waste dumped in any of Nigeria’s six geopolitical regions or thirty-six states. If the experts are right, some Nigerians are already suffering from nuclear disaster without the country operating nuclear power or refinement plants. Does the GON even care? Its another question worth asking.
So the GON has to get down to business and forget the science, technology, risks, precautions, the ancillary services and health services needed to operate a nuclear power station and we all know why. Nigeria must be stolen to death. Even with President Muhammadu Buhari in power, Nigeria must be stolen to death. The ground with the natural resources buried in it and Nollywood is all Nigeria has to offer.
The Grand Minister, Babatunde Fashola, has moped and failed to deliver the “six-month miracle of constant electricity” he so proudly promised: some even now call him “Minister of Darkness”. Unsurprisingly, the Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Kayode Fayemi is smiling with the greatest glee possible. Why not? There is going to be a lot of exploration and exploitation of Uranium and other stuff under his belt. Bank managers everywhere are waiting for Fayemi’s smile to them. Yippy! if he fails them.
It should be suggested and immortalised in the Nigerian Constitution that if nuclear power and refining plants are to be set up in Nigeria, they should be located within 20 miles of the home-town of the serving president or minister-in-charge. I trust the madness of acquiring nuclear power plants will be effectively cured.