When it comes to attacking and witch-hunting the defenceless, or the underestimated, President Muhammadu Buhari has a heart larger than Zuma Rock – his machismo is unlimited; when it comes to dealing with major players in the Nigerian economy Buhari’s timidity is fantastic. In his anti-corruption campaign, Buhari has focused purely on the refund of stolen and the freezing of economic activity, causing much suffering and hunger in the land. Still, he dare not go against the oil companies that have raped Nigeria for what it is worth for over half a century. It takes more than average testicular fortitude to deal with such concerns and losses.
Rev Nnimmo Bassey, the Right Livelihoods Award-winning environmentalist, recently articulated that the penalties for gas flaring by oil production companies operating in Nigeria are far too low to have any mitigating incentive or outcome (http://www.vanguardngr.com/2016/09/environmentalist-flays-low-penalty-gas-flaring/). Nigeria is by far the most significant gas flarer in the world. Even the low penalties for gas flaring if adequately enforced, would fetch the Government of Nigeria (GON) $1.1 billion per annum. Still, Buhari appears not to be interested whatsoever in collecting that kind of legally deserved money. He has to remain in power, and oil companies can kick him out any time they like. Independence in 1960? That is why taxes worth over $5 billion per annum never get collected by the GON from oil companies. Some would think such amounts of money are too large to ignore or give up without a fight. It is the equivalent of building 6000MW of electric power per annum.
Over $6 billion lost in the non-payment of oil taxes and gas flaring penalties were lost in one year due to a very corrupt GON at all levels. It is the same amount of money Buhari went to China to borrow, which will shackle Nigeria for a long time and on mostly unfair terms. Such is the grand institutional failure of the supposedly regulated oil and gas industry. Buhari is brave with political enemies, and he is bold with focusing his might members of the immediate past Goodluck Jonathan administration in the name of anti-corruption. Buhari is a Goliath when it comes to bombing Niger Delta militants plus mostly innocent people and other restive groups in the (except the Fulani Herdsmen to whom he is a patron). And he is brave with oil bunkerers (not the foreign concerns that sponsor, initiate and coordinate the bunkering trade). But ‘funk’ absorbs him when dealing international but powerful interests that continue raping Nigeria ruthlessly.
We do not see any courage, direction, commitment or engagement on the part of the GON in the Niger Delta clean-up arrangements. All we hear are public relations coups about the Niger Delta clean-up that create false hope for those concerned. Yet, the Man thinks the use outdated military intimidation and ‘mad dog syndromes’ (the wanton manic use of military force against mainly defenceless citizens) is the way forward. The days when people would hear the words “police” or “soldier” and become morbid with fear are long gone. Restive groups are even daring the Nigerian military to ‘come and test bone’, yes. These unruly groups got to this stand-point through endless suffering and having nothing whatsoever to lose. They also realise that the GON is perpetually very frightened of tampering with the interests of foreign concerns and consider it when preparing to ‘test bone’. It is a new but pervasive reality.
An ex-military leader with courage and the love of his country in his heart will make sure he stops oil companies avoiding billions of dollars in taxes annually for work done in Nigeria. And make sure that penalties for gas flaring levies are revalued to a level that is high enough to discourage the practice as well as promptly collect them. We want to see Buhari being courageous in many aspects of Nigeria’s governance and to end of the ‘blame game.’ Funk na bad thing.