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OPINION

RARE, RADICAL BATTLER TAKES A BOW: 

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MC ALLI: 1944-2023

By Tunde Olusunle

The uncanny combination of his names which featured Christian and Muslim epithets was sufficiently intriguing to tickle my curiosity and inquisitiveness. He had become a notable public figure back in 1986 when Nigeria’s military President, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida appointed him military Governor of the old Plateau State.

Seven years thereafter he was catapulted to the position of Chief of Army Staff, (COAS) under the regime of Sani Abacha.
Abacha had upended the Interim National Government, (ING), hurriedly cobbled together by the departing Babangida in August 1993, as he bowed to popular pressure to disengage.
This clamour became more rancorous following Babangida’s mismanagement of the “June 12, 1993 election,” which was patently won by the charismatic multibillionaire business mogul, Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, but summarily annulled by Babangida.

In a military dispensation, the office of COAS is nominally and politically the Number Four position. There is a “Chief of Staff,” Supreme Headquarters,” (CSSH), or a “Chief of General Staff, (CGS),” in the Number Two placement. There is also a Chief of Defence Staff, (CDS), who often doubled as the coordinating hub of the three military services, the army, navy and airforce. He was therefore labelled “Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, (CJCS).” He was Number Three in the political hierarchy of a military government. Professionally and operationally, however, the position of COAS was the de facto Number Two. He superintended over the army, easily the largest defence and fighting arm of the military complex. He reported directly to the Head of State, who was concurrently the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. 

Historically, the COAS was always also a Member of the nation’s highest policy and decision-making organ in a military government. The body has been variously christened over decades of military rulership. It was at some point the “Supreme Military Council,” (SMC), and later the “Armed Forces Ruling Council,” (AFRC). Abacha opted for the designation of the body as “Provisional Ruling Council,” (PRC). The COAS is a highly regarded and influential office popularised in the past by military greats like Yakubu Jack Gowon, Hassan Usman Katsina, Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, Alani Ipoola Akinrinade, Babangida, Abacha himself and Aliyu Mohammed Gusau. 

Abacha named Mohammed Christopher Alli, then a Brigadier-General his COAS upon his disbandment of the ING in November 1993 and simultaneously elevated him a Major General. Alli was a battle-tested, war-toughened officer who fought in the fiesty Nigerian civil war between 1967 and 1970, and commanded a battalion even as a fresh joiner into the military. Alli had also served  as Nigeria’s Defence Attache to Zimbabwe; Director of Military Intelligence, (DMI) and General Officer Commanding, (GOC), of One Mechanised Division of the Nigerian Army, headquartered in Kaduna. Alli was therefore very well groomed for his new job. 

I was on the Editorial Board of the *Daily Times* at the time Alli was appointed COAS. I had the added responsibility of maintaining a weekly interview page which I christened “Dialogue this Week.” I had the latitude to interview reputable Nigerians across the broad spectrum of the society on topical issues. The simple mention of the name of the organisation, opened doors. Tunji Oseni, who succeeded the suave and debonair Yemi Ogunbiyi. The latter had launched a massive rebuild of the Daily Times behemoth following his appointment as Managing Director in 1989. Oseni worked hard to keep apace with Ogunbiyi’s multi-pronged legacies. I therefore wrote an official letter to Alli requesting to meet and interview him. Alli replied my correspondence. It was a surprise somewhat knowing how insular the military could be. His military assistant at the time, I.I. Hassan a Lieutenant Colonel, acknowledged my letter and proposed a date for my visit early in the month of February 1994. 

*MC ALLI* beamed from the name tag on the breast of his work gear when I came face to face with him. My preliminary impression of him was that he was urbane and personable. His father, he told me in answer to my preliminary banter, was a Muslim, his mother was a Christian. His bouquet of names which are popular with both religions therefore arose from this background, that intriguing mix of “Mohammed” and “Chris” (abbreviated from the original version of the name, Christopher). He displayed notable wit and diplomatese for a steely, rugged soldier. I congratulated him once again on his appointment. “You want an interview,” he asked as he proferred his hand for a handshake and waved me to the visitor’s seat. I responded in the affirmative. 

“I’m still taking stock of this office as you probably can see,” he began. “Much as I want to talk to you, I wouldn’t want to respond to some of your questions with a “no comment” reply.” Continuing, Alli said: “What you can do for me is to exercise some patience. There will be a lot to talk about the army just as there must be a lot to talk about *The Times!* Just wish me well as I lead and rebuild the army but rest assured I will talk to you.” Alli the rare breed, cerebral combatant tactically wriggled out of the dragnet of my proposed inquiries. He did speak about sundry issues concerning his background and career though. Arising from that encounter, my article was titled “Mohammed Chris Alli: Portrait of a Soldier-Patriot” and published in the *Daily Times* of Saturday February 5, 1994. 

Months after that encounter and barely one year in office, Alli was removed by Abacha and replaced by Alwali Jauji Kazir, another army General in August 1994. He was reported to have regularly nudged Abacha on the imperative for the revalidation of the “June 12, 1993” election which was clearly won by MKO Abiola. He was said to have subtly, albeit stridently pushed for the military to return to the barracks to enable democracy thrive. The totalitarian, feared and dreaded Abacha had aided the ascent of some of his military predecessors to political limelight and long coveted the highest office in the land himself. He was indeed nicknamed the *Khalifa,* (meaning the successor) on the sidelines of the Babangida regime. He wouldn’t brook any suggestion to terminate his rulership under whatever description. Alli was summarily retired on the same day with Allison Amaechina Madueke, a Rear Admiral and Chief of Naval Staff, (CNS), who was also progressively-inclined like MC Alli. 

After his compulsory retirement, Alli tried his hands on entrepreneurship. He established a woven sacks factory and a gas-filling plant side-by-side,  in Lokoja the capital of his state of origin, Kogi State. I remember he named the latter *Mohca Gas Ltd,* a play on letters from his names. He was thus a regular caller at the historic confluence of the Niger and Benue rivers, where he had a home. Coincidentally, I had moved over to Lokoja from Lagos on a second spell, as an appointee of the sitting military administrator this time around. Paul Uzoanya Ndimele Omeruo an army Colonel, appointed me his Chief Press Secretary and Director of Press Affairs, beginning from May 1995. With Alli’s more frequent visits to Lokoja to tend his teething investments, we continued to see each other more frequently. I was assured a few chilled drinks whenever I stopped by to say “hello.” He famously regaled me with stories of his penchant for radical dissent against the establishment even as a young secondary school student. He would typically tell me: “… What the school authorities tried to do on that occasion ran counter to my ideals and principles. I rebelled.” 

Nigeria’s former military Head of State and democratically elected President, Olusegun Obasanjo, tapped Alli in 2004 to serve as Administrator in the perennially acrimonious Plateau State, where Alli was once military Governor. Under the leadership of the democratically elected Governor of the state, Joshua Dariye, sectarian violence had reportedly claimed over 50,000 lives. This compelled Obasanjo to declare emergency rule, after suspending the Governor and the State Assembly. Within Alli’s six month service which ended in November 2004, he developed the “Plateau Peace Programme” in collaboration with religious, ethnic and community leadership. He also offered amnesty and fiscal rewards to holders of weapons who turned them in. Alli’s measures considerably helped in calming down the situation in the state.

Mohammed Christopher Alli was born on Christmas day in 1944 in Kotonkarfe, headquarters of present day Kotonkarfe local government area in Kogi State to Mallam Alli Adakwo Alaburah and Mama Rebecca Ojumori  Nanashe Abayomi. He attended Trinity High School, Oguta, Imo State, and the Metropolitan College, Onitsha, Anambra State. He actually had a tinge of *Igbo* accent, a language he spoke fluently. He demonstrated early intellectual disposition, posting a well-earned Division One performance in the very competitive West African School Certificate Examination, (WASCE), in 1962. 

He had his earliest military education at Fhiegehorst Isaufboren, West Germany between 1966 and 1967, and the Nigerian Defence Academy, (NDA) in 1967, where Abdulsalami Abubakar who later became Nigeria’s Head of State was his course mate. Alli attended the “Platoon Commander’s” course in Westminster in the United Kingdom in 1971, and the “Unit Commander’s” training in Pakistan in 1975. He was at the Command and Staff College, Jaji, Kaduna State, a tri-service military training institution, in 1978 and the National Defence College, (NDC), India in 1990. He obtained a masters from the University of Allahabad, Pakistan, to understanding his deep-seated inclination towards scholarship. 

Alli began his working career as a laboratory assistant with “Kirkpatrick and Partners” in Kaduna, after a failed attempt to secure a job at Eastern Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation in Enugu. He also served as “archive assistant” in the Kaduna-based National Archives. His attempt to enlist in the police was opposed by his father, even as he secured an appointment as a non-commissioned officer in the fledgling Nigerian Airforce. Fortune smiled on Alli in 1967 when the civil war began. He applied for a short service commission in the army and was admitted. Thus began his odyssey in the Nigerian Army. He authored a very courageous and profound book of over 400 pages titled *The Federal Republic of Nigerian Army: The Seige of a Nation,* published in 2001. He was also member of the Editorial Board of the reputable *The Guardian* tabloid which flaunts itself as the “flagship of Nigerian newspaper journalism.” 

Years after he hedged from obliging me an interview, Alli became an interviewer’s delight. He was famous for his engaging frankness, broad perspectives and refreshing profundity on a wide canvas of issues. He sadly passed at a military hospital in Lagos in the morning of Sunday November 19, 2023, a little over a month to his 79th birthday. Encomiums have continued to pour from across the world. The Nigerian Army has declared a three-day mourning period in his honour during which all flags in all Nigerian Army formations are to fly at half-mast. Alli’s uncommon insights in the variform military, security, intelligence and administrative sectors, will be sorely missed. So will be his unwavering patriotism, untiring nationalism and undying commitment to the growth and progress of Nigeria, a country he was willing to die for.

*Tunde Olusunle, PhD, poet, journalist, scholar and author is a Fellow of the Association of Nigerian Authors, (FANA)*

OPINION

Irukera: How Not to Reward Altruism

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By Tunde Olusunle

Monday January 8, 2024, Nigerians woke up to the news of the suspension of Betta Edu, who was formerly the Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation. On the same day, Babatunde Ayokunle Irukera who was for six years Executive Vice Chairman of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, (FCCPC), was relieved of his appointment.

Both developments compelled an essay which I titled “On Betta Edu and Tunde Irukera.

The article was generously ventilated by the media even as I attempted to draw comparisons between two public offices with different pedigrees and also different “misdemeanours.

” Evidence in the public domain attested to blatant disregard for public service rules and mammoth thievery by one of the two people I wrote about.
The other public servant was uncharacteristically innovative, transparent and altruistic in his approach to work. He literally excavated a government agency in the throes of asphyxiation and obliteration, to a world class organisation, to local and international aplomb.

Much unlike me, I had, just weeks before, written about Irukera following the recognition of the agency he superintended over as “Government Agency of the Year.” This was evidence to how very closely I followed the good works of Irukera. The honour in question came from *Leadership* newspapers one of Nigeria’s most reputable tabloids. FCCPC was selected for the acclamation for “promoting fairness, regulatory stability and consumer protection within the marketplace.” My piece alluded to the uncommon-ness of Irukera’s attitude to public service which is construed by many office holders as licence for the wholesale looting and holistic decimation of departments assigned to them. Haven’t we just been told that nine officers in the Nigerian Customs Services, (NCS) were recently fingered in a N12 Billion scam?

In pronouncing the FCCPC under Irukera as an authentic public service exemplar, *Leadership* noted that since his appointment in 2017, the organisation had pursued “a transformative journey reshaping and rebranding the erstwhile Consumer Protection Council, (CPC).” Further, the newspaper noted that the organisation had been refocused as a “proactive and consumer-centric FCCPC.” Irukera’s oversight of the commission’s transformation and operationalisation beginning from January 30, 2019, *Leadership* noted had been a game-changer. Further still, the awarding newspaper said: “Following the enactment of the FCCPC Act, Irukera has demonstrated “unwavering dedication to fostering a dynamic and responsive regulatory environment.” The FCCPC under Irukera it was observed “has recorded numerous milestones across diverse sectors including healthcare, digital finance and electricity.”

According to *Leadership,* “one of the standout accomplishments of Irukera’s FCCPC is the strategic development and implementation of the Patient’s Bill of Rights.” That initiative establishes a comprehensive framework empowering patients with essential rights such as informed consent, confidentiality and unrestricted access to their medical records.” The Patient Bill of Rights, *Leadership* observed, “serves as a charter of principles delineating the rights and responsibilities of patients, healthcare providers and the regulatory body.” This is “an approach which fosters a culture of transparency, accountability and patient-centric care.”

Irukera’s leadership at the FCCPC witnessed other strategic initiatives and impactful interventions in other sectors, notably in digital finance, the power sector and in the nation’s bureaucracy. FCCPC was also catalytic in shaping Nigeria’s business environment which became more cognisant of the emplacement of fairness, consumer protection and regulatory stability. Local and foreign investors have continued to experience the transformative impact of standardised practices instituted by the FCCPC. This congruence between national and international standards, in combination with rigorous process auditing and the development of guidelines and standard operating procedures, serves as an imprimatur of quality assurance in the Nigerian marketplace. These are identified perspectives about Irukera’s exertions in public service as dispassionately enunciated by one of Nigeria’s more serious newspapers.

Confident of his transparent governance approach, Irukera was never shy of media engagement. On the eve of the last yuletide therefore, Irukera hosted the media where he noted that the FCCPC under him, had become a wholly self-sustaining department. According to him, the FCCPC made history in 2023 by generating N56 Billion. The feat was achieved by the simple enforcement of compliance to existing laws vis-a-vis the payment of penalties by defaulting companies. This was a novelty by any standards in a milieu where many government funded establishments overdraw their allocations, expend their internally generated revenues, (IGR) and still prospect for supplementation. Irukera noted at that media interface that the organisation hired new staff in strict adherence to service procedures. This assisted the federal government in taking off young, qualified, unemployed people from the streets.

Perhaps if every ministry, department or agency under the thoroughly dysfunctional Muhammadu Buhari regime had transparently recruited qualified youths across board, the national despondency levels will be mitigated albeit marginally. Much of what we picked up in the media space was hush-hush recruitments into “A-grade” MDAs like the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), the Federal Inland Revenue Service, (FIRS) and so on. After addressing staff emoluments, overhead costs and capital requirements, the FCCPC, Irukera noted gifted the federal government N22 Billion by way of remittances! This was a most un-envisaged precedence by a government agency which was picked up from the backwoods and transformed into a national model, even bride.

On Wednesday February 28, 2024, the Senate of the Federal Republic under the leadership of Godswill Akpabio, rubber-stamped the request of President Tinubu to sack Irukera. He was deemed inefficient! For those who have followed the quiet yet impactful revolution which Tunde Irukera has pursued in the past six years, nothing can be more preposterous. There wouldn’t be a joke more cruel, more malevolent, more unfeeling than such a testimonial to a man who has invested so much in service to nation at testy times such as we have been in the past decade. Irukera demonstrated that government concerns can be effectively and productively run. What do we make of an organisation like the National Board for Arabic and Islamic Studies, (NBAIS), which was in September 2022 reprimanded by the legislature for unjustified spending? The Senate Committee on Finance and Appropriation queried NBAIS for spending N8.5 Billion annually, on 6000 employees to administer examinations to 500 students. No heads have rolled ever since in the Professor Muhammad Abdullahi-led organisation.

The spiteful removal of Babatunde Ayokunle Irukera from office the way it has been done is gross injustice and colossal disservice to patriotism and sacrifice. There have been unfounded suggestions to the effect that Irukera was blackmailed as one of those who “substantially” supported former Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo’s bid to contest the presidential primary of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) in 2022. This is most farfetched for a technocrat like Irukera whose gaze is almost permanently fixed to his desk treating official correspondences, receiving briefs, holding meetings. In other climes, Irukera should by now have in the bag recognitions like the “National Productivity Order of Merit,” (NPOM) as well as a minimum investiture with a national honour in the category of “Officer of the Order of the Niger,” (OON). He chose, however, not to hunt for titular aggrandisement preferring to immerse himself wholly and completely in service to fatherland.

Irukera’s mistreatment echoes the manner Damilola Ogunbiyi who was Managing Director of the Rural Electrification Agency under the Buhari government, was unjustly treated in 2019. She has since moved on to the global heights of the “Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for Sustainable Energy for All.” She is also Co-Chair of UN Energy. Irukera always had a flourishing law practice in the United States before heeding the call to avail his country of his multiplex competencies and experiences. He is not a jobber like many whose only CV is “being abroad.” For as long as he remained in his job in Nigeria, he ran his family by telephone, virtually. The manner he has been treated will be a major disincentive to Nigerians out there who would otherwise be glad to come contribute their quotas to national development. In Irukera, Nigeria has a brand ambassador who should be engaged to hoist the nation’s banner across the world. He deserves to be genuinely apologised to, pacified and given his flowers.

Olusunle, PhD, poet, journalist, scholar and author is a Fellow of the Association of Nigerian Authors, (ANA)

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OPINION

Interest Rate Hike – Knee on Nigeria’s ailing Economy! 

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Nick Agule

Introduction

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) yesterday, 27th February 2024 briefed the nation on the outcome of its meeting.

A major decision that was announced was to raise the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) from 18.

75% to 22.75% (400 basis points).
The MPR is the rate at which the CBN loans money to the commercial banks.
The commercial banks in turn add their margins to the interest rate and charge higher rates on loans they extend to their customers. 

Here are the reasons why this is a wrong decision for Nigeria’s ailing economy and rather than being the “necessary steps to get the country’s fiscal and monetary health back to normal” as the CBN Governor announced, rather portends the killing of the economy:

  1. The CBN erroneously thinks Nigeria is suffering from inflation alone, but the country is suffering from stagflation which is a triple whammy of inflation, low output and massive unemployment.
    Tragically if a doctor gets a diagnosis wrong at the outset, the medication will be wrong and possible death of the patient becomes a reality! This is the situation Nigeria’s economy faces now!
  1. Inflation alone can be tackled with increases in interest rate because if there is too much money in the economy that’s fuelling demand for goods and services, if the MPR is increased, individuals and businesses will find it more expensive to borrow so the volume of money in the economy will be reduced. Also interest on savings will rise and individuals and businesses will find savings more attractive therefore demand for goods and services will fall. With the combined effect of less money in the economy and lower demand, prices of goods and services will fall (fall in inflation is achieved!). 
  1. With stagflation however, if you increase interest rates, you are doing more harm to the economy than good because you solve stagflation by increasing output hence creating more jobs. If you increase interest rate, it becomes more difficult for businesses to access credit to boost output. As businesses fold up, the unemployment situation worsens! To resolve stagflation therefore requires interest rates to be cut so that businesses can afford cheaper credit and boost supply which consequently boosts employment thus leading to economic recovery. Cutting rates risks increase in inflation but if the CBN is faced with the twin evil of inflation and low output/high unemployment, the economy stands a better chance of survival if there is a boost in output and a cut unemployment. If interest rate is hiked, the economy may never recover. But if interest rate is cut, output will rise and unemployment will fall and even if there is a side effect of increased inflation, it is a better outcome overall! 
  1. A rise in interest rates tackles demand-pull inflation. However, Nigeria’s inflation is not only demand-pull (rising prices due to demand). There is a massive cost-push inflation (rising prices due to increasing input/production costs) arising from the twin government policies of increase in fuel costs and foreign exchange unification. Due to the poor power supply in Nigeria, businesses are forced to run on generators and the increasing fuel costs are transferred to prices. Same for increasing transportation costs. Same for increasing costs of imported inputs. Even the increased cost of borrowing becomes inflationary as businesses transfer all these costs to the consumers! All these factors lead to rising prices without a change in demand. INTEREST RATE RISES WILL NOT RESOLVE COST-PUSH INFLATION!
  1. To make matters worse, the CBN increased cash reserve ratio (CRR) to 45% (which is the amount of deposits that commercial banks must transfer to the CBN) e.g. if a customer deposits N1m the commercial bank must transfer 450k to the CBN and only have 550k to loan to the economy. This curtails the bank’s ability to boost the economy which is in stagflation and badly needs a boost in output or slow death is imminent! Increasing interest rates in an economy that is struggling to breathe (low output and massive unemployment) is killing such an economy!
  1. Another major cause of inflation in Nigeria is supply shortages (from low output). Even if demand remains the same or even falls, if the supply of goods and services falls, there will be inflation! A good example is food. Because less food is being produced due to insecurity around the country’s farming communities and even where farming is taking place it is by manual labour that does not produce much, and imported food has become too expensive due to naira crash, and farm inputs have become more expensive due to forex crash, the supply of locally produced food to Nigerian markets has drastically fallen such that even if demand is held constant, the prices will rise. Demand for food and other necessities does not respond to MPR because people must eat therefore even if MPR increases to 100% consumers will not save because they must buy food to survive! The solution to the food crisis therefore is to reduce interest rates so that farmers can access cheap credit to produce more food! And urgent steps must be taken to mechanise agriculture and insecurity must be addressed! FOOD INFLATION WILL NOT RESPOND TO INTEREST RATE INCREASES!
  1. Ways and means. This is a process where the CBN prints money (credits the account of government without value) which throws a lot of liquidity in the economy which in turn fuels inflation. The same CBN then raises interest rates to try and control the same inflation they have caused! The CBN can best control this inflation by stopping ways and means! INFLATION WILL NOT RESPOND TO INTEREST RATE INCREASES IF WAYS AND MEANS CONTINUES! 
  1. Unemployment. With a massive unemployment approaching 50% and even those who are working are poorly paid or not paid at all, the CBN can provide data to support their conclusion that Nigeria’s inflation is demand-pull because empirical evidence suggests otherwise. At a minimum wage of N30,000 ($20), most households cannot even afford the basic necessities. Where is the demand the CBN is seeing? Interest rates increases in other economies have succeeded in taming inflation because 95% of the people are in jobs with money to spend whereas in Nigeria majority are living from hand to mouth! INTEREST RATE INCREASES WILL WORSEN THE UNEMPLOYMENT CRISIS IN NIGERIA!
  1. The CBN says interest rates increases will help with the foreign exchange crisis. However, those who are converting their naira balances into dollars will not stop even if interest rates rise to 100% because they want their money saved in dollars! Those who are looking for dollars to pay school fees and medical costs abroad will not stop because interest rate has gone up! Even if interest rate is 100% they will still buy dollars to pay the fees and medical costs! Interest rate increases rather does more damage to the foreign exchange crisis because as local businesses are unable to access cheap credit they will fold up or produce far less, Nigerians will thus continue to import goods including food thus worsening the exchange rate and exacerbating inflation. Only a boost in local production can support naira to become stronger and interest rate increases does damage to output!
  1.  To underscore that the CBN has been getting it wrong, since the interest rates have been increasing, inflation is jumping higher and higher and not slowing as expected. There is no other evidence that interest rates rises is the wrong solution because the patient (economy) is not responding to treatment (interest rate increase)! In other nations, interest rate increases have succeeded in slowing down inflation but not in Nigeria! Nigeria is suffering from typhoid (stagflation), but the doctor (CBN) thinks it’s malaria (inflation)!
  1.   With power supply at 3,000MW, the Nigerian economy is on life-support and cannot produce enough goods and services to meet even the basic demand. The Nigerian inflation is caused by low supply and not high demand as the CBN thinks! There can never be high demand when the people are multi-dimensionally poor! The solution is to boost power supply to at least 10,000MW in the first instance. Qatar where President Tinubu will soon be heading to are less than 3 million in population but delivery 12,000MW of electricity which is an average of 4,000MW per day to 1 million people but Nigeria is giving 3,000MW to over 200 million people! There is no way the Nigeria’s economy will do well with such abysmally poor power supply regardless of the interest rate! INTEREST RATE HIKES WILL NOT RESOLVE INFLATION FUELLED BY LOW SUPPLY WHICH RESULTS IN LOW EMPLOYMENT – STAGFLATION!

Conclusion:

To resolve Nigeria’s stagflation:

  1. The CBN is to STOP further rate increases and begin rates cut in line with President Tinubu’s pledge in his inauguration speech.
  1. The CBN is to reduce the CRR so that banks can have more liquidity to lend to the economy to boost ouput!
  1. Reduced rates will boost supply and cut unemployment leading to an eventual fall in inflation even if it rises at the first instance.
  1. Fiscal policy to release the power sector 100% into the private sector. Transmission company (a bottleneck in the power value chain) to be leased or sold to global power operators to boost the capacity. No sufficient power supply, no economy!
  1. Fiscal policy to mechanise agriculture, tackle insecurity, lease/sell steel plants, lease/sell the rail infrastructure, stop gas flaring and harness for power, domestic and industrial uses etc.

#ABetterNigeriaIsPossible

Nick Agule is an oil and gas expert and a public affairs analyst.

Twitter: @NickAgule

Email: nick.agule@yahoo.co.uk

Facebook: Nick Agule, FCA

28.02.2024

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OPINION

Combating Oil Theft Remains a Joint Effort between NNPCL and the Navy

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By Adewole Kehinde

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” Henry Ford

I came across the interview of the former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, where he asserted that the lack of coordination between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPCL) and the Nigerian Navy could be impeding the strenuous battle against oil theft.

Quoting the former Senate Minority Leader, “I went to the office of the Chief of Naval Staff.

He had this screen in his office. He could see Takwa Bay; see that? And I said to him, ‘Sir, I didn’t know that you had all this.
That means we can track this and that.
So, what’s the real problem?’

“He said there is no linkage between us and NNPC. So, we don’t know what NNPC is doing.”

I remember vividly that on September 4, 2019, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Nigerian Navy pledged to deepen collaboration to tackle the menace of crude oil theft and attacks on oil and gas facilities.

The two organisations came to the resolution when the NNPC Ltd. GCEO, Mallam Mele Kyari, paid a courtesy visit to the former Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas (Rtd), at the Naval Headquarters.

Kyari, who applauded the intervention the Navy had brought to ensure sanity to the system in a statement he issued by the then NNPC Ltd’s spokesperson, Mr Ndu Ughamadu, noted that there was a need to do more as crude oil theft was still a potent reality in the nation’s oil and gas industry.

The then-Navy chief noted that the corporation’s intervention in resolving the challenges to its operations was welcomed.

Reacting to the Chief, Kyari said NNPC Limited was ready to support the Navy in any initiative it could come up with to further check the menace.

Also, on January 19, 2020, NNPC Ltd. GCEO Mallam Mele Kyari pledged to work with the Nigerian Navy to stop oil theft.

Mele Kyari said this when he visited the Navy Base Ojo, Lagos State, where he met with the then FOC Rear Admiral Oladele Daji.

In another development, on March 14, 2022, the Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC Ltd.), Mallam Mele Kyari, paid a courtesy visit to the then Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, at the Naval Headquarters. The purpose of the visit is to strengthen the working relationship with the Nigerian Navy.

On April 2, 2022, the Nigerian Navy commenced what is evidently its biggest operation aimed at putting an end to oil theft and illegal refining in the Niger Delta, with the deployment of 40 ships, five helicopters, and 200 boats for “Operation Dakatar Da Barawo” (stop the thief) across the region.

On the same day, the Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC Ltd.), Mallam Mele Kyari, assured Nigerians that with this special naval operation against oil theft in the country, Nigerians would begin to see measurable results in two to three weeks.

The then Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, disclosed that “Operation Dakatar Da Barawo” was in collaboration with Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC Ltd) and that it confirms the Nigerian Navy and NNPC Ltd’s collective resolute and deep commitments to end the menace of crude oil theft, illegal oil refining, and other insecurity within the nation’s maritime environment.

The then-CNS appreciated the contributions of Kyari and his staff for helping to activate the operation, which he said would last for three months. Gambo stressed that the Nigerian Navy, on its part, has over the years undertaken several operations geared towards ensuring unhindered exploration and exploitation of the nation’s maritime resources for economic growth and national development.

The then-CNS assured that the Nigerian Navy under his watch remains committed to eradicating all acts of criminality in Nigeria’s maritime domain and, by extension, the Gulf of Guinea for the economic well-being of the people.

“He assured me that Operation Dakatar Da Bararwo would involve dominating the nation’s backwaters through aggressive and intelligence-driven patrols.”

He adds: “It would also be dedicated to monitoring pipelines, blocking identified strategic estuaries to prevent conveyance of stolen crude oil from inshore to sea, and maintaining a credible presence along the coastline of areas prone to crude oil theft.

“This initiative became necessary considering the recent reports of massive revenue losses, which compelled all efforts to be emplaced to curtail the wanton crude oil theft and illegal bunkering of crude oil in the nation’s maritime environment.

“The operation would also involve aerial surveillance as well as the insertion of special forces to conduct clearance operations.

“The vast expanse of the nation’s maritime domain coupled with the limited capability of maritime security and law enforcement agencies, including the complex nature of maritime threats, make it expedient for maritime stakeholders to emplace more robust collaborative engagement to surmount these crude oil thefts, illegal oil refining, and other maritime security challenges.

“We are bringing at least 40 ships, between 100 and 200 Navy boats, and we are deploying between four and five helicopters, some of which will be coming and going throughout the period, and all Navy Special Forces and units will also be involved to make sure the operation is successful.”

On November 2, 2023, the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) BEECROFT discovered and halted the syphoning of petrol from one of NNPCL’s pipelines at Atlas Cove, Lagos.

NNS BEECROFT commander Kolawole Oguntuga said, “The thieves connected hoses and suction pumps to vandalised parts of the pipeline to steal petrol. After halting their activities, the NNPCL was alerted, and repairs on the vandalised parts of the pipeline have gone underway.

“Efforts are ongoing to detect and rectify other potential vulnerabilities along the pipeline to ensure a comprehensive approach to deter future illegal activities,” he said.

On July 17, 2023, the Nigerian navy evacuated the equipment of suspected oil thieves on oil mining lease (OML) 18, in Elem Krakama creek in Degema LGA of Rivers State.

Suleman Ibrahim, commander of the Nigerian Navy ship (NNS) Pathfinder, said the discovery led to the dismantling of multiple pipelines buried in the ground.

He said the equipment was used in syphoning crude from oil well 17 operated by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited.

The commander said its patrol helicopter noticed the unlawful activities on July 11, 2023, and that the excavation exercise was done in collaboration with the NNPC.

“We came here with members of NNPC and OML 18 resources; they are the owners of the well,” he said.

“We came with our heavy equipment to make sure we dismantled the illegal structures that were being used to syphon crude illegally.

“A lot of pipes have been recovered from the wellhead, and we have disconnected where they are being connected.

“As an individual, what I have seen here is way beyond what I have seen elsewhere. The level of sophistication is beyond our imagination.

“The individuals involved had taken their time, done a lot of measurements, and did welding on-site.”

He said the cartel involved in the act is being tracked, noting that they will be arrested and prosecuted accordingly.

With the above chronicles of cooperation and operation by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) and the Nigerian Navy, it would be wrong for someone to say that there is no linkage between the Nigerian Navy and NNPC Limited.

Kehinde is the publisher of Swift Reporters and can be reached at 08166240846. E-mail: kennyadewole@gmail.com

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