11 March 2013, Sweetcrude, Port Harcourt – The appointment of Naomi Campbell, forgive me, Diezani Alison-Madueke to the top job at the Petroleum Ministry was a controversial story and the first indication the Nigerian public had that this president is not a man that would worry about the sensitivities of his people. In the economic politics of Nigeria, at least four major groups present themselves as stakeholders of the oil and gas wells that dot the Niger Delta region: the Northern states that produce no oil but desire to mutate into several more states because of the incongruous arrangement in a federal state of sharing revenue accruing from one region on a monthly basis; the federal government that legislated the resources into its ownership and supervises the sharing; the industry that operates the resources and the states (and communities) that actually produce the resources. Although Ms. Campbell could trace her pedigree to at least two of these groups, her nomination by the president was rejected by all four groups and indeed anyone who had an interest in the continuity of the system.
She was fortunate in many respects. Her critics were blackmailed into silence by feminist groups who successfully dragged the issue into the realm of sexual discrimination. She was given a free hand to operate as a substantive minister without a junior minister where her predecessor, Odein Ajumogobia, SAN was only a minister for state with full time supervision from the Rock. By the time she settled into office the production fields had been calmed into tranquillity for her by Umaru Yar ‘Adua’s amnesty programme. Also, the downstream sector had found some rhythm, stability and predictability. She entered upon her duties with unhelpful attitudes such as lateness to meetings, absenteeism, lack of a team spirit and acted as though she had been in the pith of production activities at Shell where she got her “experience” of the industry. Anyone who dared to remind her that public relations and production were two very different kettles of brew got into her bad books.
The Petroleum Industry Bill, the promised piece of revolutionary legislation to re-order the ills of the Oil and Gas Industry and assuage the suffering of oil and gas producing communities, was finally submitted by the Petroleum Ministry to the National Assembly. Before it was submitted however, the Petroleum Minister set up a task force that included men like Senator Tunde Ogbeha, Senator Udo Udoma, Prince Chibudom Nwuche and PENGASSAN’S Peter Esele among others to do a review of the Bill. The task force sat, poring over provisions and making recommendations. Little did they know that their efforts accounted for nothing. Some of them now swear that the document they reviewed is by far different from the copy that was submitted to the National Assembly.
The Minister’s PIB, from promising to unite the divergent aspirations of stakeholders into an acceptable position for all, now portends to tear the country apart. The IOCs are drawing up new strategies for divesting of their stakes in Nigeria as they are worried that the fiscal provisions in the PIB would make Nigeria’s investment environment the most expensive in the world.
The SPDC has decided to postpone a $30 Billion investment in Nigeria because of the Bill. Industry watchers agree that if the PIB passes legislation as it is, it would convert Nigeria’s Oil and Gas Industry, from the Commonwealth of Nigeria to the personal fief of the Petroleum Minister because of provisions that grant her office more powers than the presidency. The current Minister’s appreciation of history is so little that she has tailored the Bill to serve the ends of an office she thinks she will occupy forever.
Last week, Shell complained that they are losing sixty (60) thousand barrels of crude daily to pipeline vandals and crude oil thieves. Their investigations, they claim, revealed that illegal crude refineries are building large tank farms to store stolen products. We see this as the direct consequence of a mishandled amnesty programme and the failure of the Petroleum Ministry to invest in modern technologies that detect and prevent pipelines vandalism and other acts of sabotage and theft.
As there is no reason to hope that the Presidency would wake up to its responsibilities by redeploying Ms. Campbell to the Culture Ministry or demanding her resignation, it is now left to Nigerians to march her under the forceful will of twenty (20) thousand or more feet in and around Nigeria’s own Tahir Square, out of the office of the Honourable Minister for Petroleum Resources.