Sunday 14 May 2006

Unnamed, unknown, unsung and undone in Nigeria

Imprecise numbers

After the oil blast in Nigeria that took probably 150 lives or more just in the suburbs of Lagos, I restricted my commentary to the blogs of other commentators who were in ways witnesses to the event.

However, I have decided to step into the fray by rehashing the comments I left on the Exodus of Ayoke because the issues about to be addressed by the government appear to be the usual seen-to-be-doing-something, but achieving nothing stance – another probe.

In my view, a probe in Nigerian parlance is the unconscionable propensity to allocate funds to an event bordering on an investigation that would produce a whitewash – that is the most appealing of the views I can express.

No lessons learnt from before

There have now been at least 7 reported incidents of pipeline roastings, the last three being in Lagos State, with the numbers set to vary depending on how the scene of the disaster is accessed and forensic abilities of the investigators.

Hardly 2 months ago, we had the census of the nation which involved closing down the country for a whole week and we hopefully would receive a plausible figure of the number of people resident in Nigeria.

Beyond that, even if a count of the victims were possible, identification beyond property on the bodies the victims would have been impossible. The health is not advanced enough for the documentation of health records talk less of dental records.

People generally would not have identity papers, and where they did, one cannot say that such information would be followed through.

Death in a desperate cause

The real number is somewhere in the number of those who have woken up the next morning to find a loved one has not returned home – that statistic would however not be recorded because going forward would stigmatise the family in terms of the theft of petroleum products rather than the quest for survival.

Worse still, the victims are being buried in mass graves; no worse an indignity can be visited on an African death than to end up in less than a pauper’s grave, shared in the company of those unknown but caught in the collective desire to make ends meet.

So, I would wonder what became of the previous investigations of the disasters like this and what is really being done to prevent the recurrence of such tragedy.

My earlier comments (edited)

If the 7th or 8th largest oil-producing country in the world still has people taking drills, buckets and jerry-cans to siphon oil from pipelines - great indeed is the poverty of the nation and greater still is the sin of those who lead us thus far.

When would this embarrassment of oil riches begin to smile on the little man who strives to the ultimate to make ends meet and ends up as unidentifiable charred remains?

The lack of Education, Opportunity and Goodwill

This whole thing feeds the ignorance of many who do not know the dangers of possible oil explosions. (Education)

Even if they did, there was a scarcity of oil for domestic purposes that it had to be imported into the country – almost a case of fish drowning in water.

It feeds the widening gap of prosperity/poverty that makes crime thrive and investment elope from the country. (Opportunity)

Beyond the achievements of debt relieve and the expansion of the telecommunications market, people are still desperately destitute, as the government has pre-occupied itself with the quest for extended incumbency.

It mitigates the stigma of corruption that permeates most strata of society. (Goodwill)

As over $300 billion has been earned from oil and this has been reflected in the emancipation of populace of out of poverty.

When would the money bring the honey?

When would oil money start to toil only for the people to the betterment of a great nation of promise? - Alas! We have only seen promise.

What can we begin to do to see the change we want our great country to become?

And is there a lifetime to expend for posterity or do we just hope someone would sort it out?

For those who have seen sudden hell - I do seriously sympathise - hopefully, they would not have died in vain.

Probe the causes and act to deal with them

Ensuring they would not have died in vain should not be about protecting the oil pipeline infrastructure or preventing crime, which are important things to consider, but the probe should ascertain the deeper breakdown of our moral polity.

Exploring the reasons for desperation that leads to reckless waste of life, as to why there is a shortage of domestic fuel products, how people in an oil-producing country cannot afford to buy fuel for basic consumption.

No easy answers

If a pipeline constitutes an opportunity for petty thievery to grave consequences, then standard of living of those “thieves” or potential thieves needs to be reviewed with major economic ideas to stimulate employment growth and commensurate wage earnings to meet the basic needs of the day.

There are no easy answers, but until the oil wealth of Nigeria gets withdrawn from foreign accounts of looters in governments past and present and the current earnings are applied with greater consideration for the wider Nigerian community – the last disaster would just be the first of many more to come.

The pledge of the probe

This is where the probe should begin – Fellow Nigerians, we are prepared to research the social, economic, political and psychological causes of these disasters, begin to make a greater difference to the lives of those in the Delta region and with that progress begin to make a different in the lives of Nigerians as a whole.

Then hopefully, those unnamed, unknown, unsung and undone in the disaster would not have died in vain, regardless of the crime of damaging the pipeline and stealing from the gushing breach.

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