Wednesday 24 October 2007

Fair-trade oil quest for Nigeria

Yar’adua, a different kind of dinosaur

The Nigerian Jurassic Park seems to be entertaining an audience as one observes the probability that it is about fossils turning to oil or dinosaurs awakening to new life.

The Economist this week has a piece on the venerable, God-fearing but sedentary “servant-leader” and whilst I would not contribute to the disparaging “go-slow” epithets that President Umaru Yar’adua is living up to, the jury is still out as to if this man is really up to the job.

Before we jump to any judgement, the four issues the President has offered to address are the economy, corruption, power and violence – there is enough information about these matters and the dinosaur metaphor to these would be to grow the economy into an African behemoth, to stamp out corruption with unmistakable footprints, to harness the raw energy resources of the nation to meet our power needs and swat untrammelled violence with the swish of the dinosaur’s tail.

Basically, Nigeria has big problems that requires big minds, big hands, big decisions, big strides and a man ready to step into the big shoes of government to steer this big vehicle called Nigeria in the right direction – Umaru Yar’adua has a nation in waiting to see if he is big enough for the task ahead – the virtue of patience is on a rather short fuse lately.

Lukman seeks a better price for Nigerian oil resources

The fossils of dinosaurs not brought back to life through maniacal DNA gene science lie in the Niger Delta area as oil that is selling for more than ever, it hit $90.07 a barrel in trading last Thursday and no doubt the times are looking good for those whose lands were dinosaur graveyards.

The generous terms that Western oil majors got in exploiting the oil resources of Nigeria are about to suffer deserved scrutiny and review with the aim of extracting more for what is ours; about time, as one reads from the Financial Times today.

The terms were negotiated decades ago when prices were a paltry $20 or less which has the oil companies sharing revenues only after they have recouped the cost of their investment – one wonders who accounts for real cost of investment - this is a loophole for corruption.

There is no doubt that the oil industry in Nigeria is in need of radical reform, and President Yar’adua has revoked a number of dodgy arrangements in the industry that the erstwhile President Obasanjo let through which have been termed irregular and worse with one of the businessmen honourably pulling out of the deal.

The issue of reviewing the oil company deals was raised by Dr. Rilwanu Lukman – now that is definitely an oil man who has been in the forefront of the Nigerian oil industry since the time of the dinosaurs - chairman of Nigeria's oil and gas reform committee who was once the Secretary-General of OPEC for 6 years – this is an interesting development, maybe the president is really creating a groundswell of activity that might suddenly hit us like a tsunami.

Meanwhile when we start selling fair-trade oil - like coffee, cocoa, tea and bananas; it is time oil extraction and the price it is sold at brought back a greater difference to the livelihood of Nigerians at large - I do hope that the poverty statistics that have become the epilogue to any Western commentary about Nigeria and the violence that plagues the Niger Delta would subside as fairness allows for these revenues to prosper the people of Nigeria.

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