Deregulation

Tue, Jun 11, 2024 | By editor


Opinion

By Steve Nwabuko

DEREGULATION is the process of unbundling encumbered and overbearing systems, structures and procedures that constrains the ease of doing business with a view to drastically reducing bureaucracy in public institutions, parastatals and agencies of government consumed in unnecessary bottlenecks, losses and corrupt practices.

Before Deregulation became a generic lexicon in Nigeria, it had toyed with other phrases like Privatisation and Commercialisation of government enterprises as part of recommendations in the World Bank capstone of Structural Adjustment Program (S.A.P) initiated and adopted by the Ibrahim Babangida military government in 1986.

The argument then was that  *government has no business in business* and that the private sector is best suited to drive economic growth and development with the government providing an enabling environment for business to thrive.

Between 1986 and 2024, thirty eight (38) years in view, Nigeria is yet to determine whether to run a free market economy where demand and supply determines exchange or a command economy whereby the government exercises full control over the economy.

In between free market economy and command economy is the windy, wieldy and weary interventions of the World Bank and Paris club creditors of multi lateral creditors that have hedged Nigeria into a debt trap of unimaginable proportions that has inextricably brought Nigeria on it’s knees and pitching the Federal government against international money lenders and also against a miserable Nigerian Public immersed in abject poverty, unemployment and insecurity.

Rather than Privatisation, Commercialisation and Deregulation help Nigeria, they have all combined to sink Nigeria into the abyss of the cesspool of corruption and incalculable depression economically, politically, socially, infrastructurally and materially.

With abundant but mismanaged oil mineral resources, proven cubit billions of gas reserves, proven trillion solid mineral reserves in gold, uranium, lithium, copper, iron ore, coal, bauxites, aluminium, bitumen etc, and huge human capital endowments that are fleeing Nigeria in droves daily,  gives rise to the issues of either wrong choices, by wrong leaders at wrong times or right choices by wrong leaders at right times.

The basic issues  therefore is woven around *Choices and Leaders* that Nigeria has rightly or wrongly made.

*HOW DEREGULATION LOCKED UP RATHER THAN UNLOCK NIGERIA.*

There are four compartments in deregulation:

Legal instruments.

Policy instruments.

Timing.

Space and Location.

*LEGAL INSTRUMENTS.*

Nigeria did not have strong legal instruments to guide, protect, prevent and project equitable and profitable Privatisation, Commercialisation and Deregulation practices before adopting it as national economic principles and practices.

Oil and gas was discovered in 1956 at oloibiri in Porthacourt, Rivers state but it was in 2020 that Nigeria would draft and pass into law its Petroleum Industry Act (P.I.A) almost sixty four(64) years after oil was discovered in Nigeria.

Though Nigeria had a Bureau of Public Enterprises act, it’s existence was more in the breach than in strict observance going by the infractions in the process of selecting eligible bidders for national assets.

The Due Process provision of public tenders has been discountenanced as seen in the unilateral award of the Lagos to Calabar coastline highway project by Presidential fiat.

*POLICY INSTRUMENTS.*

Nigeria does not have clear cut policy directions.

To wit, Nigeria has produced and abused or abandoned the following policy initiatives:

Vision 1990.

Vision 2000.

Vision 2010.

Vision 20-2020.

Vision 2050.

National Livestock Transformation Policy.

In all these visions, Nigeria got blinded and fell into the ditch, pit and trap of humongous foreign and local debts.

Nigeria has no budgetary vision and has never fully funded any of it’s annual budgets from 1960 to date but relishes in budget padding and brokerages to be paid to politicians to get the budget approved for spending and not for implementation.

*TIMING.*

Deregulation is subject to three seasons:

Season of certainty.

Season of uncertainty.

Season of productivity.

Nigeria’s season of certainty has come and gone and it failed to deregulate the economy.

During the oil boom of 1973, Nigeria had too much foreign exchange for investments but rather chose to share cash to the civil servants in what it called Udoji awards and in splashing cash to host FESTAC ’77 and indigenization decree of 1976.

None of the indiginised companies  are existing today due to mismanagement, graft and board squabbles.

Nigeria’s season of uncertainty came in 1979 when power was returned to civilians in the second Republic of wastages, stealing extravagance and  indolence.

It was marked with import license racketeering, abandonment of agriculture, high demand for education,  population growth and establishment of oil refineries in Nigeria. and iron and steel company in Nigeria.

Rather than deregulate the oil and gas sector, the octopus called NNPC was created to be sharing oil wells to civil war veterans and individuals connected to the corridors of power rather than deregulate and allow private sector participation in building refineries.

All the private individuals that benefited from oil well allocations never built a single refinery from 1979 to date but stashed their funds in foreign bank accounts and built offshore refineries outside Nigeria from whence the are importing refined petroleum products into Nigeria after making sure that Nigeria’s four refineries will never work again.

Nigeria’s season of productivity came under General Babangida’s military regime and the outbreak of the Iran/Iraq war in which oil prices rose to as high as $140 USD Dollars per barrel in 1990-1992 and rather than Babangida  deregulate the oil sector, he set up ECOMOG and funded it at the end of which $12 billion USD Dollars of crude oil sales windfall could not be accounted for after a probe launched by late Dr Pius Okigbo of blessed memory termed a lost investment opportunity.

President Jonathan witnessed rise in oil prices to as high as $120 USD Dollars in 2012 and attempted to deregulate the oil and gas sector but opposition parties led by the Western Press and Pastor Tunde Bakare’s save our soul (S.O.S) held sponsored and uninformed political protests at Chief Gani Fawahinmi square at ojota lagos that frustrated and  scuttled Jonathan’s deregulation plans.

Ironically, the same forces that sponsored the ojota lagos political protests in 2012 are in power today and paying subsidy on petroleum products secretly and unashamedly.

It was former Governor Fayemi of Ekiti state that admitted in 2022 that the 2012 oil subsidy removable protest was political and surreptitiously sponsored by ACN political party in Lagos to discredit former President Jonathan’s reform agenda.

*SPACE AND LOCATION.*

Deregulation functions around economic localisations and proximity to supply source or sources.

The way Nigeria’s iron and steel company was sited in ajaokuta beats economic sense when iron ore is located at itakpe in Delta state far away from ajaokuta where it was finale located for northern political exigencies.

The way a big oil and gas refinery was sited in Kaduna about seven hundred kilometers away from Warri, it’s closest crude source beats economic sense.

Deregulation is meant to be productive and profit driven but it is cumbersome, convoluted, compromised,  problematic and ethnic driven in Nigeria.

*PHILOSOPHY OF DEREGULATION IN NIGERIA.*

Deregulation in Nigeria is benchmarked by overregulation or centralisation of institutions, laws and enforcement agencies in opaque and questionable therapies.

*THE OIL AND GAS SECTOR.* 

How can you talk about the deregulation of the oil and gas sector when the President appoints himself as the Minister of Petroleum Resources and acting as the Chief superintendent officer over NNPCL that ought to be the regulatory body of the oil and gas sector but assigns sole importation of Petroleum products to itself, cronies and allies?

How can one talk about deregulation of the oil and gas sector when in the aftermath of the signing into law of the Petroleum Industry bill in 2022, Melee Kyari was returned as Group Managing Director of NNPCL after superintending a failed NNPC that was embroiled with huge financial loses, oil theft, pipeline vandalism, opaque employment procedures, secret promotions and retirements of NNPC staff, unaccounted oil export proceeds, oil swap deals(Direct supply, Direct purchase), crude oil collateralisation for foreign loans, unpublished daily crude production quota figures, over bloated local consumption of Petroleum products, non functional four refineries from 1999 to 2024 inspite of huge regularly approved turnaround maintenance budgets by Federal government.

Nigeria has spent over twenty trillion naira in criminal oil subsidy payments by Petroleum Products, Pricing and Regulatory Commission (P.P.P.R.C) in conjunction with NNPC opaque and voodoo calculations in what it calls under recovery claims and yet petroleum products prices continue to be determined by international refined petroleum products prices.

Whereas Aramco of Saudi Arabia and Petrobras of Brazil which are contemporaries of NNPCL are among the first ten biggest companies in the world, NNPCL is the worst run oil and gas company in the world and unable to make profitable returns out and it’s questionable non transparent operations.

THE FINANCIAL SECTOR.*  

The Nigerian financial system began to experience problems in 1986 with Babangida’s World Bank induced Structural Adjustment Program (S.A.P) which he claimed had no economic alternative.

It was the erudite late Professor Sam Aluko of blessed memory that challenged Babangida and his then Finance Minister, Dr Chu S.P. Okongwu that there is an alternative to S.A.P even unto death because classical economics is the study of alternative parts and models to meeting human needs and wants.

Babangida’s S.A.P thesis introduced the devaluation of the naira, free and floating interest rate regime through second tier foreign exchange market that liberalised uncontrolled access to foreign currency with a predominantly dormant real sector that had started witnessing capacity under utilisation, capital flight and high interest and lending rates regimes in what Dr Chu S.P Okongwu called a traumatized economy.

The Chukwuma Soludo, then CBN Governor in 2002, Banking consolidation in which he pruned down to twenty five banks from ninety two(92) pedestrian banks in Nigeria by mergers and acquisition brought some sanity but never improved Bank’s lending to small and medium enterprises or stop round tripping of foreign currencies within the banking system and money markets as rogue book balancing insider abuse bank reporting figures of burgeoning profit figures without reflecting on national economic growth indices.

In addition to CBN being the chief regulator of the financial system, were other institutions like the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (N.F.I.U) by the banking act of 2004 and National Extractive Industries Transparence Initiative (N.E.I.T.I) which were primed to monitor and enforce transparency in Nigeria’s deregulation functions but were overwhelmed by political manipulations and prebendal interests in undermining the ethos of the system due to corruption culpability.

A CBN that is deemed to be autonomous was frivolously hijacked by the Presidency under the Buhari administration between 2015 to 2023 leaving behind unexplainable debt profile in excess of seventy seven(#77) trillion naira in both local and foreign debts and incurred indignant printing of almost twenty three (#23) trillion naira ways and means(local printing of naira currency) in blatant disregard to the banking act provisions as pointed out in 2022 by Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo state in a feat of rage and gubernatorial patriotism.

And former President Buhari had the effrontery to warn his successor never to query any act of his tenure while in office between 2015 to 2023 as if that was the reason why he handed over power to the incumbent President irrespective of whether election was held or not.

*POLITICAL LEADERSHIP AND THE FOIBLES OF INEC CONSPIRACIES.*

Choices and leadership are the bane of Nigeria’s fall from grace to grass.

Deregulation in Nigeria did not just fail in the oil and gas sector or the financial systems sector, but suffered the greatest fall in Nigeria’s leadership selection process as mismanaged by the Electoral umpire called INEC.

Between 1999 to 2023  when the political landscape was deregulated with the formation of multi party presidential system of government, our democracy had failed to deliver dividends to the people.

Rather, the right to franchise of the Nigerian electorates has been hijacked by the political parties in the manner of lack of internal democracy in the parties, now substituted for totalitarian party leadership, coupled with a naive and fiat accompli National assembly that is in bed with Executive arm of government to remain in power through manipulation of the constitution and electoral act that prescribes the modus operandi for leadership emergence in Nigeria.

Lately, the Judiciary has been recruited through improved remunerations to completely lock up the space for free and fair election in Nigeria never to happen again.

We are witnesses to the manipulation of the election results of 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019 and 2023.

Looking back to those seven badly managed elections, it is right to say that election fraud has been deregulated in Nigeria with the entire Nigerian security architecture aiding, abetting and obstructing the emergence of a Nigeria people’s installed political leadership at both the states and Federal levels.

*RECAPITULATION*

Wrong choices and wrong leadership in Nigeria from 1966 to 2023 are responsible for Nigeria’s current debilitating status in the committee of nations.

General Babangida walked away with unexplainable $12.5 billion USD Dollars oil wind fall between 1985 to 1993 and Nigeria moved on without asking why and how.

General Sani Abacha stole about $5 billion USD Dollars directly from CBN coffers between 1993 to 1998 for which Nigeria is still recovery Abacha’s looted funds up till date.

And yet Nigeria moved on without asking why and how?

General Abdulsalam Abubakar could not explain how Nigeria’s foreign reserves depleted to as low as $3.0 USD Dollars in May 29, 1999 and which was not enough for one months import bills for which former President Olusegun  obasanjo said that General Abdulsalam Abubakar’s *handover note could not add up.*

And Nigeria moved on without asking how and why?

Former President Obadanjo left our economy in a healthy status and got all our debts cancelled to zero but rigged the 2007 elections to install his puppet, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua  who confessed that the election that brought him to power in 2007 was highly flawed.

And yet the Supreme court of Nigeria approved of his leadership and oath taking.

President Goodluck Jonathan was found to have approved a slush fund of #2 billion USD Dollars security vote to his national security adviser, Colonel Dasuki for election rigging in 2014 and former President Jonathan’s Petroleum Resources minister is still on the run and in exile in the United kingdom since 2015 to date for misappropriations in the oil and gas sector between 2011 to 2015.

And yet we moved on without asking why and how?

President Buhari ran the dirtiest and most corrupt government in Nigeria since 1960 between 2015 to 2023 leaving behind a debt profile in excess of #77 trillion naira, unaccounted currency printing in excess of #22 trillion naira, stolen #684 billion naira Covid 19 palliatives in the Humanitarian Affairs Ministry under Hajia Farouk, stolen #109 billion naira by Accountant General of the Federation, Alhaji Idris Ahmed, but now a free man, mismanagement of Paris club funds by Buhari’s finance minister, Hajia Zainab Ahmed who was recommended by Buhari to become Senior Vice President at the World Bank in 2023 and $25 billion USD Dollars oil and gas untraceable contract formulated and awarded by late Maikanti Barau, former NNPC GMD, for which the former Minister of State Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu placed in the public domain through protest letter to President Buhari and his late chief of staff Abba Kyari.

And yet Nigeria has moved on without asking why and how?

Lastly, Nigeria is being treated with a travesty of wishy washy Lagos to Calabar coastline highway at the cost of $13.5 billion USD Dollars by President Tinubu’s Federal minister of works, Dave Umahi without due diligence, Environmental Impact Analysis, Public tenders board approval, National assembly appropriation and budget provisions but simply a Presidential Executive Order initiative.

And Nigeria is moving on without asking why and how?

Truth be told, Nigeria has been deregulated into a lawless and corrupt society where might is right and no respect for rule of law and application of constitutional dictates.

*For Nigeria to recover and succeed again, the entire security and Judicial systems must be sanitised and overhauled.*

What makes USA and other first tier highly developed countries great is the fear of its judicial system and security system like Federal Bureau of Intelligence (F.B.I), C.I.A, Mossad, M15, County courts in the UK, Chinese Police, and it’s enforcement of punitive legal provisions.

Until Nigerians begin to have respect for the rule of law and fear the consequences of flouting the laws, corruption will not be stamped out in Nigeria.

The change must come from:

The Judiciary.

The Police.

The Presidency.

The Legislature.

And INEC.

*Corruption is a clear sign of disloyalty to the state and withdrawal of allegiance to the institutions of state because of the corrupt nature and lifestyles of the leadership of the country.*

*The international institutions that sold Deregulation to Nigeria as a driving force of free market economy, knew that deregulation is not practicable in Nigeria because of pecuniary gains, ethnic diversities, distrust, compromises and Leadership failure.*

The Asian tigers of China, India, Singapore, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia that have strong legislations and strict regard for justice delivery system and efficient policing over and above deregulation as panacea for economic growth have all adjusted to the pursuit of excellence and development in the 21st century.

*Nigeria was deregulated for crime, criminality and state capture and that is why we got it wrong with the privatisation of:

Nepa/Energy sector.

NNPCL

Banking sector.

Politic Parties.

And INEC.

Bad leadership and wrong choices in a diversified society have brought Nigeria to it’s lowest ebb.

God help Nigeria.

A.I

June 11, 2024

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