by Michael .O. Dibiaezue.
Looking at unfolding events in my country Nigeria, today, I ask how it is possible for a President in full view of our collapsing security situation to go ahead and impose policies that do nothing but aggravate an already frightening situation. Surely, something has gone terribly wrong with decision making in our country. There has to be overpowering reasons for this and they are what I intend to explore through this write-up.
In 2005, the US National Intelligence Council (NIC) announced to the world that Nigeria will break up by the year 2015 if it continued on its then socio-economic path. In May 2008, the official homepage of the United States military (click here) described a war-game scenario playing out in which "The Nigerian government is near collapse and rival factions are vying for power in that troubled part of the world"" It added "The exercise centers around realistic threats to ongoing peace around the world, like the potentially negative effects of globalization, competition for energy, demographic trends, climate change and natural disasters, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the existence of failed or failing states that could be havens for terrorists." In other words, the prospects of Nigeria collapsing with rival factions vying for power are very realistic threats to our nation according to the US government.
In February 2008, Vice Admiral Moeller, in a presentation at an Africom conference held at Fort McNair, declared that protecting "the free flow of natural resources from Africa to the global market" i.e. the West, was one of Africom's "guiding principles" and specifically cited "oil disruption," "terrorism," and the "growing influence" of China as major "challenges" to U.S. interests in Africa. Dwelling on Moeller's statement, clearly reveals Africom's intended purpose and its relationship to war exercises such as Unified Quest 08. Not just that, it showcases America's intolerance to growing spheres of influence and competition. To lump influence and competition alongside terrorism and oil disruption is to underline the fact that America considers them an act of war which is exactly why Africom views them as challenges.
This attitude and the several programs being foisted on African nations in furtherance of these American policies have led to a very negative drain on the African economy. According to Daniel Volman of the African Security Research Project, under the Direct Commercial Sales Program (DCS), the US State Department granted licenses for the sale of police equipment (including pistols, revolvers, shotguns, rifles, and crowd control chemicals) by private U.S. companies to African governments. In the financial year of 2008, American firms were expected to deliver more than $175 million worth of this kind of hardware to Algeria through the DCS program, along with $2 million worth for Botswana, $3 million for Kenya, $19 million for Morocco, $17 million for Nigeria, and $61million for South Africa.
The question that needs to be asked is why it becomes US policy for private US companies to sell $17 million worth of crowd control chemicals and guns to Nigeria or an excess of $300 million of these equipments to select African countries whose citizens live on less than $2-$3 a day, instead of desperately needed medication and infrastructure? Leaders of these African countries will no doubt be tempted to apply these equipments to the suppression of their people and when they refuse to abide by Western dictates for whatever reasons, will be hauled before the ICC at The Hague for killing their citizens.
One will find all across Africa today, several programs put in place for the direct enrichment of the US Military/Industrial Complex. (1) The Flintlock 2005 and 2007 are Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) exercises to provide training experience for American and African troops. The Flintlock 2007 exercises involved forces from Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. (2) The Joint Task Force Aztec Silence (JTFAS) is charged with conducting surveillance operations using the assets of the U.S. 6th Fleet (such as the spy plane P-3 Orion) to share information, along with intelligence collected by U.S. intelligence agencies. In February 2008, the U.S. 6th Fleet conducted seven days of joint maritime exercises (known as Exercise Maritime Safari 2008) at Nigeria's Ikeja Air Force Base with the Nigerian Navy and Air Force.
There are also (3) the Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Partnership (TSCTP) which links the United States with eight African countries: Mali, Chad, Niger, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria. (4) The East Africa Counter-Terrorism Initiative is a training program similar to the TSCTP, and is a multi-year program. (5) The Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance Program (ACOTA) has Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia participating. (6) The International Military Education and Training Program (IMET) militarizes African youths by training them in the art of war. (7) The Foreign Military Sales Program ensures the sale of US military equipment through the direct supervision of the US government which provides loans to finance these purchases by African governments. (8) The African Coastal and Border Security Program (ACBS) provides specialized equipment such as patrol vessels and vehicles, communications equipments, night vision devices and electronic monitors and sensors to African countries.
Setting aside the colossal sums of money paid by our governments in hosting and participating in these programs, Nigeria and most African countries risk laying bare all their defence and security secrets to elements that may or may not align themselves with America's goals. Modern aerial surveillance planes, like the P-3 Orion, are capable of acquiring and storing huge amounts of data, including photographs of vast swathes of land mass. Rogue elements within the US military may be persuaded, as they have been on numerous other occasions, to sell our defence and security secrets to unknown parties. It is also important to note that whereas these exercises expose virtually the whole of Africa's land mass to prying eyes, the same cannot be said for those Western nations that share in the exercises.
These exercises and programs can best be described as a platform for advertising and marketing American military hardware and crowd control equipments, a market place if you like, which in turn result in the wasteful drain on the Nigerian and African economies. To be sure, there is no point to training people and conducting exercises if the equipments they are trained to use are unavailable to them. Another thought is these exercises provide the pretext for mapping out terrain and for participating foreign nations to test their new ships and weapons with a view to assessing their adaptability and performance on the African continent. The only ingredients missing for persuading African leaders to buy military hardware and crowd control chemicals are the destabilizing stimuli of war, social unrest and conflict. These stimuli can occur as a result of foreign interference or the imposition of unbearable living conditions.
The Niger Delta resistance and the Boko Haram insurgency are clear examples of these destabilizing stimuli at work. No matter the reasons for their occurrence, fact is that government by virtue of these uprisings will be seriously inclined and persuaded to invest in materials and equipments that help quell them. Needless to say, these kinds of purchases are a drain on any economy seeing that they do not add positive growth to a people's economic quest.
On December 2011, another kind of destabilizing stimulus was put to play in Nigeria. The Managing Director of the IMF, Christine Lagarde arrived Nigeria to meet with President Jonathan. Her primary mission was to order him to get rid of fuel subsidy. The issue here was not the unbearable conditions this directive imposed on Nigerians but the freeing up of funds to more quickly enable us service our debt to her organization. The dictates of IMF's conditionality ordered funds accruing from the removal of subsidy and elsewhere to be placed with a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) and invested in Western markets, the implication being that such funds were unworthy of investment in the Nigerian economy.
Bearing this in mind and noting well that such SWF belonging to the Libyan people was confiscated not too long ago by Western powers, it becomes unrealistic to expect that our SWF, a condition put in place by the IMF, would be applied to lifting the socio-economic yoke of the Nigerian people whereas our debts remained unpaid and I.M.F cash-strapped. My educated guess is that the promises of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment programme (SURE) will never materialize for want of funds elsewhere applied.
Finally, we come to the issue of subsidy itself. It is a misnomer for government to brand what is by all practical definitions a petroleum tax as subsidy. Essentially, the pump price of fuel at our filling stations, when refined locally, is determined by the sum of a series of costs. They are exploration, development, operation, refining, distribution and marketing costs. Figures available for 2005 and at that year's exchange rate of 130 Naira (N) to the dollar, show that exploration costs came to $.025 per barrel or N.02 per litre, development cost $4 per barrel or N3.27 per litre, operation costs $7.05 per barrel or N5.74 per litre, refining costs $21 per barrel or N17.17 per litre, distribution costs were N2.45 per litre, marketing costs N5.87 per litre bringing total costs for the pump price of a litre of fuel in Nigeria to 24 cents or N31.50 per litre. With pump prices at N65, it means government makes a profit of N33.50 on every litre of fuel sold at the pumps i.e. a profit in excess of 100%.
As long as crude remains extractable from our soil not much will happen to change these 2005 projections, aside from distribution costs. Government's inability to fix existing refineries (which enabled production and delivery costs of a litre of fuel to reach our pumps at 24 cents or N31.50) has now allowed for the kind of fraud we see today in the fuel importation business and has culminated in the emergence of a cabal that hold both government and citizens hostage. This situation is what has made removal of "subsidy' mentionable and has led to the intolerable position Nigerians find themselves today. So, even here, we also see that government's decision to obey Lagarde and remove subsidy amounts to the application of a destabilizing stimulus.
That fuel subsidy could be so arrogantly removed on New Year day without feeling or recourse to Nigerians or their representatives at the National Assembly, speaks of the fear our leaders harbor for International bankers and the degree of control these bankers exert on our lives through their influencing of government's policies. It is in fact, a showing of how sovereign nations are targeted and ripped opened by the lecherous fingers of international financial institutions .
Having said this much, we need to now look at the bigger picture. What we have is the Ambassador to US (a foreign power to which our government has thrown open our borders and country; one that has not come bearing gifts but to educate us on how to kill ourselves [Africans] and present us with the means to get it done at economy-wrecking prices) campaigning and pledging support for the removal of subsidy. Standing shoulder to shoulder with the US, is the I.M.F that has ordered our government to impose conditions which will result in untold hardship to the masses of my country. In other words, our government is being ordered to abdicate its primary responsibility to the people and trash its very reason for being.
It does not take an Einstein to figure what the outcome will be and that result clearly manifests today in the social upheaval that rages. I find it curious that the US government should scare and startle Nigeria with its break-up prediction and turn around to hold war game exercises with it, as the catalysis (i.e. the I.M.F's directive on fuel subsidy removal) to accelerate and bring about such prediction are activated. Observing that the US is I.M.F's foremost patron and financier, it would not be stretching the imagination to think that these actions were premeditated. Considering all this therefore, would it not be true to say that the U.S, Christine Lagarde and the IMF, by their support and directive on the removal of fuel subsidy, have instigated the protests, riots and strikes sweeping across Nigeria today?
There is not a shadow of doubt in my mind that these unfolding events have been brought about by the interference of foreign entities (aided by their agents in government) in the affairs of another sovereign state and that they had been carefully planned for one end; the destabilization or break-up of my country. If President Jonathan abandons us to carry out the instructions passed to him, he will be given the tools and equipments with which to fight us on the streets by this same foreign power while funds will be provided for their purchase by the same shylock financial institution that wish us all dead. If he does not, more destabilizing stimuli will be applied to bend his will. This may come in the form of our being blacklisted and isolated. Sanctions may also be applied in various forms to make us croak and surely, a bad name will be given to that dog.
What Jonathan must do is to look inwards. He must get himself a good pair of scissor and set to work trimming the unsustainable size of government. He must also go to the National Assembly and cut their coat to size. He must let the political class know the party is over. The subsidies of security votes, inflated contracts and ghost workers must go. The subsidy on corruption and unaccountability must also go. Our refineries must be brought back to life and more built. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) must be seriously diminished and overhauled. Our manufacturing sector must be rehabilitated and tools for effective production put in place, the power sector would be a good place to start.
Government must be made to do some work and now would seem a pretty good time to start. War games and exercises coupled to the purchase of oppressive instruments for use on the citizens of my country will only disenfranchise him politically and out him as a dictator. To conclude, one final question for Christine Lagarde. How would the French react if the price of fuel were to more than double on New Year day? Would Nicholas Sarkozy still be sitting pretty on his political throne?