Re: 83% Blocks For Northerners: A Monumental Scandal


By Ben Nanaghan

On March 6, 2013, the Nigeria Senate in a closed door session debated the salient aspects of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). The Senate President quickly stopped the deliberations as one of Nigeria’s most well kept  secrets was exposed by Senator Ita Enang who is the chairman of the senate Rules and Business Committee. Senator Enang in a melodramatic fashion proved that 83% of Nigerian Oil Blocks are owned by Northerners

That same evening the buzz went round the social networks of facebook and twitter even though most people including this writer passed the news as one of those media taunts and jokes. But alas it was true as most of the newspapers of the next day had it as their scoop.

However, I want to thank Senator Enang for resisting intimidation to bring this unfortunate news to light. I was expecting the street of major southern capitals to be filled with protesters and demonstrators but to my greatest surprise, it was not so. The culture of protesting for change is indeed alien to Nigeria and this has further galvanized the caste system which ensures that the gulf between the haves and the have-nots widens continually and uncontrollably until stopped by unrelated forces.

This expose has confirmed one basic fact and truth. And this confirmation is that Boko Haram is not as a result of poverty in northern Nigeria but because of the northern ruling elite to make Nigeria ungovernable since President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan won the April 2011 elections. I have defended this position in all my write-ups but because it is now transparently enshrined in our culture and tradition to shun the truth and settle for falsehood, Nigerians still believe that boko haram is as a result of poverty in the north and I have always asked the advocates of poverty as the cause for boko haram if poverty is a non-existent factor in southern Nigeria especially in the Niger Delta Region of the South-South. Of course the northern elite use this poverty theory to hoodwink credulous Nigerians to create the impression of a  President  Goodluck Jonathan complacency and a federal government liability and inability to create wealth in northern Nigeria.

One of the greatest proponents of the poverty theory is General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma who is also one of the biggest beneficiaries of “all oil Blocks for the North Crusade”. For instance when this writer visited Takum, Gen. Danjuma’s home town, in Feb 1979 our former defence minister had only a small hut as his home but with heavy military presence. But today the same former minister is a dollar trillionaire who confessed that he did not know how to cope with his excess oil wealth. The retired  General even sold one of his oil blocks to prove that he had more than one oil block.

The case of Alhaji Mai Deribe of Borno State made very intresting reading.

The late Alhaji Mai Deribe’s family is the operator of oil block license no OML 110 and this oil block nets an average of N4 BN (four billon naira monthly). The interesting aspect of this revelation is that Alhaji Mai Deribe has license for only one oil block and he nets four billion naira monthly.

What about A big Lagos Oil magnate who operates 6 oil blocks?

Most Nigerians are not fooled by the number of oil blocks awarded to friends and cronies of former heads of state. Many of these oil wells are held in strong trust for these former generals.

It is not shocking that a serving government official with the name of Mallam (Prince) Sanusi Lamido also owns an oil block and a marginal oil field. What about former Vice President Atiku Abubakar whose operational jurisdiction stretches to as far as Sao Tome and Principe? But I was so surprised to discover that late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was among the oil mafia.

But surprisingly the name of one former General and former Head of State is conspicuously missing from the list. Did I say missing? If you look properly you will see the name in capital letters. Why do you think a Lagos-based oil company was given 6 oil wells? You will see the fury of an angry general the moment President Jonathan reallocates one of these 6 oil wells.

And so the North gets 83 out of Nigeria’s 100 oil wells. This figure is hypothetical. And yet eminent personalities like Prof Gambari believes that the North was intentionally pauperized by President Jonathan and this gave rise to boko haram insurgency. It is so very unfortunate that such calibre of people who know the truth, are being so economical with the truth to protect the status quo in the North from disintegration and disrepute.

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The Nigerian economic environment is more capitalist than capitalist America which is the citadel of global capitalism. If not, why should government allocate community resources to individuals who are not directly or indirectly affected by the devastating outcome of its exploration and exploitation. A community   oil block will distribute the positive domino effect advantages of spreading the benefits of democracy to its basic grassroots. When wealth is concentrated in the hands of just .5% of total population and 99.5% are allowed to wallow in abject poverty, it will definitely translate into socio economic problems and doom for such a country.

And the irony of it all is the monkey de work, baboon de chop philosophy it all entails. The first oil well discovered in Nigeria was the Oloibiri Oil well in 1958. Exploration started in 1960 but today Oloibiri is a sad story to tell. Despite the fact that President Jonathan had part of his primary school education in Oloibiri, the community is still a ghost town today.

The Northern Oil producing  Licencees have drained the last drop of Oil from Oloibiri and Oloibiri is  now a shell of its old self. The North has always been beneficiaries of the Nigerian experiment because they have had hegemonic monopoly of power since 1957 when Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa became the first Nigerian Prime Minister.

So if the North has ruled Nigeria for 41 years and the south 15, it goes to show that the North should be fully held responsible for Nigeria’s  woes bearing also in mind that Gen. Obasanjo was chosen by the North to rule on behalf of the south for the North.

The Northern monopoly of power is further attested to by the overbearing “ownership mentality” of the Northern Directors-General and even the junior officers who display an undisguised and conspicuous swagger of the “heir apparent” mentality.

The distribution of the Niger Delta Oil Operating licenses, OPL, is a tip of the ice-berg. In all sectors of Nigerian life the advantageous superiority of North over South is not in dispute. Go to the civil service and check the ratio of Northern Directors-General against those from the south. Go to the Nigerian Customs Service and you will unearth the biggest and most devastating scandal in the Nigerian civil service. Go to the Immigrations, Police, Prisons and you will wonder if we are truly one country with equal opportunities for all the ethnic groups.

The Federal Government should with immediate effect revoke all OPLS and reward 60% to oil producing communities while sharing 40% of total oil blocks to non-oil producing communities. The Federal Government must never award any OPL to any individual or company. Let us practice equity in all spheres of our national life.

What society are we trying to build if a surrogate company fronting for a former president can get more than 5 oil wells and smile to the bank with over N20BN monthly at N4BN per oil well while the poor civil servant is paid a scandalous ten thousand naira only which does not get home with him after defraying part of his debts. Can we continue with this nation of unequal opportunities, where a few privileged crooks hold the nation to ransom with their stupendous wealth?

A visit to the Niger Delta tells the whole tale of unjustifiable inequality in Nigeria. From Ogbia to Nembe and to Okoroba in Bayelsa is an example of vast and unbelievably polluted ocean enclaves. In Odigbo Local Government Area of Ondo State, the about 350,000 people of Gbenewei, Tarebo and Ebijaw communities do not even have ONE SECONDARY SCHOOL. In Edo State it is even worse as Okomu, Gbelebu, Safarogbo, etc, do not have Gov. Adams Oshiomole’s so much touted magic touch. For instance, Okomu which is one of the oldest communities in Edo State does not have a secondary school or even a motorable road.

The Federal Government should make an attempt to ameliorate the lives of the Niger Deltans who have since 1960 gone through the trauma of pollution which has devastated their ecosystem.

It is unfortunate that to date the derivation formula of 13% is still stagnant and is a source of anger and worry to Northern Legislators who believe that the derivation formula is unnecessary, outdated and frivolous. The Northern Senators also quarrelled with the 10% host community fund (HCF) which Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi contested because according to him the HCF cannot deter bunkering.

This audacious revelation by Senator Enang could rock the boat in the Niger Delta if urgent steps are not taken to rectify this abnormally vexatious tragedy.

•Nanaghan wrote from Lagos. E-mail: [email protected]