The logic and significance of El Rufai’s call: ‘Kill NNPC or NNPC will kill Nigeria’

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ON Monday, July 13, 2015, at two separate events,
two elected prominent, influential and powerful
public officers, one a Governor, the other a national
legislator, made similar policy advocacy on
fundamental aspects of the economy, which could
determine the direction of civil society-government
relationship in the coming period. They are the
Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai and the
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon.
Yakubu Dogara.
Riding on the wave of anti-corruption concerns, the
Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, in
his lecture at a Wole Soyinka Centre event,
advocated the scrapping of the Nigerian National
Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, arguing that “if you
don’t kill NNPC, it will kill Nigeria”. He justified his
call by making reference to the undeniably
monumental corruption in the NNPC. He revealed
that “the NNPC only remitted about 58 per cent of
the monies earned between 2012 and the first half
of 2015. A company with the audacity to retain 42
per cent of a country’s money has become a
veritable parallel republic!”
Parallel republic
This means that, as he rightly pointed out, the NNPC
alone retained more money than what the Federal
Government, the Federal Capital Territory and the
State Governments put together shared from the
revenue accruing to the NNPC.
However, it is important to understand the ultimate
goal of Governor Nasir El-Rufai, from the standpoint
of implications for national development. His
concerns appear not to be limited to tackling
corruption. It appears Governor El Rufai has, in fact,
given up hope that corruption can ever be fought
successfully in Nigeria. Rather than insisting that
the Federal Government under President Buhari
should set in motion the process of bringing to
justice all former top administrators, Ministers and
Directors who had played a role in looting NNPC,
Governor El Rufai merely lamented that “No one
has been successfully prosecuted for this scam.”
Rather than distinguishing the role of all past top
looting-managers of the NNPC (such as Ministers)
from the role of ordinary workers, Governor El Rufai
put the burden of corruption in the NNPC on the
entire workforce of “less than 1,000 employees of
the corporation” who as he put it, are “feasting” on
the collective wealth.
The ultimate goal of Governor El Rufai tends to be
the privatization of NNPC and removal of fuel
subsidy. According to online newspaper reports, El
Rufai argued that “with his experience as a former
Director-General of the Bureau of Public
Enterprises, it was possible to destroy a bad
organization and turn it into a good firm”. Thus,
according to El Rufai, “the country should
demonstrate a new purpose by slaying three huge
dragons” which he identified as “fixation with public
ownership”, “oil subsidy” and the NNPC. He was
reported to have argued, that “oil subsidy regime
had neither grown the Nigerian people nor
guaranteed stability of refined products’ supplies”.
If the call by Governor El Rufai that the NNPC
should be “killed” because of its intractable
corruption should be followed to a logical
conclusion, it amounts to saying that because
corruption permeates all levels of government in
Nigeria, from the Federal to the Local Governments,
including the legislature, then, all the tiers of
government should be “killed”; the Executive,
Legislative and Judicial arms of government should
all be dissolved. That would ultimately mean that
there would be no office called the office of the
Governor of Kaduna State, which El Rufai occupies
today. This analogy reflects the depth, or lack of
any depth, in the call by El Rufai for the abolition of
NNPC on the account of pervasive corruption.
El Rufai is, however, not alone in the recent
advocacy for removal of fuel subsidy. Apart from
the promptings by spokespersons of world
imperialism, the US Government, the APC Transition
Committee, the Speaker of the House of
Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, has added
his voice in support of the pro-subsidy removal
advocates. No dissenting voice has been heard
from his colleagues, either in the House of
Representatives or the Senate. They appear more
preoccupied with who occupies the leadership
positions in the National Assembly to be concerned
with policy debates.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon.
Yakubu Dogara, has been busy researching and
advising on “the most legal way to do it so that
subsidy can go permanently”. Hon. Dogara’s
concerns are not about how to bring relief to the
masses of our country but about how the “stomach
infrastructure” of dealers in the oil industry can be
strengthened through fuel subsidy removal. On the
same Monday, July 13, 2015, when Governor El-
Rufai made his call for the abolition of the NNPC,
Hon. Dogara was equally advising a delegation of
the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association
of Nigeria (IPMAN) to mount pressure on the
Executive arm of the Federal Government to
inaugurate the price control board under the Price
Control Act, which could, in exercise of its powers,
remove petroleum products from the list of items
whose pricing is subject to regulation. Alternatively,
the IPMAN, according to Dogara’s advice, could
pressurize the National Assembly to either repeal or
amend the Price Control Act by removing petroleum
products from the list of items whose pricing is
subject to regulatory control. The IPMAN delegation
had sought the support of Mr Speaker for the
“approval of government to engage in the swapping
of crude oil for refined products” under a pricing
regime in which petroleum products are not subject
to regulated pricing.
The critical concern is for how long would President
Buhari be able to resist the powerful pro-subsidy
removal forces in the APC? President Buhari has
good reasons to continue to resist fuel subsidy
removal.
Apart from the understanding already displayed in
President Buhari’s statement quoted above, “killing”
NNPC will have implications for job losses which
will compound the unemployment situation and
associated criminalities in social relations. The
fundamental raison d’etre for the existence of social
institution called government is not only for
providing physical security but also economic
security. Removing fuel subsidy, privatizing NNPC,
and so on, will exacerbate the already harsh socio-
economic conditions of the most vulnerable classes
rather than attenuate their material wellbeing.
The unfolding trends of policy advocacy on the
management of the petroleum industry, including
pricing policy on petroleum products, have shown
clearly that two dominant forces are in contention
within the ruling APC. One trend is for discarding
public ownership, price control and fuel subsidy
removal. The other is for retention of some level of
public ownership and exercise of governmental
control on pricing and retention of fuel subsidy
regime. By the recent public pronouncements
depicted above, the anti-public ownership trend is
represented by the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam
Nasir El Rufai, Speaker of the House of
Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara and the APC
Transition Committee.
The pro-public ownership trend appears to be
represented by President Muhammadu Buhari. The
trend that finally prevails within the APC-controlled
Executive arm of the Federal Government and the
entire National Assembly will determine whether the
Buhari administration (and by extension, the entire
APC) will go down in history as a pro-people
‘change’ government or a continuation of
governance by declaration of war against the
interests of the downtrodden.
Let President Buhari be consistently clear about it:
no government, even the most brutal military
dictatorship, has ever succeeded in muscling and
silencing the Nigerian working people in the face of
crippling economic policies, particularly, increases
in the prices of petroleum products. Just as there is
a direct relationship between removal of fuel
subsidy and increases in the prices of all other
goods and services, there is a relationship between
the degree and momentum of popular resistance
struggles and increases in the prices of petroleum
products. In what appears to be inevitable
impending social conflicts around the issue of fuel
subsidy removal, President Buhari should lean on
the outcries of the masses against the pressures of
business and contractor dealers in and out of
government circles.

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