PETROLEUM INDUSTRY BILL: SELLING OFF NIGERIA’S OIL WEALTH TO LOCAL AND INTERNATIONAL CAPITALIST HAWK
PETROLEUM INDUSTRY BILL: SELLING OFF NIGERIA’S OIL WEALTH TO LOCAL AND INTERNATIONAL CAPITALIST HAWKS
Working class and socialist activists must build mass movement from below to defeat neo-liberal capitalist pill
By Ayo Ademiluyi
The anti-poor regime of Goodluck Jonathan has perfected a “new” Petroleum Industry Bill, which for all practical purposes is meant to hand over Nigeria’s oil wealth to a few private individuals and oil multinationals. It would be recalled that the Bill originally surfaced under late Umar Musa Yar’adua regime and has gone through some “polishing” to meet the greed of local bourgeois investors and imperialist hawks seeking to suck up mega-profits from Nigeria’s oil wealth, while only being expected to make unspecified payments to the Nigerian government periodically.
Since the beginning of oil production in Nigeria, the sector has been under the virtual monopoly and domination of Western-owned oil giants like Shell â€“BP, Chevron, Total, Texaco, Agip, etc. This holds true despite the 1975 government purchase of a majority stake in Shell Nigeria and the formation of NNPC (Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation) the following year Fundamentally, since 1955, when the country joined the ranks of commercial oil producers, the exploration, export, processing and marketing of oil products and operations have remained under the firm grip of imperialism. As the titular owners of the soil (in the Niger Delta) from which this stupendous wealth is reaped, the Nigerian state has officially earned over $600 billion as revenues so far. On their part, the oil multinationals have amassed thousands of billions of dollars.
Under the arrangement of the PIB, imperialism is seeking to remove Nigeria’s titular ownership of the oil wealth. The local capitalist elite through the Jonathan regime has capitulated to the pressure of imperialist forces to totally mortgage the ownership of the oil wealth to foreign capital interests. The pretext or excuse for this is said to be the failure or weakness of the government in not always forthcoming, as and when needed, to pay its own share of money for future investments to expand oil profits. This bad business practice is attributed to massive corruption among government officials, of which the NNPC is the major culprit.
ESCALATED NEO-LIBERAL ATTACK ON THE WORKING MASSES
Under the bill, NNPC’s supervisory roles and regulations will be dismantled. In its place, National Oil Company, a new privately â€“owned company strictly accountable to its shareholders – will be incorporated. This is expressly captured by Section 130 of the Bill that provides that the “the Federal Government shall at any time within 3 years from the date of incorporation of the National Oil Company, divest itself of an amount of the shares of the National Oil Company to the public in a transparent manner as appropriately determined by government.”
The new company will operate purely as a commercial venture that could raise money from the market without having to wait on the government to bring its own shares of development levies. The bill also creates a Petroleum Asset Management Company with control over the upstream sector as a pure profit industry for capitalist sharks to feast upon. Within this arrangement as being proposed under the bill, the oil multinationals for the first time will have something akin to full practical control and ownership of Nigeria’ oil wealth. Under the guise of contributing to joint ventures in order to expand oil prospecting, the new limited liability company envisaged to take over NNPC’s functions and powers will have unhindered powers to mortgage Nigeria’s oil and gas reserves based on the whims and caprices of its shareholders.
Aside from the dismantling of the NNPC, the bill also ends the regime of the Petroleum Products and Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPRA) and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), government agencies responsible for regulation of the oil sector. In their place, the Bill creates the Nigerian Petroleum Directorate and Nigerian Petroleum Inspectorate, reducing the role of government to monitory duties in the oil sector.
One of the main “positives” of the bill, according to the government spokespersons and apologists, is that it will promote “local content” in the oil sector. This is just an arrangement for indigenous petroleum companies owned by local capitalist elements to compete with the imperialist multinationals. This will not lead to mass creation of jobs just as the promise of mass creation of jobs employed by government in justifying fuel subsidy removal has not materialized.
Another of such justifications for the bill is the proposed Petroleum Host Communities Fund under which the oil companies are to make some remittance to host communities in which the oil exploration is being carried out. Given the rapacious character of the local capitalist elite in Nigeria, the Fund will play out as another merry pot of looting from which all the capitalist sharks can draw from, just like the Niger Delta Development Corporation (NNDC). Working and oppressed masses in these host communities must not have any illusion in the proposed fund but join other oppressed and working masses in other parts of the country to fight for the nationalization of the oil sector, including the commanding heights of the economy under the democratic control of working people.
In furtherance of the drive of the local capitalist ruling elite to deepen the agony of the working masses through “deregulation” of the bourgeois robbery in the oil sector, which was initiated in January through removal of the so-called fuel subsidy, the proposed bill also seeks to “deregulate and liberalise the downstream petroleum sector”(Section 1(e), PIB). This would mean further hikes in the prices of petroleum products, in spite the roiling crises that have trailed the hike in January.
PRO-CAPITALIST CAPITULATION OF LABOUR LEADERSHIP
However, the most tragic part of the entire horror tale is the capitulation of the leadership of both the Nigerian Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress to this neo-liberal strategy of imperialist capital in their drive to overrun the working masses in their blind hunt for profit. The labour leadership supported the proposal for the unbundling of the NNPC on the basis of government’s characterization of the endemic corruption in the NNPC.
In the reality, public corporations like the NNPC were run aground through blind looting by the thieving ruling elite in the successive regimes, both military and civilian, who are now intent of divesting state control from the oil sector. One of the major reasons adduced by government in justifying its prolonged attempt to deregulate the oil sector is the burden that the subsidy of importation of refined fuel based on the incapacity of the NNPC to refine fuel.
The government’s refineries being managed by NNPC have combined installed capacity to refine 450, 000 barrels of crude oil per day which is about 50 percent of national consumption of petrol. This has reduced drastically to mere 170, 000 refining capacity as a result of the deliberate collapse of the refineries, as hundreds of billions budgeted for the maintenance of the refineries have not yielded any basic result while none of those responsible for this racket have been brought to book.
The labour leadership, on their part, when confronted with arguments of corruption in state firms like the NNPC by government in arguing their case for deregulation, are always boxed into a corner based on their lack of a rounded-out democratic socialist alternative of demanding the nationalization of the oil sector under the democratic control of the working people. This explains their capitulation to neo-liberal capitalist strategy being proposed through the Petroleum Industry Bill. This is aside the fact that majority of the tops in the labour movement have pro-bourgeois and reactionary orientation which is demonstrated through the seats they occupy on such committees as National Council on Privatization (NCP), Nigerian Pension Commission (Pencom), Infrastructure Concessioning Regulatory Commission, among several others. In particular, the TUC president, Peter Esele was made a member of a so-called Special Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) Task force, to fast track the passage of PIB into law!
BUILD MASS MOVEMENT FOR A DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST ALTERNATIVE FROM BELOW!
Given the above-painted scenario, the task falls on working class and socialist activists to build the widest mobilization from below against the passage of the Bill and posing the sharp democratic socialist alternative of placing the oil sector and commanding heights of the economy under the democratic control of the working masses. It will equally be the task of socialist and working class activists to expose the neo-liberal character and the target of imperialist takeover of oil wealth embedded in the Bill.
Such a mass movement must also be built with sharp slogans calling for the leadership of the labour movement to withdraw from bourgeois committees like the National Council on Privatisation and the Special Task Force on PIB and side with the movement on the street marching against the passage and implementation of the Bill. Socialist activists must also explain to rank-and-file working class elements and change-seeking youth the need to fight for the nationalization of the oil sector under the democratic control of the elected representatives of workers and youth while resisting the Bill.
While determined struggle could force the ruling class to temporarily retreat, a lasting defeat of the looters necessitates the building of a mass pan-Nigerian revolutionary working people’s party standing on a socialist programme that can bring into power a revolutionary workers and peasants’ government that can accomplish this task. This will require the reclaiming of the trade union movement from the bureaucratic stranglehold of the pro-capitalist leadership and the building of the widest resistance against neo-liberal attacks among the rank-and-file anchored on rounded â€“out socialist strategy and tactics. The Socialist Party of Nigeria which puts forward a clear socialist programme in the workers’ movement is at this level is a potentially significant step in this direction and will strive to build and link the mass movement against the imperialist takeover of the vast oil wealth with the struggle for nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy under the democratic control of workers, youth and the poor.