OPINION | How Not to Run a ‘Koboko’ Economy

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By Hon. Josef Omorotionmwa
We totally empathize with President Muhammadu Buhari, – one man who has seen it all. From the military era where he was the one who must be obeyed. Indeed, the few that refused to obey were whipped on line as the horse-whip (aka koboko) was part of the dress-code then, or so we thought.
A good witness here would have been the Distinguished Senator Abraham Adesanya (UPN/Ogun) but today, he is no more. He continues to rest in peace. It was in 1982, Parliament Buildings, Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos, the passage of the Electoral Bill of that year had become very acrimonious. As Secretary to the Conference Committee writer has issued identification cards to the 24 members of The Committee, who had adjourned till 12 noon that following day. Other than the 24 members and the Committee Staff, entry to the Senate Chambers was restricted. A detachment of the Mobile Police (Mopol) was brought from Calabar to secure the venue. They travelled all night.
At about 10 o’clock in the morning, Senator arrived at the Senate building only to be prevented from entering. Mopol insisted that he was instructed not to allow anyone who did not have the special identification to enter. Adesanya insisted he must go into his office.
Mopol reached for his koboko and applied it liberally on the Senator, asking him to “gwo back”. From our Red Bricks Building Office, we watched the theatricals. We phoned the office of the Senate President and it took their intervention to stop the onslaught – but not before a lot of harm had been inflicted on the Distinguished Senator.
That’s how much debasement a society could get from the many years of military interregnum – from a constituency that President Buhari could even write a book about. He knew no other life!
After the ordeal, Adesanya required just enough time to get to Igbosere Street, and a law suit had been slammed on the Inspector General of Police. It did not take too long for Adesanya to get justice. He was awarded damages to the tune of N10,000!
Suddenly, Buhari became born again – a Democrat. He enrolled in the school of social justice and rule of law. The President must be torn between two worlds – if he acts swiftly, he is quickly reminded of his military past; and if he slows down, he is called “Mr Go Slow”. All the same, Nigerians are clear in their minds that they need speed and accuracy – not one or the other.
In the journey of life, no matter how objective a man wants to be, he cannot see anything other than with his own eyes. That explains why this fast learner and born again Democrat would slip into his past occasionally.
In such moments, he would dip his hands into the Excess Crude Account and pull out hundreds of billions of Naira to appease some Cattle Breeders Gang – without any legislative authorization and approval. Whoever raises an eyebrow is an enemy. This is raw absurdity and a blot on the Presidents fight against corruption!
Enter the Corona Virus: True, Nigeria is a mono economy from oil. Oil remains our main source of revenue. Because the Russian and Saudi authorities are flexing muscles over oil price plus the Corona Virus debacle, the revenue from oil has plummeted to an all time low.
The President was perfectly right to appoint a committee to advise him on the effect of the falling revenue on the current budget. But by the time he proceeds from there to announce a downward review of the budget, the President is on his own – a sojourn into illegality! He has gone beyond the Executive boundary. Even in war times, the President cannot amend the budget he did not pass. Any adjustment to the Budget is a process of appropriation, which belongs to the National Assembly.
We hope the President is just thinking aloud and that he will put his papers together and proceed to the National Assembly to do an appropriate downward review of the 2020 appropriation.
The COVIC 19 pandemic has thrown the Budgets of many nations off – year. We see how the U.S. President is approaching Congress for the necessary intervention funds. The question there is no longer whether funds should be appropriated but areas of priority – President Donald Trump seems to favour the bail-out of big businesses while Congress is more inclined to supporting small businesses and the more vulnerable in society. The debate goes on. Leaders across the world are travelling the same route.
Even in the particular case of Nigeria, there is this premonition of an impending danger, which the Federal Government apparently is not taking seriously, given its anti-clockwise posturing. It is a curious paradox that at a time when serious Governments the world over, including Lagos State of Nigeria, are asking for additional funding to provide stimulus packages for their people, our Government is confessing broke that it is asking for reduced funding.
Again, this is not a time to be too beggarly as those who would have helped are also immersed in their own struggles. As they say in the colloquial, the very first blow is landing on our nose.
Under a koboko economy, the people are seemingly happier in bad times. A bad government would even take this misfortune to the bank in an Election Year. Whenever there is a reduction in the pump price of our petroleum products, the people rejoice. This is because we are importing our exports.
These occasional reductions in the pump price of our petroleum products only come when the price of oil falls in World market.
As a nation that gets its revenue from oil, should we be happy when the price of oil falls? Common sense would say no to this. But that’s what we have because a koboko economy walks logic on its head.
In the beginning, as soon as the oil came out of the ground, 90 percent of it was sold in Dollars to the spot market. The remaining 10 percent was left to be refined for local consumption.
Because we are unwilling or unable to refine our 10 percent, we still end up selling off the 10%, mainly to the Netherlands, at give away prices – which they sell back to us at cut-throat prices after refining. As a result of the up and down movement of the oil, the refined product becomes unaffordable. This is where the entire debate on subsidy begins.
For now, it is still the big rumble in the jungle. Efficient local refining of our oil, which will curb the importation of our exports is the only panacea we are waiting for out of the koboko economy. Shall we ever get there?
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