OPEC presidency, Alison-Madueke and PDP’s gaffe -By Gabriel Akinadewo

Filed under: Economic Issues,Global Issues |

Nigeria's Minister of Petroleum Diezani Allison-Madueke speaks at a media briefing on a new gas price regime in the capital of Abuja


When are we going to change for the better in this country? When are we going to elevate national interest above individual selfish idiosyncracies? When are Nigerians going to stop embarrassing Nigeria in the comity of nations? For years, the right choices to ensure the growth of the economy have been relegated to the background and mediocrity elevated to a national policy.

Why do Nigerians do the same thing over and over and expect a different result? Mundane things are being celebrated and millions of hapless Nigerians are always at the receiving end.

That is why a governor will dig borehole and count it as an achievement with advertisements in newspapers. That ours is an import-driven economy is a fact which is not subjected to any analysis or debate. That is why Nigerian officials are jittery with the ongoing free fall of the Naira because of the declining crude oil price in the international market. What is known as the real sector (manufacturing) is almost dead in the country.

Who will revive this sector when electricity is comatose? Most people who refer to themselves as businessmen in this country are actually traders and importers. That is why we have crude oil but we import refined products. Which serious country will leave its citizens at the mercy of market forces? For decades, misinformation has been the strong weapon used by the government to confuse Nigerians. But, can this and lies defeat the truth? That is why I find what happened last week in the oil sector intriguing.

What are the lies surrounding the presidency of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) given to Nigeria last week? What is the truth? Last Thursday, Petroleum Minister, Mrs Diezani Allison Madueke, was elected as OPEC President at the 166th ordinary meeting of the oil body in Vienna, Austria. As the current Alternate President of the body, she becomes the first female to head the oil cartel and will assume office in January 2015, succeeding Abdourhman Atahar Al-Ahirish, Libya’s Vice Prime Minister for Corporations. Dr Mohammed Bin Saleh Al Sada, Minister of Energy and Industry of Qatar and Head of its delegation was elected as Alternate President.

This was the same Alison-Madueke nominated by the Federal Government in June for the post of Secretary-General of the organisation to succeed the incumbent, Abdullah al-Badri, whose tenure ends this month. She lost. It is not the first time a Nigerian will be elected as OPEC president, a ceremonial position. The first Nigerian to be elected to the position, after a meeting in Lagos in 1972, was Shettima Ali Monguno, followed by Malam Yahaya Dikko (1981), Dr. Rilwan Lukman (1986), Prof. Jibril Aminu (1991), Dr. Chu S.P. Okongwu (1992), Dr. Dan Etete (1998) and Dr. Edmund Daukoru (2005).

The OPEC President is elected by the Conference and serves for a period of one year. He/she presides over meetings of the Conference in the course of his/her Presidency. Also elected by the Conference is the Alternate President who exercises the responsibilities of the President during his/her absence, or when he/ she is unable to carry out responsibilities. The position of Alternate President was introduced in 1978 at the 51st meeting of the Conference. According to the laws governing the cartel, the Secretary-General is the boss, not the President.

As the Chief Executive Officer, the Secretary- General runs the affairs of the organisation. Four Nigerians were Secretaries- General – M.O. Feyide, Lukman, Daukoru and Mohammed Barkindo. That Alison-Madueke is going to be the first woman President in January is commendable but that is where it stops. What I read since last week does not portray Nigeria as a country desirous of projecting its image globally. It was as if the moment she assumes the presidency next year, Nigeria will become a first class country, a country to be emulated by others.

What has Alison-Madueke’s OPEC presidency got to do with our country and economy? I still don’t know because anyone celebrating OPEC Presidency is like celebrating the chairmanship of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Because it is rotational, OPEC Presidency goes to one of the member countries periodically, not an individual. Majority of the countries have organised their home fronts and the presidency is just a title they may accept or reject. Of all the OPEC countries, none is run the way our leaders run this country.

Let Nigeria be given the OPEC presidency forever, it still will not change anything. So, why are we deceiving ourselves, jumping needlessly as if with the OPEC presidency, all roads in the country will become motorable, insecurity will cease to exist, medical care will be given a priority, all willing youths will be employed, there will be free housing for all and education will be free at all levels? I am surprised some Nigerians are already singing the praises of the Petroleum Minister to high heavens for clinching the presidency, a position that is ceremonial and rotational.

Because of the turn-by-turn formula among member-countries, if a Gabriel Akinadewo is the Petroleum Minister and it is the turn of Nigeria to assume presidency of the cartel, Gabriel Akinadewo automatically becomes the OPEC president. In another year, it is the turn of another country and the individual representing it becomes the president. Lukman, Aminu, Daukoru and others were OPEC presidents. Lukman was even Secretary-General.

Did their presidencies contribute anything to, or change, our economy? Will OPEC presidency change Nigerians’ attitude to national development? I am sure many Nigerians were scandalised with the statement from the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olisa Metuh, on the OPEC presidency when he noted that Alison-Madueke’s election “is a vote of confidence on President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration by the international community”.

“Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s election as first OPEC female president was as a result of her determined growth of the Nigerian operational capacity and local content in exploration and production, particularly through the facilitation and approval of largescale divestments by oil majors to indigenous companies.

This is indeed part of the many landmark achievements of the exemplary government of President Goodluck Jonathan.” Moreover, as a leading exporter of oil, Nigeria is now advantageously positioned to contribute and help shape major decisions in the global oil market. Indeed, the decision by the OPEC member nations to hand the task of presiding over their affairs to a prominent cabinet member in our government speaks volumes of the trust reposed in us by the international community.

The nation’s economy now ranks as one of the fastest growing in the world. Nigeria has become a top investment destination, the largest economy in Africa as well as the 26th largest economy in the world, with Nigerians and Nigerian businesses excelling in all critical sectors of the global economy.

Since the signing into law of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act by President Jonathan, our Government has, among other achievements in the sector, increased the level of indigenous Nigerian participation in upstream and downstream activities by over 45 per cent, thereby increasing employment opportunities for our youth. Our government has also succeeded in eliminating long queues at our fuel stations through regular and sustained product supply, which is a demonstration of our commitment to the well being of our citizens.

Today, gas infrastructure for the gas-to-power and gas-to-industry is being aggressively put in place. Over 450 kilometres of gas pipelines have been installed in the last three years with another 2,000 kilometres planned over the next four years”. What exactly is PDP celebrating? Will Metuh’s statement on the OPEC presidency remove the serious danger lurking around with the ceaseless spate of bombing in parts of the country? Since Friday last week, thousands of Nigerians have been killed in a war that nobody understands.

If you do not believe that Nigeria is in the throes of life-threatening crisis, how do you explain the killing of Michael Anyiam-Osigwe a few days ago? A man with an extensive local and global connection and a friend to many presidents and prime ministers, he was killed like a chicken by armed robbers near Okada Junction, Ore- Benin Expressway in broad daylight. Will OPEC presidency restore our sanity in this country?