By Chukwudi Nweje
Anthony Kila, a Jean Monnet professor of Strategy and Development, is the Director at the Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies (CIAPS). In this interview, he discusses the petroleum act and issues around it, insecurity as well as other national issues.
President Muhammadu Buhari has signed the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) into law despite the reservations expressed by oil-producing communities and some other concerned Nigerians, what do you think?
I think that first, we should say is hurray because we have actually been waiting for it for more than 10 years. It has been a very long time since the bill, which is now an Act was in the making; so for whatever it is worth, we should be happy that it has come. There is however a feeling that it is a bit late in coming, because one thing we are not conscious of as a country is that this petroleum, our major source of income, which we are fighting over is fast losing its value in the world; it is no longer as essential as it used to be, so in a way, we are fighting over something that will soon vanish. But since from where we are, it is still the best source of revenue we have, it is a good thing that it is regulated; we must say that. The other thing some people are not happy with is the sharing formula and the process around it and that is an indictment on our ruling class because for the past 10 years, we have been talking about PIB and it is the same group of people that have been talking regardless of the party that is in power. It is an indictment that all this time they were not able to come out with a synthesis of position that satisfies everybody with what you call in negotiation an acceptable compromise. Some people have argued that the PIB that has become an Act is very complex, but it is not. It is basically about two things, public and private participation on one side, that is, how to regulate, how to operate and who operates in that sector. The other leg of it is the sharing formula, whether it is the host community or the entire country. These are basically the contention of the PIB. The fact that even after it has become an Act, Nigerians are still arguing over it is another indictment. My thinking is that some adjustments that will address the issues of contention will still be made when the Act comes to life.
The petroleum act talks about allocating 30 per cent of profit share to exploration in marginal basins at a time fossil fuel is going out of fashion globally with heavy investment in renewable energy, what does that say of Nigeria?
This shows that we are playing catch up as a people. We are not aware that the petroleum we are fighting over is no longer that precious. We are just like people fighting over a Fax machine when the world is talking about e-mails, Skype and in fact are now talking about virtual live conferences and we are still fighting over what can be likened to a Fax machine, that is the situation we are in Nigeria.
The amended Electoral Act 2021 says electronic transmission of election results will only happen if the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says it is possible and the National Assembly approves it, how do you see this?
I think the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should be totally independent to decide how to transmit election results. It should be so independent that its budget should be automatic and not subjected to contention to any arm of government. INEC should not in any way be regulated or be put under the control of anybody that will come to power through any election that INEC will conduct. It is an error for INEC to be subjected to so many regulations. There are two errors we make in this matter of electronic transmission of result; the first is an error of process in which we confuse a technical issue with a political issue. The technical issue is which is the fastest, most transparent and effective way of transmitting election results? If you think of that in 2021, the most effective way is electronically. If we treat it as a technical issue, we will be thinking of the percentage of the country that is covered and how many is not covered. Technically speaking, if it is a corporate entity that wanted to hold an election, they will be talking of partnership with banks. If you look at what banks are doing, where they cannot get their ATMs, they send POS. So, what we are talking about is something that already exists in our everyday life today, where finance and telecom came together to provide financial service. On the part of our legislators, I think there is a mix of ignorance and mischief because they don’t want the best way; they want a process that allows rigging. This shows how heartless and hopeless we are as a people. The fact that they can get away with it and there are no direct consequences. It appears we don’t see the gravity of what is going on that people are doing what they shouldn’t, and there are no consequences; it shows we are running a weak institutional system that once politicians decide on something, there is no counterbalance. It shows that our values for democracy are weak.
What do you mean that legislators want a process that allows rigging?
Rigging occurs because some of the participants in the game, politicians and political parties vying for office decide intentionally to subvert the system to commit a crime either by allowing ineligible voters to vote or to misrepresent the result; these are criminal acts. Since we agree that those in the arena are capable of crime, any time we talk about rigging, we should understand that we agree that those in the arena are capable of crime and that is where we should start from. If we agree that those playing are not exactly gentlemen, we should go about it the security way and the consequence is that INEC has to be very independent; it has to understand that our problems are politicians trying to rig election. I think INEC should be an institutionally independent body; an umpire should not be regulated by the players.
Of late we see people who should reassure Nigerians of security asking the citizens to defend themselves, the Minister of Defence, Gov Samuel Ortom of Benue State and most recently, Katsina State governor, Aminu Bello Masari, called on their subjects to defend themselves; how do you see these calls?
It is sad and ridiculous that the defence staff and elected governors will ask us to defend ourselves. Though, in reality, they are looking at the reality and how equipped our security forces are to perform compared to those they are expected to arrest. They have watched and seen people being kidnapped or dying and they see it is not working. These are symptoms of a failed or failing state. In reality, they cannot rely on the state as it is now; they know the state is weak. Our security apparatus is underutilised, the personnel are overstretched, ill-equipped and underpaid. There are no new ideas. Look at this issue of kidnappings for instance; in the vast areas of the North East where these kidnappers operate, they move on bikes and in all this time that it has been happening, the authorities have not injected new bikes for the armed forces and the police. There should be a unit of bike riders to go into the forests. We are playing catchup and the process is slow. The truth at the moment is that the bandits are winning and the state is losing. What these people are doing is a cry for help; it is a voice of declaration.
Will individuals defending themselves not worsen the insecurity situation?
The risks are there but before we get to individuals defending themselves, we have to try communities defending themselves just as we do in gated estates. Each community, the traditional rulers, professionals and residents can form a watch group and defence unit. It is only in extreme cases that individuals will have to arm themselves; defence can be outsourced to vigilante groups. But, this is only part of it; the major issue should be intelligence gathering and a sense of community that allows people to be their brother’s keeper.
What is your take on the rehabilitation and integration of ‘repentant’ terrorists into the military and society at large, looking at developments in Afghanistan where a Mujahid who was released from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba is reported to have plotted the return of the Taliban to power?
We all knew it was a bad move when they started talking about rehabilitating and integrating the reformed bandits into the military. It is a bad move because what the government does not understand is that they cannot pay as much as the bandits pay people. Moreover, there was no test-psychological or sociological- to show that these people have repented.