He attributed the fall in revenue to a number of factors which include the continuous theft of crude oil, leakages, pipeline vandalism and a sharp decrease in mineral revenue. With this ugly development, the Excess Crude Account has shrunken to $5.1 billion. Apart from this official declaration by a high state official who is in a position to speak authoritatively on the issue of the state of the nation’s finances, there have been speculations that the Federal Government is practically bankrupt. The lateness in the holding of the July FAAC meeting will do nothing but help to confirm the speculation that the government is indeed having an uneasy time meeting its obligations.
Civil servants in both federal and state employments have, for instance, been told that they may have to wait a little bit longer than usual for their pay. We are deeply worried because from experience uneasiness in the financial health of our governments first manifests in the delayed or non-payment of public sector personnel salaries. We shudder to think that this might be the beginning of such a throw-back to better forgotten times.
Whether what has happened is a temporary setback or a sign that the country is in for a long haul in financial wilderness, it is clear that the development should serve as a wake-up call on those managing our economy to have a deep thinking on what is going on. The Federal Government has not shown enough will and determination to put an end to serious oil theft in which the nation is estimated to lose about 400,000 barrels every day — a sad situation that cost the nation about $14 billion in 2011 alone, according to finance ministry officials. There are unconfirmed allegations that the government has only been lamenting about oil theft and not taking any concrete action against it because the act of infamy is carried out by the high and mighty in government and/or their collaborators outside government.
The only way that the government can dispel that allegation is to come down hard on those who are toying with the well being of this country. No government that is concerned about the health of the polity will sit down and only lament when it is faced with a very serious threat to the main source of its national revenue.
More importantly, the difficulties the nation is currently experiencing with its finances once again draw attention to the lack of wisdom in depending on one goose for laying its golden egg. If several geese were laying many eggs for Nigeria, the challenges being faced in the oil sector will not have such a destabilising effect on the nation’s economy. For long we have recognised this fact but not much has been done in real terms over the years to diversify the nation’s economy and free it from dependence on oil which is a very volatile commodity. Now the chickens seem to be coming home to roost.
Clearly, besides the obvious and urgent need to take steps to diversify our economy, the time has surely come for those running our public affairs to begin to be more prudent in the management of public resources. The era of reckless spending of public funds may well be gone forever.