Editorial

Oil at $80 per barrel

How does Nigeria receive the news of the rise in crude oil price to $80? It calls for a national celebration, doesn’t it?
But the good news has not made any difference to anybody yet. Nobody seems excited by it.
When the oil price dropped dramatically to below $30, it forced the country into biting austere times and it was difficult to draft a balanced national budget. The huge deficit in the budget gave the National Assembly a tough time to handle. And it is perhaps the reason the budget is delayed into the 5th month. For nearly half of the year, the economy is being run without a budget, showing that maybe no budget, after all, is needed for running the country.
This shows the extent to which the country can be run without financial management or any other form of management for that matter. Things are just being rolled over without directive and direction. It sounds unbelievable. But if the national income can soar in this way and how to utilize it does not bother the authorities, then anything is possible.
The sudden welcome rise in the sales price of our crude is reason enough to ginger our planners into frenzy on how to put the excess income into good use. This warrants a national debate, involving members of the public at all levels.
We have witnessed windfalls before.  We discovered much, much later that they were promptly diverted into foreign private bank accounts. This happens when the government fails to recognize the windfall and to bring the development into the public domain, thereby aiding and abetting top government officials and public servants who open the floodgate for excess crude accounts to flow freely into their local and foreign bank accounts. When this happened in the past, this was exactly how the government responded and it turned the boom into doom.
We are saying that as the price of oil rises, the country’s financial planners should go to work and make intelligent guesses of how much is expected from it. The government should be pre-emptive and block all leakages for this income. Its application must be fully discussed so that the best use of it can be made, unlike in the past. We are optimistic. The oil price may yet rise. This puts an obligation on us to put it into proper use.

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