Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pacoliso....Chapter 4..."Aluta...b4 Paco"

The term Aluta Continua really didnt hold much meaning to a 200-level Engineering Student. Life revolved around attending classes, praying for good grades and hoping that the dreaded spectre of an ASUU strike never reared its head again. The last strike was brutal, it lasted 6 months and had even the most hard-core atheists praying for divine intervention. For Samurai, the strike had been spent poring over books, making promises to God in exchange for an end to the strike and daydreaming about life outside the shores of 9ja. So when the strike was eventually called off, his joy knew no bounds. He never imagined in his wildest dreams that he would miss the chaos of Aminu Kano Hall or the useless banter the hall residents exchanged to pass time.

Life progressed smoothly till one faithful day, when the stubborn horns of "Aluta" popped up. The day started off just like any regular day, waking up to cries of "Akara and bread" as child-hawkers announced their wares down the corridors, a mix of different soundtracks ranging from Celine Dion to Backstreet Boiz to gospel music...The Aminu Kano Hall Block C residents portrayed a mix of the good, bad and the downright ridiculous. Around noon, word quickly spread around campus that there was a student demonstration/uprising. No one could say with certainty what the problem was, but for some odd reason, the Student Union Government (SUG) was protesting some random issue. In the spirit of Aluta, the SUG president had gingered students to march to the VC's lodge to protest. Before you could whistle a tune, the students had gathered infront of the VC's lodge carrying a casket and proceeded to burn an effigy infront of his abode.

In typical dictatorship fashion, the VC ordered that the school be shut down and directed that ALL students vacate the hostel before the break of dawn the next day. As expected, the Aluta singers vanished faster than a unicorn on the streets of Rumuola, one second you could hear their voices, the next all you could see was smoke tendrils. Anyway, the residents of Aminu Kano Hall laughed at the VC's directive. "Vacate to where"?, they asked, AKH was home! Moreover there was a soccer game between Nigeria and Brazil that evening. People swore to resist and stay till the rapture took place if necessary, no threat of police brutality was going to intimidate them.

As the rays of the sun fizzled out, Samurai noticed that a few residents had started to slink out of the Halls like vampires before sunrise. But the mood in the hostel was still party-like. There were numerous open pots of food with their owners hovering around with concentration and puzzled/ecstatic looks on their faces depending on the taste of their concotion. By nightfall, the student population had reduced by 50%. Being an out-of-state student, Samurai didn't have any other alternatives apart from Aminu Kano Hall. He had a cousin living in Woji, but he didnt see any reason why he had to leave, school was still rocking afterall. That night, the disappointed residents watched Brazil wallop Nigeria by 3 goals, whilst some argued about what went wrong, others turned up their CD players and blasted music...till the last stars in the sky faded. They laughed at the VC's threat, nothing had happened since the eviction decree, "professional noisemaker" they labelled him in derision...whilst dancing to Afrobeat tunes

The next morning Samurai woke up to news that Armed Soldiers were camped right at the school gate. At first he didnt believe it till he walked outside his room and noticed that "JJ Chopinson" was holding court in front of Wing E. J-J was animated in his description...
"Nna men, the MOPOL (mobile police) just full everywhere. Dem carry gun and dem no dey smile at all"

"But we go show dem pepper today, dem no fit try any nonsense!"

"Greatest Nigerian Students, dem no fit comot us from we house, dem go hear am today"

Samurai wasn't too convinced. While the residens tempers and anger boiled at the audacity of the soldiers, Samurai quickly packed a small bag. There were talks about joining forces with the residents of the other halls: Kwame Nkrumah Hall extension, Nelson Mandela Mall and the Medical Hostel hall, to protest the presence of the soldiers. While the Aluta warlords were still marshalling out their strategy, the stampede of running feet could be heard building up. Samurai couldn't recall how things transpired next, the first soldier came bursting through the gates of Aminu Kano, wielding a horse whip, and all hell broke loose...The nimble footed took off with speed that would have surprised Usain Bolt, some in boxer shorts, others fully dressed, the wall was vaulted with ease like it was the Olympics... It was madness! Residents running with pots of soup and stew... A few rooms away, a resident tried to shield his pot of food from the whips of a soldier, he looked ready to die in defense of his food, finally he succumbed to the fury of the whip and fled. Within 30minutes, the resistance had been broken, the residents gathered in small groups to lick their wounds and plot their next move. Every uprising needs a hero, the aluta warlords had long fled, JJ Chopinson was no where to be found.

Walking along the streets of Choba with his few valued possessions in his small carry-on bag, Samurai realized that his life in Aminu Kano was ticking to an end. He ran into Shimon on the road with a group of other friends, they had escaped from Kwame Nkrumah Hall before the soldiers arrived, the plans to move off-campus were laid during that period...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Pirates of West Africa: Liquid Gold

It is almost impossible to refrain from commenting on the current chaos going on in Nigeria, though I have observed that most people are clueless about the facts. The beautiful thing about being Nigerian is that everyone is an expert on all matters ranging from national security to economic issues, so in the midst of all the arguments, no one really listens to any one, the end result is chaos. Let me paint a little picture about the science of oil, this is for the non-engineers and non-scientific people out there who have no clue what the facts are, but believe deep down in their hearts that something is wrong...You are right, something is wrong and it has been wrong for years. I have to admit that I'm neither a Petroleum Engineer nor an expert on oil related issues, I'm simply an average minded person, a common man.

Crude oil is liquid gold, pure and simple. I bet you didnt visualize that as a starting line. I'll try to keep the science as simple as possible. Crude Oil is extracted from the ground (just like gold, duh!)and then refined and seperated. The key end products are Petrol(gas/gasoline as my Yankee people would call it), diesel kerosene, jet fuel and a few other components (let us stick to the energy sources). Just as Gold comes in carats, Crude Oil also comes in different grades (levelz dey!). The 'lighter' and 'sweeter' the oil is, the better. The logic is simple, Light Crude Oil has low density (higher petrol yield), while Sweet Crude Oil has very little sulphur (cleaner, and less harmful impact on the environment during processing, requires less refining). On the other end of the spectrum, you have heavy oil, and sour oil (opposite to light and sweet), you get the logic right? Itz like comparing Packet Fufu Powder sold at Makola (Iyan Ado) to raw cassava sticks harvested from my village. Both end up as pounded yam on my plate, but the raw cassava sticks require serious gyming before it can be transformed to food.

The top 3 oil producing countries are the Saudis, the Russians and the Americans (surprised right?), China is no 5. Oil producing used in the context of the quantity of crude oil that is extracted from their reserves. Naija is ranked about 12th or 15th, not so sure, but our position fluctuates depending on whether MEND is on vacation or not. In terms of Exporting Crude Oil, the top 3 are the Saudis, Russia, Iran...Naija is between 6th and 8th (fluctuates as usual), USA aint on the list (they barely export nada baby!, u'll soon see why). In terms of Import, the top consumers guessed it, USA, followed by China and Japan. USA consumes roughly 20% of the world's oil. Here's what you don't know, Naija's oil is mostly 'light and sweet' and we are the LARGEST producers of 'sweet' oil in OPEC, and remember that Saudi Arabi is a member of OPEC. We are sweeter than the Saudis! yummy! The USA is the largest importer of Naija crude oil,#fact.

Now I didnt study economics in school, but my dad is an accountant and I am Igbo (lol), even though people say I am too generous (maybe I'm just a radical). The price of 'gas' (forgive me, but saying petrol is tiring, lol) is dependent on a few factors, the key ones being the price of crude oil, the cost of refining, distribution and transportation costs and taxes. The geographical location of the oil reserves are key, if you have to import your crude oil from far then it costs more to transport, crude oil prices fluctuate with every Boko Haram attack or middle-east tension, the cost of refining rises with the grade of oil imported. The US of A utilizes about 75% of the refined crude for fuel (transportation), about 2% for electricity production (shocked right?) and the rest for industrial purposes (pharmeceuticals, plastics et al). Outside the US of A, especially in the oil producing countries (Naija), it is almost a 50-50 split between using the refined crude for transportation and burning the crude for electricity. Why? Because for some odd reason, we don't explore any other alternative means for electricity generation. Hydro (ah, rainy season has ended, water don finish for dam), Nuclear (ah, we can't even handle bombs), Solar (haba, let's not even go there), biomass, biofuels (duh, what is that?)

Currently the most abused word of 2012. You don't need to google it to understand it, from a business perspective, it simply means any form of 'assistance' provided to a biz, normally by the Govt, to prevent its decline either as a result of low profit or to prevent a spike in the price of its products. You see, Naija produces crude oil, then exports it, (making alot of money) then we import it back (because we don't have functional refineries, don't ask me why). So when crude oil prices go up because of Mutallab, we make more money, then the rising cost of crude oil increases the price of refining and importing the refined crude, so we spend more. Since oil is our birthright (as some of my folks in the South normally say, lol), we the masses shouldnt pay much for it. How can a farmer go to a supermarket to buy fufu powder? Taboo! So our weak Government, seeing that the only thing the commonm man can benefit from our stupendous wealth is cheap gas, do all that they can to ensure that the gas prices remain fixed despite all the fluctuation in crude prices. So they 'subsidize' it by paying the marketers and importers, thus transferring our wealth to the marketers and importers. Heard that it cost $8 billion last year, the government bears the cost of it all. Now the subsidy keeps the people content, but it incurs large economic costs. You see, I don't recall where it states in our yearly budget that we set aside $8 billion for subsidy last year. The other funny thing is that the marketers are also people in government. Then also millions of barrels of oil are being smuggled out of the country daily, by who...maybe Pirates of the Carribean, Jack Sparrow where are you?!

Why do we import fuel? Because we don't have refineries. Why don't we have functional refineries. Why ? I really don't know the answer to that. Okay, so if we can burn crude oil to generate electricity, why don't we have light? (power). I don't know, maybe we didnt burn the crude oil in the first place to generate the electricity. So what happened to the crude oil then ? Maybe it was smuggled illegally. By who? Ask Johnny Depp!

My 2 cents
Now that you have a clearer picture (I hope, lol), join the fray! What is the way forward, what should we do? You can't sit down and say it aint your business, when M.I., Ice Prince and all the other Nigerian musicians quit singing club hits and start farming in order to make a living, you wouldnt have any beats to groove to, lol #justkidding! Our MCs have M.Scs(Naeto C) and PhDs (Levelz) nowadays!

The subsidy ought to be removed, it should have been removed years ago. But then our refineries should have been working to full capacity since the 90s. Numerous contracts have been awarded to fix the refineries, yet no results. So if the refineries don't work, then the subsidy should stay in place...till the refineries work, then we would not have to import anymore. Our Government just transferred the burden of years of gross mismanagement and sheer incompetency to the masses to bear. I hear China wants to build refineries in Nigeria, I wonder what the Americans have to say about that...#justsaying