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‘Deregulation’ as an overused lie in Nigeria (II)

Like I noted earlier, a properly deregulated market still needs a strong and unbiased regulator. So, the government may keep a PPPRA but then what…

Like I noted earlier, a properly deregulated market still needs a strong and unbiased regulator.

So, the government may keep a PPPRA but then what about the DPR (Department of Petroleum Resources) and the NNPC and its many subsidiaries?

May be, PPPRA should head back to NNPC, which is already an omnibus player and regulator.

Certainly, a proliferation of bureaucracies is itself a very inefficient subsidy, which just makes a few people rich and creates false engagements for most of their staff, some of whom are bored to death even though the emoluments are great.

But for sure, prices of fuel in a deregulated market cannot be the same in a whole nation.

So, the concept of equalization is political and not in tune with market forces at all.

Therefore, still having the PEF does not make sense.

Until prices vary across the country, then the sector has not been deregulated and may not be deregulated ever.

Also, since Nigerians have felt cheated when the price of petrol did not come down commensurately when crude prices crashed, the cycle of distrust will continue and policies will be hard to make to level the playing ground and to transform the sector.

We should also note that all those moribund refineries, wherein Nigeria lost about N450billion according to figures released by the NNPC for the last accounting period, constitute a perverse ‘subsidy’ as well.

Proper deregulation means that a country should not be throwing money into the Atlantic Ocean the way we do in Nigeria.

So, until the refineries are offloaded – and preferably scrapped because they are now relic, vandalized museum pieces; every amount spent paying people salaries there, or maintaining pipes that are producing next to nothing, constitute subsidies.

Is the Federal Government willing to really deregulate that sector? Doubtful.

The electricity sector is also being ‘deregulated’. Tariffs were recently increased 100% for most users.

Fair enough. But the problem with this sector is that public assets were allegedly sold by people in government at a certain point, to themselves.

This is where distrust starts. Not only that, this ‘privatized’ sector has been bailed out at least twice, with sums in excess of N1trillion.

Politicians sold to themselves, and politicians bailed out politicians. Good stuff! So, the already impoverished people look for how to tap into that electricity and pay nothing.

Even the not-so-poor find ways of gaming the system to reduce their monthly bills.

If Nigeria wasn’t so driven by blind greed and corruption, if our best intentions weren’t so corrupted from the get-go by winner-takes-all fraudulent antics, many of these policies will be easy to enact and implement, and Nigeria will be a better place because the average Nigerian would have been a much better person.

 

  • THE NEED FOR REGULATION

A well-respected friend of mine, with whom I am in the same capacity-building industry once said to me that if we had remained in the ‘regulated’ sector, we would have made a whole lot more money.

Very true.  Banking, for example, is regulated in Nigeria.

Whereas, the sector is replete with problems, but players are able to amass wealth  in spite of regulation.

Regulation organizes a sector, and more importantly, protects such sector from every Dick, Tom and Harry.

Capacity development, or training in Nigeria is badly regulated. The Centre for Management Development, whose statutory function when it was set up, was to periodically inspect players in that sector, started to run its own training in contravention of laws setting it up.

It took its eyes off the ball.  So, today, anyone can print a call card, and if you have a brother in some company or government parastatal, you can do a sweet deal, and make money for yourself and your collaborators.

The unprofessionalism starts from get-go, and people who play in sectors like this, have scant respect for the sector as a whole.

Regulation is money. A well-regulated sector ordinarily guarantees stable incomes and sustainability for all stakeholders. Deregulation is not meant to be a free-for-all bedlam.

While I operated my company out of the UK, I saw what proper regulation was like. I found out that every solid sector was well regulated.

Inspectors moved around from time to time, and so companies did the right thing, kept records, paid their taxes, and even treated their employers well, else they would be shut down.

In Nigeria here, under the guise of promoting entrepreneurship perhaps, we don’t bother to properly regulate most industries like they do abroad.

Therefore, quacks who know next to nothing about a profession could jump in tomorrow because a corrupt opportunity exists.

The result is disaster and calamity.

Deregulation is, in other words, real and proper regulation of an industry.

Are we ready to stop corruption or get Nigerians to do the right thing in their roles? Are we ready to stop this self-imposed rat-race that we foisted on ourselves?  I don’t think so.

That we never learnt from COVID-19 and changed our ways is most frightening for me. Nigerians have returned to normal mode.

We have forgotten when we could not drive our flashy cars anywhere or take our usual first-class flights all around the world to all the places where no one had respect for us.

We have forgotten when we had to visit the same hospitals that we would never send our dogs to.

We have forgotten when every nation shut their doors on our black faces. We have forgotten the fear.

We have forgotten the dead, many of whom are still dying. Like Lugard said, we reserve no thoughts for the past, or any fear for the future.

We don’t even care if something worse may come, which will further expose our foolishness.

We max out each day; we live for the moment, for the show.

We are wired to try and impress those we do not like, with what we do not have.

Our customs and traditions, and even our modern-day religions often promote a sense of adversity; we believe we have enemies who don’t want us to ‘succeed’ in life, so at every moment we must ‘praise God’, by showing them what we have acquired.

That is the chief reason why we cannot ‘deregulate’ or in fact properly ‘regulate’ any sector in Nigeria.

There is a Dino Melaye in almost every Nigerian.

The folly of dying and leaving wasteful acquisitions never dawns on us.