How Anambra Was Stopped From Benefitting From Its Crude Oil

Anambra State is one of the Igbo states of Nigeria. It is a state that has produced great innovators like Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Odumegwu Ojukwu, Alex Ekwueme, Innoson Chukwuma, Chuba Okadigbo, Emeka Anyaoku, Peter Emeagwali, Dora Akunyili, Chukwuma Soludo just to mention a few. Anambra State is known as a pace setter as far as Nigeria and Africa is concerned – in the areas of politics, business, the arts and any other sector.

An group of traders in Anambra created Nollywood, a multibillion Dollar industry and the number 3 film industry in the world without access to funds like bank loans. One must ask what they would have been able to do for the black man if they had access to loans like others. But without access to loans Anambra had all these years a resource that was worth so much, it would have given them the money they would have used to do more to make Nigeria the first developed country in Africa. Anambra had crude oil, but was prevented by hook or crook from exploiting and benefiting from it.

In Anam in Anambra North, it is said that anybody up to 40 years can count the number of oil fields in their locality, but guess what, nothing is being done about it by the Federal Government. This is the same Federal Government that has spent over N900 billing in a matter of decades searching for oil in the North.

What this shows is a systematic attempt to deny the Igbos a source of financing for development, and it seems to have worked because oil is no longer the Black Gold it used to be, with the price sliding uncontrollably from $100 a barrel a few years ago to just about $30 today.

All these years , the oil producing states in Nigeria, while not being in total control of the resource in their localities enjoyed 13 percent derivation on the revenues accruing from the oil in their states. With such money is a serious state government in Anambra would have been able to build schools, hospitals, roads, low-income housing, etc., to make the quality of life better for the people. But they were not allowed to do so by a Federal Government that had classified the oil as a strategic reserve. Strategic reserve for when? When the oil is worthless or when alternatives are found for fossil fuels, I guess.

I do not believe that oil is automatically a curse as is now the cliché. I believe oil is a resource that is of great benefit to anyone that has it under their lands or waters if the funds derived from it are well managed. For instance, Norway was able to use their oil to create a rainy day fund, and has saved so much money from oil over the years, that if the money saved from oil is shared today, every single citizen would receive $1 million US Dollars each!

Oil was meant to be a great equalizer that would give poor countries, a lot of whom had it, a lot of money – money they would have found difficult to get to finance their development. For instance, Dubai, when they found out that their crude oil would dry up in a few years used a large portion of the oil revenue they had gathered to quickly diversify their economy into the trade and tourism sector; and that transformed it into the trade and investment hub that it is today.

I shake my head in sadness when I look at all the opportunities to finance development Anambra State would have been able utilize if it was allowed to exploit its oil or if its oil was exploited by the Federal Government.

It would have been easy for a responsible Anambra State government to partner with Delta State to build the second Niger Bridge that has taken the Federal Government forever to build.

The Anambra State Government would have found it easy to turn the Onitsha Main Market into a kind of Dubai, with a well constructed Onitsha Airport handling the arrival of international passengers to trade, a situation that would have brought in a lot of badly needed foreign exchange into Nigeria’s economy.

The Anambra State Government would have found it easy to turn the commercial town of Nnewi into the workshop of Africa, a place where lots of industrial goods are manufactured for use in Nigeria and for export abroad. Already, in spite of the challenging business environment present today Nnewi plays host to such great manufacturers like Innoson, an indigenous company that manufactures motor vehicles. There is also Coscharis, PO Ogbuawa, and other manufacturing concerns.

The Anambra State Government would have found it easy to build the Onitsha Inland Port a long time ago to drive commerce ever more closer to Onitsha.

But alas, it seems Anambra may have been denied the opportunity to benefit from the oil that flows underneath it in seismic streams. The price of oil has fallen from over $100 in 2014 to about $30 today, amid a dire prediction by international investor Prince Alwaleed of Saudi that the price of oil may never reach $100 again.

While we hope his prediction would not come to pass, we can’t fail to notice that there is a serious oil glut in the world market; and a country like Nigeria which used to find it very easy to sell of its oil to wealthy countries who needed oil to power their economies now finds it extremely difficult to find buyers for her oil – even with the low price.

The United States which used to get 10 percent of its oil from Nigeria has since ended that arrangement and has instead become a net exporter of oil like Nigeria, adding to the low prices.

To make matters worse, Iran which was barred from exporting oil is in the process of flooding the world market with oil. So, as you can see, barring any unforeseen occurrence, Prince Alwaleed’s statement holds a lot of water.

With the reluctance of the Federal Government to develop oil in Anambra State; a few years ago, some indigenes of Anambra State joined with the state government and investors to build a refinery which would depend on oil from an oil field in Aguleri Out, Anambra State. The Kogi State government unexplainably waited until the refinery was completed and commissioned before laying claim to the oil and starting a bitter controversy. Before you could say ‘petroleum’ killer squads had turned the oil field at Aguleri Otu into a killer field. Thus till today, Anambra State has not gotten a kobo from its crude oil.

The message seems to be: Your oil is in ‘strategic reserve’, whether you like it or not.

Anambra, nay the Igbos of Nigeria had people in government that would have pushed for drilling of oil in the Anambra wells all these years of plenty, but for some reason or the other, they didn’t. Now – at least at present – oil is not the game changer it used to be. It is worthless. What a wasted opportunity, not only for Anambra, but for the rest of Nigeria.

Innoson, Job Creation & Foreign Exchange

In a time of great despair in Nigeria, in a time of very bad economic stories heard and seen, Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company has emerged as a signal that no matter what happens to crude oil, we can survive if we make the right efforts.

For when we hear of scores of our unsold barrels of oil we are very saddened. When we hear that the Dollar has risen to new heights against the naira, we are filled with trepidation. When we go out to buy things and are told of the new unbelievable price of the item, we wonder begin to wonder where we are heading to. Is it a bottomless pit?

The promises the government gave us before they were elected now seem so hard to fulfill, and they were our last hope…It is as if nothing is working. Then we hear of how one diligent hard working company in Nnewi is doing things that so many racists have said blacks would never be able to do – we hear of Innoson, an indigenous vehicle manufacturing outfit, and at last, we have some course to smile in the midst of our tears.

How Innoson started
Inoson is the brain-child of Innocent Chukwuma, who hails from Nnewi, that town known for producing industrialists in Anambra State.

When he started importing motorcycles, he devised a way to import them in a more efficient way; by losing the motorcycles into spare-parts, packing them up in the containers and then reassembling them in Nigeria. That way he was able to import more motorcycles than his competition and crash the price of motorcycles in Nigeria. Thus, when tokunboh motorcycles were selling for N100,000, he was able to offer Nigerians brand new motorcycles at N60,000.

When he moved into motor manufacturing many thought he would not last long, because there was no precedent of a black man manufacturing vehicles. They thought he would fold up, but the man kept surprising them.

The Ghanaian government, seeing the enormous economic possibilities that would accrue to them if they could lure this visionary to establish his manufacturing base fully in their country, sent a delegation to lobby him to do so.

Support From Jonathan Administration
We must thank the immediate past Goodluck Jonathan Administration for really supporting Innoson, buying vehicles from the company and giving them funds in the billions of naira to help them expand.
We also thank the Redeemed Christian Church of God for buying several buses from IVM.

Growing Support Under Buhari
Then came the second coming of President Muhammadu Buhari, and people said that the new administration would neglect Innoson for political and ethnic reasons. They opined that the Buhari Administration would ignore Innoson; or even shut down the company.
But rather than being shut down the company, has indeed been growing in leaps and bounds in the Buhari era. Last month a delegation from the Presidential Committee on Defense visited the company at Nnewi to inspect facilities at the vehicle manufacturing plant and see how the Nigeria’s defense sector in could benefit from the company.

One of the chairs of the visiting delegation, Professor Isaac Olawale Albert. said, “We saw at the factory, pick-up vans that can be used by the police, army, air force, navy, customs and immigration. We also saw buses that can be used to convey officers and men…“Our observation is that Nigeria can produce her own armoured vehicles for carrying out operations.”
On the 22nd of January an Army delegation also visited Innoson. The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) was also full of praise as it lauded Innoson for supporting its operations with its technological prowess.

A statement from the force read in part; “The Company, at a time when the NAF would have been forced to ground its entire fleet of Alpha Jets due to lack of brake assembly, had helped to locally modify and overhaul the brake assembly of the MB-339 aircraft for adoption on the Alpha Jets. This ingenious effort by IVM is instrumental to the continued operation of the Alpha Jets, and had helped to save the day when help was not forthcoming from abroad.” The Air Force also expressed hope for more the collaboration with Innoson in other areas of mutual interest.

Ben Murray Bruce of SilverBird, a high profile Senator and entrepreneur just bought a couple of Innoson cars a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) and a sedan and plans to buy a bullet proof version of the SUV in the next few months. Senate president Bukola Saraki has also introduced the founder of Innoson to the head of the procurement Department of the National Assembly, possibly to facilitate the purchase of Innoson cars as official cars for National Assembly members.

Some disappointments can indeed be blessings in disguise, and it is no doubt that with the two pronged challenge of the high price of the US dollar and the ever-plummeting price of crude oil, Nigerians have begun to realize the values in diversification, looking inward and digging our wells before we get thirsty. But we must not rest on our laurels. This is just the beginning of what we must do to get full value from Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing.
The Buhari Administration needs to encourage as much as possible, the purchase of Innoson cars as official cars of all the ministries, departments and agencies within it. The President needs to make Innoson the official car within the presidency. The National Assembly not only needs to make Innoson cars the official cars of its members and staff, it also needs actively consult in order to enact favorable laws to help Nigeria’s cottage industries grow to maturity.
President Buhari needs to even go further. He needs to become the salesman-in-chief of Innoson cars as well as other Made-in-Nigeria products in his visits abroad.
What stops the president from negotiating with other countries to have them buy Innoson armored cars for their armed forces? What stops the president from negotiating with these countries to get them to lower tariffs for Innoson vehicles?
The answer is Nothing. Presidential negotiations for to sell their country’s products to other countries is the bread and butter of international politics. It brings foreign exchange, jobs and robust economic activity to their countries. That is why you’ll see the French President traveling out to negotiate the sale of Airbus planes with other countries. That is why the Russian President would go to Iran to negotiate the sale of a nuclear reactor or two to that country.
President Buhari is indeed fortunate that he has such products as Innoson vehicles to pitch. He shouldn’t waste this opportunity. If President Buhari and Innocent Chukwuma play their cards well, Innoson can become a great foreign exchange earner and job creator for Nigeria, the way Nokia phones earned real money for Finland for many, many years.