As oil prices and profits soar, Nigeria is struggling with how to share
the wealth for the benefit of the country. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa
reports from Abuja that a top Nigerian legislator is seeking a more
judicious use of profits in Africa's largest petroleum producer.
constitution is silent on how its windfall oil profits should be
divided, leaving a legal void that has fueled political wrangling in
Deputy Nigerian Senate President Ike Ekweremadu
told VOA Nigeria cannot afford to squander its soaring oil revenues
because the majority of Nigeria's 140 million population remains
trapped in poverty.
The United Nations says nine out of 10
people in Nigeria live on less than $2 a day and the country
faces huge infrastructure challenges.
Five years ago, in an
effort to give Nigeria a financial cushion in leaner times, the country
established an "excess crude account" to save revenues from sales above
a benchmark oil price when world crude prices are high.
cash-hungry state governors have challenged the legality of the
account, insisting the money in it is as much theirs as the federal
Deputy Senate President Ekweremadu defends the
fund, but says fighting among Nigeria's tiers of government is harming
efforts to help the Nigerian people.
"I believe that this oil
boom, the high cost of oil at the international market, will not
continue forever," he said. "So we have to ensure that two things will
happen. First, to have savings for the future generation because they
are entitled to the oil we are enjoying today. Secondly, we want to
invest whatever we have now into more productive enterprise. Thirdly,
this is an opportunity for us to develop our infrastructure."
federal government plans to use $5.4 billion from the $16 billion
excess crude account to fund the rehabilitation of Nigeria's crumbling
power infrastructure. Nigeria has already paid out about $7 billion
from the account, but that has raised fears the spending could add to
Surging crude prices have swelled
government coffers, even as militant attacks on oil facilities have cut
the country's two million barrels per day production.
militants say they are agitating for more of the petroleum funds to be
spent developing the impoverished six states comprising the southern
Five decades of oil extraction from the delta have
polluted its land and water, leaving villages impoverished while
corrupt politicians and criminal gangs are accused of enriching
themselves with a lucrative trade in stolen crude.