Vanguard (Lagos)

22 January 2013

Nigeria: Arepo, the Police and the Outline of an Outlaw Economy

IN the News page of Vanguard, Monday, January 14, 2013 one finds these captions- "There is no security at Arepo"- Amosun; 3 more bodies recovered; pipeline vandalization, a big business- DPR". All of these captions are perspectives on Arepo as a structure of anarchy.

The Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun observed the opportunities created by anarchy for entrepreneurs of disorder. He accused officials of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC of conniving with vandals to wreak havoc on the country's economy through pipeline vandalism".

The Governor infers the culpability of NNPC from the company's inability to police and protect the core asset of the nation's foreign exchange economy.

Inaction in protecting the pipeline in the governor's opinion is tantamount to deliberate handing over of multibillion naira petroleum infrastructure to "hoodlums".

"We are own problem in this nation. We are our own enemies because this clearly is a case of failure of governance. This is why I said that NNPC with their inaction are part of this problem. I want to believe that they are the people aiding and abetting these vandals.

How can some vandals put everybody in this nation into problem?"

A top management staff of DPR states that Arepo pipelines is a big business "because some villages live of the pipelines and have no other job, so vandalism will continue.

Arepo has been happening not one, or two, even over 10 years and since then, the security agencies are not helping and neither is PPMC the owners of the pipelines checkmating the havoc".

On the surface, these comments are provoked by the huge carnage from explosions caused by fires unwittingly started by participants in pipeline vandalization. Arepo is not unique in deaths associated with the high risk ventures of petroleum theft.

Petroleum theft is a multilevel industry headquartered by international pirate-bunkerers. Arepo is however unique in its structure of petroleum theft. Its modus operandi show that it is a function of highly armed brigandage.

The security forces of the petroleum sector are overburden and often are facing small armies of petroleum plunderers better armed than the security forces.

The so-called vandals or hoodlums have been known to have resorted to killing security personnel to maintain access to the pipelines.

They have an elaborate organisation of collaborators who are employed for early warning on the presence of government officials.

A petroleum theft sub-economy exists and the profit opportunities have transformed "vandals" into economic predators.

These entrepreneurs of disorders have been transformed into petroleum theft mercenary and this is the core security problem. Governor Amosun sees the national security risk in this venture- hence his proposal.

"If they want to stop vandalism in Ogun State, I don't know of any other state, they should come and we will discuss because I don't want Ogun State to be on the front page for wrong reasons.

I will write again to the appropriate authorities and I have been doing that. This is not good for us as a nation.

Every time, they will say that vandals have done this and that, what have they (NNPC) done?" A good question but posed to the wrong party. This question goes to the heart of the problem of the economic organisation of society.

There are two contexts of economic organisation of society. The contexts of order and the contexts of anarchy and both have their political organisations. History shows this to be the case.

In the colonial era, the British sought to protect their business of Whisky championed by the producers of Gordon GIN. Before Gordon there was what the colonial government branded as "Illicit Gin", the natives' invention and rival to Gordon.

Presently, there is also the rivalry between the approved refineries of the NNPC and the home-invented refineries based on stolen oil.

Two rival economies with two rival contexts of operations, the governmental and the "anti-governmental"; the anti-governmental existing as an "illicit" or criminal subsector of the governmental; both having their markets and in the Nigerian contemporary situation the "illicit" is often protected by those in the legitimate economy who use it for primitive accumulation of petroleum wealth.

The Niger Delta creeks constitute the "university" for training and educating the "vandals" in the political economy of the "illicit state".

As it was in the course of the 1917 Russian Revolution when the soviets of workers sprouted in the transition of disorder and anarchy marking the overthrow of the old Czarist order and prior to the establishment of the Bolshevik order, so in the ongoing transition between the decaying of the inherited colonial structures of power and the yet to be created and established Nigerian Post Colonial Order, illicit states have sprung up to organise illicit enclave economies that provide alternate wealth creating opportunities unavailable in the legitimate economy to the class we have called "entrepreneurs of disorder". The "illicit states" are thriving in Nigeria's NNPC Economy and foster, protect and develop the "illicit economies" which are organised as parasites in the legitimate economy.

Vandalisation of the pipelines are productive measures of these parallel economies that often cripple the legitimate economy. Security issues arise out of the "enemy relations" between the licit and the illicit economies.

The Constitution recognises this problem in its provision in Section 214(2)(c) which empowers the National Assembly to make provisions for branches of the Nigerian Police Force forming part of the armed forces of the Federation or for the protection of harbours, waterways, railway and airfields". The National Assembly can make provisions for the setting up of a branch of the Nigeria Police for the protection of the NNPC Economy.

It is in thinking through the functions of this special branch of the police, that it becomes clear that what police will face are not criminals but nascent para-state organisations in the genre of corporate illegal, syndicates that have been created for the global running of the business and trade of the Drug Cartels; organisations that have become so large that they constitute "de-facto" state, governments and economies.

The Oil theft Business has its federal, state, and local government structure and it is The Business that is the Illicit State with its own defence and security organs.

The National Assembly must recognise the character of the problem it addresses through section 214 (2)(c) and that problem is "statist" in its origin, structure and its "illicit" institutions.

Other regimes faced with this problem, whether it be the case of the MAFIA, or of the South American Cocaine Cartels or the South-East Asia Opium sub-states, have recognised that these "outlaw organs" are pseudo states and must be dealt with in "state making terms", that is by seeing them as rival dominions contesting for economic supremacy.

Governor Amosun has seen the governance implications of the growth of Arepo as an "Outlow Economy". Addressing Arepo politically is the challenge.

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