Square Pegs and Round Holes

The New Deal for Illegal Refineries

I am still keenly waiting for the details of government’s plan to absorb the illegal refineries operators into the mainstream. The VP is reported to have said “Our approach to that is that we must engage them (illegal refiners) by establishing modular refineries so that they can participate in legal refineries. We have recognized that young men must be properly engaged.”

I hope this is targeted more at the owners who established these refineries than the workers employed there? This is because what drives this is really illicit profit more than unemployment – and this is not saying unemployment is not a problem.

What I have picked up so far from news reports, is that there are plans for government to either build and partner or gather these folks into cooperatives and empower them to build and operate small capacity (1,000 bpd, etc.) type modular refineries.

Why this interests me is the following:

How do they plan to create incentive in this business?

Recall that the chief driver for this illegal activity is the combination of very low cost inputs and medium to high value outputs from:

  1. Free crude oil, ready market and poor enforcement by authorities.

So they basically get their “plant” crude oil feed for free.

  1. Simple operations.

What they do is a crude form of “Topping” or atmospheric distillation, with the aim of making diesel. They start by heating crude oil up to 350-400oC. This is done in two stages. The bottoms from the first stage is mostly bitumen. The distillate is moved to a next stage vessel and cooled to get diesel. The other by-products like fuel oils, gasses, jet fuel/kerosene and gas oils are not properly extracted and are disposed indiscriminately to the environment. Note that diesel is about 27-32% of crude oil types available in Nigeria. In a proper refinery, the next stages would be conversion and treating. These are quite complex steps involving different chemical processes, materials and equipment. This is where you’ll find scaled up refineries producing gasoline (petrol), LPG, etc.

  1. Proximity to crude.

They are usually sited a small distance from the pipeline where the oil is stolen from. So, no real transport cost.

  1. The absence of controls and standards.

It costs money to abide by product, operational, environmental and basic chemical industry process safety standards

  1. No taxes to government.

I suppose they can still get greenfield tax incentives for 5 years, per the regulations when they now go legal. So, this is a soft one.

  1. “Irregular” employment practices….and that is being modest.

These guys run as a cartel with a local strong man overseeing things. Nobody dey strike o. You don’t like the conditions – you leave. But I hear the money is not bad.

All these help to lower cost of operations a great deal and maximize profit.

*Note that refineries’ profits are determined by size and complexity, crude type and product slate, logistics, operational efficiency and regulatory environment. Generally, their margins run from minus (-ive) to 18% with 11-13% being the average for North America. I have not been able to gather data in Nigeria to determine how we have run in the past, for reasons of not having profit driven refining operations.


Whatever partnership, help, subsidies/loans and waivers the FG intends to give these operators, I don’t see how health, safety, environmental and product quality standards can be lowered. So, that element of operational cost will still be there to “temper” profit margins. Hopefully, government will still find a way to create incentive for this plan to work, regardless. I trust that they have enough people in the policy space of this sector, who understand the problem and can proffer solutions and advice on implementation.

All in all, reaching out in an inclusive manner in trying to solve this problem, in a win-win manner, is a good initiative.

I hope for the best in its implementation.



Additional reading


Love at First Sound

Just one word

Just one sentence

Just your voice

Not your looks

Not a look

Not a touch

Just your voice

And I was hooked


All it took was your voice

All it took was the sound

I can’t see you

You can’t see me

I have never touched you

You have never touched me

Still I feel for you

Still you feel for me


I was made for you

You were made for me

I make you a better you

You make me a better me

I bring out the best in you

You bring out the best in me

I complete you

You complete me


I belong to you

You belong to me

I feel it

You feel it

I know it

You know it

We fell in love at first sound


Olayemi Shotubo -for #WorldPoetryDay

War on Terror – Addressing consequence as well as “root causes”

When a fire incident occurs, the first thing that happens is that emergency services are called in. They arrive at the site as fast as possible, take a quick assessment of the situation, start putting out the fire depending on the “possible sources” based on feedback from witnesses, go in to rescue the inhabitants, create a “water wall” between adjourning houses to prevent escalation, etc. They ensure the fire is fully put out and everyone is out of harm’s way before leaving the site.

What they just did was to respond to consequence.

The next step is to call investigators in. Their brief is to identify root causes and recommend actions to prevent recurrence. Depending on the situation they may also arrive in tandem with the folks responding to the consequence. These guys use a combination of data gathering, sequence of events mapping, determining protective systems that worked, failed or were not present, etc. They arrive at immediate, intermediate and root causes and recommend corrective and preventative actions targeted at these. After this report is passed on to the relevant authorities, it is then implemented.

In the case of the fire above, investigators determine that the fire started from an overheated electrical wire supplying a 2 hp air conditioner. This is the immediate cause.

It was also observed that the home did not have early warning devices like smoke detectors and the overload prevention did not meet the spec required. The AC wall plug was also observed to have been near the curtain/blinds of that room. The home owner also kept their only fire extinguisher on a floor below the one where the fire started. Those were protective systems that did not work or were not available.

The investigators also found out that the cables used for the 2hp AC were not rated to carry the load and possible surge. This is an intermediate cause.

The home owner actually had a 1.5 hp installed initially and upgraded to a 2HP without changing the wiring or ensuring that it met spec. A visit to the municipal authorities also showed that the home in question had their building permit issued without specifying the different cable specifications for all the possible equipment that could have been installed based on electrical code specification. This is root cause.

Recommendations were made and implemented, at municipal level, that addressed electrical codes and ratings notification, inspections and enforcement/sanctions, awareness communication around the number of and location of extinguishers in the room per specific risk, keeping flammable materials away from likely electrical heat sources and reinforcement of the building permits process to address all these concerns.


Back to the matter

While I agree that the approach above is currently applied in general conflict resolution and civil strife in this country, I am not convinced that the same is done to tackle the specific issue of terrorism and insurgency in a “visible” manner.

Some quick (proactive and reactive) suggestions

  1. Ensure the rule of law. Do not create reasons (outside the law) for deification/martyrdom of individuals and ideas
  2. Regulate religious teachings to weed out extremism. This must be done by the state and supported by religious leaders. Punitive measures must be applied through targeted legislation.
  3. Respected local and religious leaders should focus on preaching the counter narrative. This has to be a deliberate and concerted campaign.
  4. Strictly enforce the UBE clause that mandates education for all up to JS3. This refers to the federal and not religious curricula. Take kids off the streets into class and then trade or any other gainful activity.
  5. Sponsors, at all levels, must be exposed and punished with their sources of income/influence cut off permanently

I am afraid if this is not a strong focus, we will continue to have this periodic cycles of insurgency/terrorism. It is a long road, but we must start today.






Many years ago, a senior colleague, “Mr. Ade”, told me how he met his wife. He was driving in the rain and found her walking with two kids without an umbrella and with some uncoordinated pieces of luggage. When he stopped to offer them a ride, he saw that she was crying. They had nowhere to go. Her husband had just kicked them out of the house after she reported the last case of physical abuse to her parents and they sent him a warning.
This Good Samaritan offered them his home and in no time they were married. He told me this story as he invited me to his place for the naming ceremony of their third child together. Their fifth as joint parents. 
One hears of all kinds of domestic violence nowadays. There are testimonies on radio talk shows, pictures on social media, news reports of the ones that ended in loss of life and limb and even others that one comes across from time to time in person. I am not trying to be prescriptive, but self preservation should trump emotions when DV becomes a constant in a relationship.
Adekunle Gold’s 2016 album, titled “Gold” is the best album I heard all 2016 whether from a local or international artiste. How do you listen to an Album over and over and only skip one of 16 songs? I digress. Track 13 – Fight for you, speaks about a victim of domestic violence and how the writer would not only want to protect her, but present himself as a better alternative. 
It reminds me of Mr and Mrs Ade and the look on his face as he told me that story. My head swells whenever I hear that song. Adekunle Gold offers himself as one who would respect her and treat her like a king. He says in Yoruba – Aya Oba onsukun, Aya Oba onjiya (The wife of a King neither cries nor suffers).
Is she not your queen? Is he not your king? Why not treat one another as such? 
For you who is still searching: find “the right one” and make sure you treat them right…always.
Good morning.

My neigbour’s lawn (a fable)

That was how I was tending to mine and my neigbour’s lawns one time. As a routine, I would mow both lawns and water them from my sprinkler system. There were even times when I chased away stray animals and cleared anthills from my neigbours lawn. Even when they were out of town, I would ensure their yard was well looked after.

One time, I travelled for a few weeks and returned to meet my lawn overgrown, with dog poo everywhere, full of weed and sprouting a developing anthill. I looked across at my neigbour’s lawn and it was in immaculate condition. I was confused. 
After toiling continuously for three days, I was able to get things under control in my yard. So, after my Saturday maintenance activity on my lawn, I washed up and oiled my calloused hands and went across to say hello to my neigbour. I was greeted with the usual warmth and pleasantries. I found a way to bring up the condition I met my lawn upon my return. 
My neigbour said: “yes, we noticed things were not right at your yard, but we did not want to encroach. Also, we knew you would take care of it once you return”. 

*No neigbour, past or present was cited in this FABLE.


Photo credit: my lawn.

Issue Voting

2019 will see the rise of the issue voter in Nigeria. Most people will be focused on issues like security, the economy, rule of law, corruption, poverty reduction, provision of infrastructure, etc. This is a progressive way to select preferred candidates after aggregating their performance on the core issues important to the voter. It is mostly subjective as the voter sees the performance from the prism of how these issues affect them. For instance, if the second Niger bridge is not completed in four years, there might be a voter backlash from residents of the South East regardless of the advances made in delivering, say the Kano-Lagos or the Calabar-Lagos rail lines, power sector reform goals, etc.


Some will still vote based on hang-ups of 2015 and the other ethnic colorations and the other non-progressive markers that exist everywhere there are people with differences.  That will most never leave world politics. On the other hand there will be some who will be single issue voters. These are the ones that will focus on just one issue dear to their heart and not even care about the candidates performance on the other equally if not more important issues.


I will be a single issue voter in 2019. I will focus on an issue that is dear to me. I will not bother too much about the other ones. I will leave those to you. Also, I believe the government will do well on the critical indices given the opportunities that abound and within the context of local and global constraints.


My single issue will be sensitivity. Is that progressive? I’m not sure, but that’s where my heart leads me.



The Yes Men

One time I was involved in some civil construction work. Through it I met many artisans, equipment and materials vendors and all kinds of professionals.
I had one artisan/sub-contractor who I will call Tunde. He was very good at his job. His English was not perfect, but I understood all his text messages and quotes. He could use technology. He would proactively shoot me pictures to explain a point and show progress. He was very loyal and supportive. I came to trust him because he had many opportunities to cheat me or withhold what belonged to me and each time he passed the test with shinning colours.
But he had one problem. Let me explain.
Whenever we went out to select materials together, he would agree with all my choices.
“Oga this one good. I like am”.
“That one too sef good”.
“Yes, you fit take this one too if you like am. E fine well well”.
Me: But I bring you here because na you be expert. You need to tell me the reason why one better pass another one so that I go fit choose”
Tunde : OK Oga. Which one you like out of all of them? That one? OK. Na im fine pass. Make we buy that one. E go last and e fine.”
Very exasperating, to say the least.
So I stopped taking him out to select materials. I would ask him for the qualifying parameters prior to my store visits and then just go out and make a choice.
Then I would return and say “Wetin you think of this one?”
Him: Ah, Oga you get taste o, you sabi better thing o! This one dey very good. Na the best one”
And when I make an obvious error in giving work direction? He would not correct me. So it happened that we spent a lot of money to buy a material that was not suited for the specific application it was to be used for and it failed. It cost money and more materials to remove it, get a different one and return to the site. So I asked him how come he later spoke like he knew that was going to happen. Yet he watched me through the decision phase to implementation and never stopped me or expressed a word of caution? Did he know how much that cost us in time, money and opportunity?
Tunde: Oga no vex Sir. I no want make you vex. I too believe you. I too small to correct you. Who I be for where you dey?” No vex Sir!
Me: Your job na to work for me and also advise when I dey go wrong. If you continue like this I go terminate our agreement and get someone else. Make you no fear me abeg. Na you know your work pass me. Na you be the expert. I go listen to you. Na you dey see wetin I no dey see. Dey tell me as e be every time abeg, you hear?
Tunde: Yes sir!
It was a work in progress still. Sigh.

What’s On Your Bookshelf?

The books you buy, keep or read say a lot about your personality. One can easily guess taste and behavior trends by going through people’s books. What you read feeds your mind and ends up shaping your thoughts and behaviors.

I raided Doye’s book shelf recently and today being the World  Book Day, I am sharing  pictures from a random selection of this eclectic  reader’s book choices through the years. Meanwhile, I have known Doye since I was maybe eight. He’s always been quite “bookish”. You should have seen his glasses before the Lasik. 😜😄🤓

Tell us your opinion of some of the books shown here.

See pictures below the cut.




Cattle Ranching and Farming

There is already deep mutual distrust between landowner farmers and herders. This is not helped by the frequency of “clashes” and the resulting multiple fatalities on the side of farming communities, which have gone on through successive administrations without a noticeable response from law enforcement. Also, there is no way to ensure the herdsmen and their cattle do not stray from the prescribed areas.

The only thing that’ll work is a prescription that keeps these two sets of people apart in the struggle for pasture and preservation of farm crop yields; or have them form a mutually beneficial agreement guided by law.

Ranching is that solution and it must be private sector driven. Livestock owner negotiates for land and buys/leases it from “willing” owner. Government must not use executive fiat in facilitating this deal as is currently stated as one of the powers to be vested in the “National Grazing Commission” in section 20-22 of the bill. This land must also be provided perimeter fencing as much as possible.

The owners of the cattle need to follow the example of the farmers in South Africa, Argentina, USA and other livestock farming countries. Businesses evolve with the times. This is no different.

Meat will become more expensive initially as the livestock owners pass on the cost of ranching and providing feed, etc., to the meat buyers. This is also ok. It is standard business practice. The consumer will adjust.

This is April 2016. A lot has happened between the herders and farmers/landowners. Many communities in the south and middle belt are opposed to this bill, regardless of what their NASS members say. A simple test of this is to have the FG or the NASS members engage the people in town hall meetings around this issue to get the pulse of the people. It is unfortunate that this has not even been communicated talk less of getting feedback. If the intent of this bill is to forestall future clashes between these two groups, then this bill would not do that. In my mind, it would do the opposite.

And if your angle is about “people’s ancestral practice and age long culture”, then my response to you is that this is not a progressive mindset. Can the constitution accommodate everyone’s ancestral, cultural and economic practices? Especially as some other will feel they are bearing the brunt for it through the targeted land “acquisitions”? Remember we are still facing backlash and sabotage from communities in the Niger delta over land and mineral resources? This will open another vista and create even more tensions and sabotage opportunities.

Unfortunately, one of the main causes of this migration is desertification. This has also seen billions of Naira sunk in by government through the years with scant evidence of progress. There is decades old technology out there to reverse desertification, carry out remediation on lands that were previously fertile and also new age technology like hydroponics that grows pasture without soil. New feed types should also be adopted. Pasture grass is not the only feed available to cattle.

Way Forward

There is so much more in modern livestock farming. We should look at this on the medium to long term while we allow the cattle owners to approach “willing” landed communities to procure short-medium term land leases for pasture land that will be transparent and perfected through legal means with clearly delineated hard boundaries and all the stakeholders carried along. We do not need a powerful bureaucracy wielding the Land Use Act to do this. All we need is for the rights of each party to be guaranteed under the law and ALL cases of infractions addressed to a logical end.


This is my opinion. It is how I read the situation and the dangers the bill portends for integration and mutual co-existence.




Images from and

Suggested reading:

Analysis of the (consolidated) National Grazing Routes and Reserves Bill (2016, HB 388)  by the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, Abuja.

National Grazing Reserves Bill : SB 114

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑