NNPC fails to declare $22.8bn oil proceeds -NEITI

FEBRUARY 26, 2014 BY JOHN AMEH, ABUJA

The Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative said on Wednesday that a whopping $22.8billion was yet to be declared by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation in its alternative funding arrangements with Joint Venture Partners.

NEITI told the House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream) that the findings came out of its audit report on the finances of the oil corporation for 2009 to 2011.

The committee, which is headed by Mr. Ajibola Muraina, is investigating the alleged connivance of the NNPC with Swiss oil trading companies to “defraud Nigeria of billions of dollars of crude oil revenue.”

The country had reportedly lost about $6.8billion as of 2013 to the connivance, which the ‘Bernes Declaration’ said involved the sale of Nigeria’s crude oil below international prices.

Only on Tuesday, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mr. Andrew Yakubu, had appeared before the committee to deny the Bernes Declaration.

But, on Wednesday, the turn of NEITI to testify, the Executive Secretary, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, said the agency did not only agree with the allegation by the Bernes Declaration, but that its audit report also indicted NNPC.

Ahmed faulted Yakubu’s denial. She noted for example, that the NNPC used an exchange rate different from that of the CBN in its transactions, resulting in the loss of N98.3billion to the country between 2009 and 2011.

She promised the committee that she would make a comprehensive analysis of the link between the NEITI audit report and the Bernes Declaration, both confirming the connivance with foreign oil trading companies to short-change Nigeria.

Ahmed said, “There is similarity in NEITI’s audit report and the Bernes Declaration report.

“The report (Bernes Declaration) has a lot of substance in it. NEITI will go back and link the Bernes Declaration report with the NEITI audit report.”

She also told the committee that NEITI strongly opposed the daily allocation of 445,000 barrels of crude to the NNPC on the grounds that the corporation did not have the capacity to utlilise the crude.

According to her, the refineries in the country lack the capacity to refine the crude, calling on the Federal Government to review the policy.

Ahmed, who urged government to urgently privatise the refineries, added, “the 445,000 barrels per day allocation should be reviewed to the actual refining capacity of the refineries.”

On his part, the Managing Director of the Pipelines and Product Marketing Company, Mr Haruna Momoh, defended the swap arrangement of crude for refined products between the NNPC and its foreign trading partners.

He denied that the country lost $8billion annually to the arrangement as widely believed.

Momoh explained that the arrangement was the reason the country no longer experienced acute scarcity of petroleum products.

The committee later adjourned hearing till March 25, but not before summoning the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, and the Acting Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mrs. Sarah Alade, to appear before it in connection with the investigation.

Also summoned were the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, officials of the Department of Petroleum Resources and the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency.

However, the troubles of the NNPC were not over yet, as the House Committee on Finance accused the corporation of withholding N105billion of independent revenue from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.

At a separate meeting with the NNPC, the Chairman of the committee, Dr. Jubrin Abdulmumin, said records before the committee indicated that the money had not been remitted.

Jibrin stated that the committee got the records from the Budget Office of the Federation.

However, NNPC’s Chief Strategist, Mr. Tim Okon, who led a team of the corporation to the meeting, expressed surprise over the information.

He claimed not to be aware that the corporation owed such a staggering amount.

In a response, Jibrin dared him to put his denial in writing and forward it to the committee on Thursday.

The National Agency for Science, Engineering and Infrastructure, also claimed not to be aware that its 2014 budget was N80million instead of N29million.

The committee directed the agency to write the denial and forward to members.

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The $49.8b Question: Too Big To Ignore

By LeadershipNG Editorial

Even for a country that is rapidly acquiring the reputation of the world’s cover-up capital, the letter cannot – and will not – be swept under the carpet. On Tuesday, the press published a letter by the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, in which he accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation of failing to remit $49.8billion (N8trillion) received from the sale of crude during 19 months ending July 2013 into the treasury.

NNPC’s response has at best been obfuscating, and at worst, insulting. To tell the public that the governor of the CBN does not know how to add up oil receipts, is to say Sanusi does not know the difference between six and half a dozen. That is ridiculous. We know that the folks at NNPC are used to a president who doesn’t give a damn and a legislature that doesn’t take its job serious. But we promise them, on behalf of millions of ordinary Nigerians whose children have been robbed of a decent education, potable drinking water, safe neighbourhoods and a fair shot at a decent life, that we will hold their feet to the fire. We will not stop asking until the public has a full and satisfactory account of what happened to the $49.8billion.

They think that a scandal-weary public will accept anything. They are mistaken. This may well be the scandal that ends all scandals.The moment of truth has come; we either swim or sink.Only last Monday, finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, at a breakfast meeting with the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) in Lagos, bemoaned the destructive influence of “corruption, mismanagement and waste in government”. Infrastructure and development, she said, were impossible with “this level of corruption” which “is eating into the fabric of the economy”. In a rare moment of candour, she added: “We are not helpless; we need to have the courage to start the corruption fight.”

About the same time, the speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, was addressing the Nigerian Bar Association in Abuja to mark the International Anti-Corruption Day. He said President Goodluck Jonathan was encouraging corruption in the country by failing to act on cases found by the legislature to be true. In particular, he drew attention to the purchase of two bulletproof cars for aviation minister Stella Oduah at the cost of N255 million, the failure of anti-graft agency EFCC to account for donor funds it receives, inaction over N1trillion stolen by fuel importers in the name of “subsidy”, and the mismanagement of billions of naira of the police pension fund.

Other public officers (including Okonjo-Iweala) have since reported that about 400, 000 barrels of crude oil were being stolen daily in Nigeria. The NCC spectrum sale scandal, which cost the country about $53 billion, is still haunting us. Jigawa State governor Sule Lamido also charged that he had reported a minister that accepted a $250milion bribe from an oil company to President Jonathan but the latter took no action. Not long after, Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi said $5billion was missing from the Excess Crude Account. Other governors have joined Amaechi in seeking answers to the many puzzles surrounding the oil industry and proceeds from oil.

But Sanusi’s disclosure remains the mother of all heists! “While government needs to continue its effort to combat oil thieves, vandals and illegal refineries in the Niger Delta,” Sanusi wrote, “the major problems are transactions taking place under legal cover with huge revenue leakages embedded therein.”

As these current affairs show, many daggers have been thrust into the heart of Nigeria. And it is just a matter of time before it bleeds to death. No other country pillaged in this way should hope to survive. Now, we have reached a crossroads where we must decide to tell the truth and find a way back from the precipice.

If the governor of the apex bank did not understand how money is remitted all the while, who else did? Only President Goodluck Jonathan, his petroleum resources minister Diezani Alison-Madueke and finance minister Okonjo-Iweala could perhaps tell us what happened. And the nation is waiting for a valid explanation.

Several other allegations of fraud have been levelled on those who supervise the NNPC. The situation is so bad that Nigerians do not know the actual quantity of crude oil extracted from under its soil each day. Even the fight between the executive and the legislature over the benchmark price for oil in this and next year’s budget is on account of corruption: whereas the price of a barrel of Nigerian crude has hovered around $110 for almost the entire year, the budget is hardly implemented and yet the contest for benchmark is between $76 and $79. The difference, of course, goes into the Excess Crude Account that public officeholders often find easy to feast upon.

The Senate has promised to probe the missing $49.8 billion. It will have to work hard to regain its name and reputation. On his part, the president has acquired a reputation for protecting thieves in his government; he cannot pretend not to know. If this indeed is the country over which he is president, he cannot pretend that a letter from the CBN governor raising the alarm over $49.8billion is not a big deal. Think of what $49.8billion can do in Nigeria today. The figure is 40 times the N200billion that forced ASUU to shut down our universities for five months. It’s the equivalent of two years’ federal budget and the combined budgets of a dozen African countries. And Jonathan and the folks at the NNPC think Nigerians will turn a blind eye and let this pass, just like that?

We call on the National Assembly to immediately commence impeachment proceedings against the president, if within a week from today the public does not have convincing explanation of what happened to the $49.8billion. If $49.8billion was not remitted to the treasury and the president didn’t know, then he is unfit to retain his position. If he knew but did nothing to stop it, then he is a danger not just to himself, but also to the very existence of this great, long-suffering country.

This Banker Turned Whistleblower Has A Revolutionary Message For Nigeria

This banker turned whistleblower has a revolutionary message for Nigeria

‘Lamido Sanusi: ‘If the population as a whole starts protesting what is going on in our country, how many of them can they kill?’

Remi Adekoya

Aristocrats rarely turn whistleblower. After all, they are more often than not the beneficiaries of a social order that guarantees them a life of privilege. So the least one could expect is that they avoid rocking the boat. Criticism of the status quo is supposed to be the preserve of the have-nots.

Hence the surprise of many when Lamido Sanusi, scion of one of the most powerful royal families in northern Nigeria, started talking publicly about alleged corruption in the oil industry and billions in missing revenue.

Sanusi had, up until now, led a pretty predictable life. He attended the right schools, enjoyed a successful banking career and in 2009 was appointed governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Hardly your stereotypical activist candidate.

But this wealthy nobleman has emerged as a thorn in the neck of Nigeria’s government since alleging last December that $20bn of the country’s oil revenue went missing in the year 2012-13, and that Nigeria is being “raped by vested interests”. The government has rejected his claims. Sanusi insists the money is gone.

Last week, President Goodluck Jonathan “suspended” him from his position as central bank chief, sending the country’s currency on a downward spiral and prompting uncertainty on the Nigerian stock exchange.

In typical fashion, the government is now accusing the whistleblower of “financial recklessness”, warning that he could be prosecuted. Sanusi denies any wrongdoing and says talk of jail won’t scare him into silence.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s ruling elite is infuriated that one of their own is now airing their dirty laundry in public..

The obvious solution would be to throw Sanusi in jail on some trumped-up charges. But this would be problematic because of his family connections, especially as the president desperately needs the support of northern power brokers to win re-election in 2015.

Sanusi’s accusations carry weight because of who he is. For decades, journalists and activists have been lamenting about the massive corruption in Nigeria, often eliciting little more than a bored yawn or two.

The government of the day usually brushes them off as sensationalists desperate to make themselves relevant. Sadly enough, in the fiercely materialistic and hierarchial society that Nigeria is, it’s all too easy to paint (usually poorly paid) government critics as green-with-envy, attention-seeking “nobodies”.

Rooting for the underdog is not part of the national psyche in Nigeria. Admiration is usually reserved for the mighty, and the instinct is to bow low before them. Fela Kuti, the late legendary Nigerian Afrobeat musician and social critic, once said his countrymen “suffer and smile”; a stance he described as “approaching slave mentality”.

Nigerians have mastered the art of peaceful coexistence with inequality and oppression. Furthermore, people are tired of hearing about how they are being ripped off by their rulers because they feel powerless to do anything about it. It’s like the guy who knows his wife is cheating on him but can’t find it in himself to leave her. Reminding him of her infidelity will only irritate him by increasing his feeling of helplessness.

But when insiders start whistleblowing about the rot within a ruling class and encourage defiance towards it, people listen and those rulers start to worry just a bit more. After all, we don’t want people getting any silly ideas.

Sanusi says Nigeria will never realise its potential as long as vested interests continue to loot it, stressing the need to overcome fear of these individuals. Still, most folk are wary of such revolutionary talk and of challenging their rulers outright. “Sanusi can talk because he is from a powerful family and they can’t just do away with him that easily. But who would protect me from them?” one Nigerian asked me recently.

I asked the man at the centre of the controversy how he would respond to such concerns. “It is always easier for power to deal with an individual than with a mass movement, no matter who that individual is. If the population as a whole starts protesting what is going on in our country, how many of them can they kill?” Sanusi replied, adding that the ousted leaders of Ukraine and the Arab spring nations “never did half as much damage to their countries as our rulers have”.

He complained of a “worrying lack of social consciousness” in Nigeria and a “reluctance to ask the powers that be tough questions anywhere other than on Facebook”.

“We should always remember that, in the end, this country belongs to us,” Sanusi added. Nowadays, “entitlement” has become a dirty word in many western countries, conjuring up images of welfare-seeking bums. However, in the case of Nigeria, it is the people’s lack of a sense of entitlement that enables their rulers rip them off so easily while they meekly accept a life of poverty and hardship as inevitable.

That seems to be the message this aristocrat turned activist is trying to get across.

Thieves At Work, Don’t Disturb

Thieves At Work, Don’t Disturb
Sam Nda-Isaiah
— February 24, 2014

With President Goodluck Jonathan, many things we once thought were impossible have become very possible. It’s only under Jonathan that we started spending N2 trillion on fuel subsidy without any significant increase in our population. In his first year in office, the president spent about N2 trillion fuel subsidy even though only N245 billion was appropriated for this. Only in the Nigerian style democracy would this man continue as president two years after this revelation. In decent climes, a president like this would have long been impeached and removed from office by the National Assembly in the national interest.

I once wrote on this page that we have a president who gets very angry if you catch a thief. He gets very, very angry. And many people have started wondering if there is a linear relationship between him and these thieves. He wants thieves to be left alone to ply their trade quietly and efficiently.

Sometime ago, the media exposed the squalid conditions police cadets lived in at the Police College, Ikeja. Those who exposed the sorry condition thought they were helping Jonathan to do his work as president. The first thing the president said when he was shown the place was, “Who brought pressmen to this place?” It was like saying, “Why are you exposing the thievery in this place?” In other words, “thieves at work, don’t disturb.” Till date, nothing has happened. Vintage Jonathan.

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the Central Bank of Nigeria governor, has been shouting himself hoarse that $20 billion or N3.3 trillion of the revenues that the NNPC was supposed to have made for the country has not been remitted to the nation’s coffers. The first thing any normal president would do on getting this kind of information is get very angry. And if you were the kind of president who stole along with your minister, the best first thing to do would be to pretend to be angry. Our president did not get angry at this very serious revelation, and he did not even think it was worth his while to pretend to be angry. Our wonderful president did not even get angry when his beloved minister of petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke, confessed that she had spent N3.5 billion on kerosene subsidy without appropriation, a power the president himself does not have. He also did not waste his time pretending.

Sanusi was obviously the only one angry on behalf of Jonathan and his government, and he kept raising the alarm. As Sanusi continued to raise the alarm, our president got more desperate. The president knew he did not have the power to remove the CBN governor, as he needed the Senate’s approval to achieve that. Sanusi had earlier rebuffed his order to resign. A smart president would have just respected himself and waited for Sanusi’s tenure to run out. An even smarter president would have simply announced Sanusi’s successor and, by so doing, he would have made Sanusi a lame-duck governor at once and made his comments largely ineffective. People would now be waiting for the incoming governor to either confirm or repudiate Sanusi’s allegations.

But, instead, Jonathan has, by the needless or even groundless suspension of the CBN governor, further confirmed the reasoning of many who have said that he (Jonathan) should not be president in the first place because he lacks the reflexes of the president of a nation. Jonathan’s detractors should go to sleep because the president himself is doing their job excellently for them. They can’t do it better. The president is his own greatest enemy.

The reactions from around the world about the Nigerian president in the wake of such a very unpresidential action should embarrass every Nigerian. Some in the international community are already comparing Jonathan’s Nigeria to Idi Amin’s Uganda, except that the latter was not nearly as corrupt.

I still find it incomprehensible that a CBN governor would complain that a minister has misappropriated N3 trillion and, instead of the president to suspend the minister first, pending the outcome of an investigation, it is the CBN governor who reported the theft that has to be suspended. Indeed, our president is a wonderful man.

EARSHOT

A Military Governor For Borno?

I first heard the improbable rumour at the weekend but I quickly dismissed it because it would not make sense to believe it. But the story was the lead of yesterday’s Sunday Trust: President Goodluck Jonathan is indeed contemplating appointing a military administrator for Borno State. Even with that story, I still will not want to believe that Jonathan will carry his suicidal instincts that far. If he tries that kind of stunt, someone could someday borrow from the same play book to say that a military administrator should be appointed for Nigeria, especially as President Jonathan himself has messed up the country so badly.

So, let President Jonathan save all of us that setback. Even though the president thinks he can get away with illegalities, this one may ultimately be his waterloo. The military has quit power; he must never bring them back with his own hands through the back door. The security problem in Borno and Yobe states is Jonathan himself. Whenever he gets serious about tackling security in the north-east, he will do it. Let him ask the countries that are doing it successfully how they are doing it. Even an average president can solve this problem easily. When he starts to equip the soldiers properly and starts giving them their appropriated budgets to carry out their functions, they will defeat Boko Haram. Let the president tell Nigerians how much of their appropriated budgets the military and police have been receiving since he became president.

In the very recent past, the Nigerian military and police have been adjudged as some of the best in the world when they are sent on international operations. If under President Jonathan they have so declined that they are now unable to defeat Boko Haram, it should not be difficult to know why.

Between Diezani’s Directives And Presidential Directives

Between Diezani’s Directives And Presidential Directives
Sam Nda-Isaiah
— February 17, 2014

It was quite fascinating watching the petroleum minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke, speak before the Senate committee last week. Obviously, she convinced no one, not least the Senate committee, culminating in the Senate agreeing to do a forensic audit of the NNPC. Tellingly, the Senate did not appear to trust the finance minister either in this matter. Even with the forensic audit, it is possible that some people will still attempt to suborn the auditors, but we wait to see. No matter what happens, no one will believe Diezani’s bogus story on the kerosene subsidy.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or get angry at Diezani’s assertion that a presidential directive does not have the force of law and so she had no problems flouting it. What she did at the Senate committee hearings was to finally confirm what people were already talking about: that Nigeria has more than one president and that she is the more powerful president. What Diezani told the whole world was that she would not take a directive from the president unless he took such a directive to the National Assembly and it was made a law. If President Umaru Yar’Adua as president issued a directive on kerosene subsidy, that directive should remain in force until he or any of his successors gave a counter-directive. A directive from the president of a country is a pronouncement that immediately becomes policy. So a mere minister, an appointee of the president, does not have the power to flout such a directive.

Diezani also spiced her statement with a few lies. She said President Yar’Adua was about to reverse the presidential directive before he fell very ill. That, of course, was a lie as Mansur Mukhtar, the minister of finance, and Rilwan Lukman, the minister of petroleum, and others linked with the issue are still alive to confirm. Diezani probably remembers the meeting of June 9, 2009, and the memo of June 10, 2009, signed by David Edevbie, Yar’Adua’s principal private secretary. In attendance at that meeting were President Yar’Adua, Vice President Jonathan, the secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), minister of finance, minister of transport, minister of petroleum, GMD of NNPC, chief economic adviser to the president and the principal private secretary to the president. The meeting decided on a proposal by finance minister Mukhtar to eliminate the subsidy on kerosene because the subsidy never got to the targeted beneficiaries. This meeting proved that President Yar’Adua consulted first before giving the directive. All of those who attended the meeting except the late president Yar’Adua are still alive, so they can be invited to shed light on the matter. President Yar’Adua didn’t just wake up one day and decided to give the presidential directive as Diezani would want us believe. It was not true that Yar’Adua issued a stay of action but fell sick afterwards. In fact, one of the members of the Senate committee expressed shock that Diezani, a minister of the federal republic, could so openly lie on such a very important subject.

But Diezani’s statement also gives a glimpse into how President Jonathan runs his government. The question that we should all be asking Diezani now is how many other presidential directives, including the ones directly issued by Jonathan, she has similarly flouted. If she said that a presidential directive to suspend the subsidy on kerosene was not law, is the payment of subsidy itself law? Which part of the Nigerian law says she should pay subsidies at all? The payment of subsidy itself is a presidential directive, not law; so why is she paying it?

The quality of governance has significantly declined since Jonathan became president. Were it not so, the petroleum minister would have been fired the day she made that declaration at the Senate committee hearings. And President Jonathan would, in fact, have fired any other impudent minister –except of course those like Diezani that share the presidency with him.

What logic is the petroleum minister trying to give about paying the kerosene subsidy anyway? In effect, she decided to flout the presidential directive because she wanted to maintain the price of kerosene at N50 per litre. Well, the bad news for her is that, the last time I checked, kerosene actually sold at over N150 per litre at 95 per cent of the sales locations. It’s the same reason, in the first place, Yar’Adua gave the presidential directive.

It is noteworthy that when the CBN governor said the NNPC did not remit more than N3 trillion into the nation’s coffers, the NNPC did not deny that. Instead, the NNPC said it spent the amount, that humongous amount, on the payment of subsidies and management of pipes. The CBN governor was very clear in his own explanation. The governor said that, of the $67 billion worth of crude shipped by NNPC between January 2012 and July 2013, the CBN has records of the remittance of $47 billion, leaving $20 billion unaccounted for. But even scarier is Sanusi’s other revelation. He said the NPDC, a subsidiary of the NNPC, and two other private companies – Atlantic Energy and Seven Energy – shipped $6 billion worth of crude oil from the nation’s oil wells but did not remit the proceeds to the federation account. Well, Nigerians will want to know whose personal account this $6 billion was paid into, and only the minister is competent to answer this question. There are lots of shady deals going on between the NPDC on the one hand and both Atlantic Energy and Seven Energy on the other. Since the forensic audit is not going to investigate the NPDC, Atlantic Energy and Seven Energy, it would be important for the Senate to set up another panel of enquiry to ascertain the exact amount that has been stolen from the nation by these companies. The details from the available documents are quite nauseating.

Everyone knows that it is the petroleum minister that should really be answering the hard questions and not the management of the NNPC. The petroleum minister has no powers to commit the nation to such expenses and certainly no one believes her story, as there is nothing to show for the expenditure of N3 trillion. If Diezani had flouted the presidential directive and we all saw the use of the N3 trillion in the Niger Delta, for instance, then, the nation’s anger would not be as serious as it is now. Note that $20 billion expenditure in the Niger Delta would have changed that region forever. By the way, the cost of the construction of the Three Gorges Dam in China, which is the world’s largest single electricity station with an installed capacity of 22,500 megawatt, is only $26 billion.

Nigeria has simply been looted. Anyone who thinks this matter will just die off must be a joker. A lot more will come up in the coming weeks.

Now This…

Police Commissioner Mbu’s Funny Achievement

In a newspaper report last week, former Rivers State police commissioner, Joseph Mbu, said his greatest achievement in the state was that he stopped political assassinations during his tenure. Coming from a police chief whose men shot a serving senator on his orders, simply to stop a political rally in a democracy, he must really be a funny man. I am still laughing.

EAR SHOT

Okonjo-Iweala Again

Honesty should be the most important attribute of a nation’s finance minister. Once the international community stops believing a nation’s finance minister, that country could be in grave danger. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s sophistry could soon put Nigeria in that position. The latest Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Research report on the Nigerian economy indicated that the current amount in the nation’s excess crude account – which was depleted from $11.5 billion in December 2012 to $2.5 billion by the middle of last year – was insufficient bulwark to cushion the economy against external shocks. One doesn’t need a genius to know that this is absolutely true. For a country the size of Nigeria, one probably needs more than the stolen $20 billion to act as a buffer against shocks. But Okonjo-Iweala who should know that this depletion, from $11.5 billion to $2.5 billion, is as a result of barefaced theft of the nation’s resources, started to defend the indefensible. She said the government was working assiduously to rebuild the excess crude account. Is the finance minister not aware that this depletion is mainly as a result of the president’s desperation to supplement the federal allocation to states, which is largely caused by the massive theft of the nation’s oil? Even with the supplementation of the shortfalls with the excess crude account, state governors, including pro-Jonathan governors, have been bitterly complaining that their monthly allocations have fallen by as much as 40 per cent.

With the kind of theft we see now, and NNPC not accounting for as much as $20 billion, from which sources does our finance minister hope to rebuild the excess crude account? Okonjo-Iweala also talks about $1 billion from the Sovereign Wealth Fund which was just started, which when added to the $2.5 billion, would give a total of about $3.5 billion to act as buffer for Nigeria in case of a precipitous drop in the price of oil. Is she serious? I think the finance minister should just resign to save what is left of her name.

Time For Diezani To Defend Herself

Time For Diezani To Defend Herself
Sam Nda-Isaiah
— February 10, 2014
Join This Conversation @sam4nigeria

The temperature in the country is at an all-time high as a result of the revelation of how the nation’s resources were being appropriated. The CBN governor, who is a trustee of the resources of the country, insists that more than $20 billion is still missing. This is about N3.5 trillion. Though the NNPC cheapened the whole discussion when its officials declared that the CBN governor was “ignorant”, Nigerians largely trust Sanusi Lamido Sanusi much more than they do the NNPC. And there are grounds for that, even though the government wants to sell the twaddle that the governor is mistake-prone.

Another problem the spokespersons of the NNPC have in this matter is that people think the entire management of the NNPC, starting from the GMD, is too small to be part of a scam as stupendous as N3.5 trillion. It is only the minister or even the president that should be speaking on the matter and not the pawns. Unfortunately, or rather very annoyingly, the petroleum minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke, does not think it is worth her while to be speaking to Nigerians. She has left that chore to lesser mortals, even though those mortals know next to nothing about what must have happened to the missing N3.5 trillion, precisely because they are too small to know.

Different people have their own postulations about why Diezani is not talking to Nigerians on such a very serious matter. The most predominant view is that she feels it would be infradig for her to speak to Nigerians. It would be totally beneath her. “Who the hell are they?” those who hold this view think she is likely to say. There’s the second group who say that the petroleum minister, whom the president is ready to defend with the life and existence of his government, cannot open her mouth to speak on the matter because she would be committing perjury if she dared that. And if she committed perjury, especially on an issue as serious as this, she would definitely get away with it under Jonathan but could spend a very long time in prison the moment Jonathan leaves office.

I do not know which of these two opinions to believe, but I think the answer must lie in-between. Diezani may not necessarily be guilty – and I am withholding judgement on that – but her conduct leaves Nigerians with no choice but to think that she’s hiding something by not speaking. She is the only one that can clear the air on the issue, not the NNPC GMD, not the GEDs and not the spokespersons.

The NNPC has no first-line charge on the nation’s revenues and cannot spend N3.5 trillion of the nation’s revenues without clearance from the National Assembly. If the NNPC people had that power on their own to spend N3 trillion, then, they must be much more powerful than the president, because even the president cannot spend that amount without approval from the National Assembly. And the “satisfactory” explanation the NNPC gave about spending about 80 per cent of the amount to pay subsidy on kerosone is the greatest scam that there is. Is the petroleum minister not aware that there is a subsisting presidential directive since June 2009 stopping the payment of subsidy on kerosene? And if she paid for the subsidy on kerosene to maintain it at N50 per litre, why is it that nobody gets it at that price anyway?

For telling us that she paid such a large amount illegally since there was a presidential directive against what she did, she should not only be fired immediately but tried by a competent court. Running a nation is too serious a business to be treated with such disdain and levity.

In a sense, the president is also on trial on this matter. He needs to take this very seriously. Does Diezani and her boss, President Jonathan, know what N3.5 trillion could do for the Niger Delta for instance, if that kind of money was genuinely invested in that area? The entire budget that President Jonathan is proposing to spend this year for the whole of Nigeria is about N4.5 trillion, a figure not terribly higher than the N3.5 trillion that has most probably been stolen. That must explain why the minister is one of the most disliked people in the Niger Delta today.

Diezani must defend herself now that she still can. If she doesn’t, she should not hold anyone responsible for what Nigerians could think of her person.

EARSHOT

What Game Is Okonjo-Iweala Playing?

I have found Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s changing positions on the national economy quite curious. Whenever she is abroad, or the audience is foreign, she raises the alarm about how the economy is in danger of collapse from corruption of which she famously said “we are not helpless”, meaning the government she serves can and must do something urgently about corruption that threatens to destroy us. But if the audience is Nigerian, she would speak as if the Nigerian economy under Jonathan is one of the best things that has happened to Nigeria.

Okonjo-Iweala remains one of the most respected Nigerians of this generation, but she is just about to lose that status. She cannot walk on both sides of the road at the same time.

Join This Conversation @sam4nigeria