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.

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