Monday, 5 November 2012

Jonathan, Alison-Madueke And The Ribadu Report

President Goodluck Jonathan will likely perform another visual and verbal symbolism on Friday when some of the committees set up in the wake of the fuel subsidy crisis submit their reports. 
Jonathan’s demand for the reports of the probe panels on the oil industry and his vow to prosecute anyone found to have engaged in corrupt practices can hardly excite the public that sees a disturbing pattern in his administration’s handling of serious fraud.
His track record simply does not excite much hope that anything beyond tokenism will follow his sabre-rattling. As usual, the President will likely renew his pledge to Nigerians that no person or organisation guilty of any infraction will be spared and go on to set up another committee to verify and reconcile the findings of the committees. But the leaked allegations have stung so badly. The President must take urgent steps to eradicate the rot.

It is evident that the president’s hand was forced by the leakage of the report of the Nuhu Ribadu-led Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force to Reuters, which exposed once again, the staggering corruption in our oil and gas industry. The other panels are an 11-man panel on governance and controls in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, another to review operations of the four state-owned refineries and one on the stalled Petroleum Industry Bill.

The Ribadu report provides another damning account of systemic sleaze, fraud and embezzlement in Nigeria’s irredeemably corrupt oil sector. Covering 2002 to 2012, the report detailed how the country lost up to $29 billion in shady deals with oil majors; theft of an alarming 250,000 barrels of crude per day worth about $6.3 billion a year and how $183 million in signature bonuses from seven discretionary oil prospecting licences issued between 2008 and 2011 were not accounted for. Three of the licences were said to have been issued under current Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke.

The report claims that the price at which feedstock gas was sold to the NLNG “seems too generous, compared to prices obtainable on the international market.” Specifically, the report reveals that the “estimated cumulative of the deficit between value obtainable on the international market and what is currently being obtained from NLNG, over the 10-year period, amounts to approximately $29 billion.” More worrying, the report says Nigeria is the “the world’s only major oil producer that sells 100 per cent of its crude to private commodities traders, rather than directly to refineries.”

Set up in February, after nationwide protests over the attempted removal of fuel subsidies, the Ribadu committee was asked to verify the government’s income from oil and gas, and make recommendations to the government. As putrid as the report appears, it is not the first account of what the Financial Times newspaper of London describes as “the widespread inefficiencies, graft and criminality in Nigeria’s petroleum sector”. 
The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative reports, the first covering the period 1999 to 2004, the second 2005, and the third 2006 to 2008, and the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on fuel subsidy, revealed how oil revenues had been stolen at both upstream and downstream ends of the oil trade. NEITI, for instance, disclosed that the Federal Government earned a total of $269 billion from the oil sector within the period 1999-2008, which had little impact on the welfare of the citizens. The trend continues to this date.

A new report by the Financial Times alleges that over 180,000 barrels of stolen Nigerian crude are sold daily in the international black market. Apart from the N86.6 billion fleeced by NNPC executives through fraudulent foreign exchange rate conversion, the Ribadu panel detailed losses to the nation of N16 trillion through questionable deficits and theft; N178 billion worth of refined fuel through pipeline vandalism; $5 billion short-payment by the NNPC, and $3.02 billion in unpaid royalties among other sordid details. NEITI had earlier revealed how NNPC officials and their collaborators fraudulently misused the 445,000 bpd allocated for domestic refining for corrupt enrichment and how laws and global best practices are flagrantly flouted by the corporation.

To the dismay of Nigerians, beyond ongoing poorly coordinated trials of a few culprits, little else has been done to bring the perpetrators of the N1.7 trillion fuel subsidy fraud to book. Instead, Alison-Madueke has publicly defended the marketers while Jonathan has lampooned the protesters and activists who exposed the scam as sponsored “agents of political opponents”. His vow to deal with corrupt persons, therefore, rings hollow.

Corruption is a deeply corrosive issue that, left unchecked, will rapidly eat away at the government’s legitimacy. Corruption robs Nigeria of billions of dollars each year that should be used to reverse poverty, provide infrastructure, create jobs and fund social programmes. While the United States, France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany punished companies and individuals involved in handing bribes to Nigerians in the Halliburton, Wilbros, Siemens, A.G Daimler and Panalpina scandals, the Nigerian bribe takers are walking free, mingling in the highest political circles, including Aso Rock Presidential Villa.

The President must leave indecision behind and display a sure hand against corruption. The parliament, civil society groups and other pressure groups should utilise every available legal means to insist on a cleansing of the oil and gas industry. The failure of the government to act decisively on these and several other reports such as the KPMG report, the reports on the $180 million Halliburton bribe saga and the Farouk Lawan House of Representatives report on the fuel subsidy affair suggests that Jonathan is merely grandstanding.

But the Ribadu report provides copious grounds on which the President can clean up the NNPC. The least Jonathan can do is to ask Alison-Madueke to step aside.

No comments:

Post a Comment