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The Trillion Naira Bazaar!

26 Apr 2012

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The Verdict according to Olusegun Adeniyi. Email, olusegun.adeniyi@thisdaylive.com

“This is a clever attempt to distance Delloitte from the certification of oil imports to the country by referring to the firm as Akintola Williams and Co, when in actual fact, the job was given to Delloitte. Who are they trying to fool? Now that there is trouble, they are trying to distance Delloitte from the mess so they can continue to work in our oil industry. There is no such accounting firm known as Akintola Williams and Company, on account of a takeover by Delloitte several years ago.” 

---Mr. Robert Ade-Odiachi, Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN)

“P. P. P…”, the person holding the bottle of champagne would shout and as he pops the cork and spills the chilled wine, his fellow thieves in the room would complete the rest: “R. A!”. This was 2011 Nigeria and what those people were celebrating was a multibillion Naira “profit” made from paper allocations for petroleum products they did not supply but for which they were paid after greasing some official palms. The person telling the story of the monumental debauchery that went on in the name of fuel subsidy payments in 2010/2011 is himself a marketer. As he reeled out the names of some colleagues (and people not into oil business) who allegedly benefited from the scam and the official collaborators on the take, he claimed he did not participate because he knew the bubble would burst somehow. I didn’t argue with him.

The report of the House of Representatives committee on fuel subsidy payments has indeed revealed how corruption has graduated in our country from inflation of contracts to a situation in which some fat cats just sit down to share public money. Such is the level of decay that I have in recent weeks heard the names of some hitherto unknown Nigerians, young men with no visible means of livelihood, who are now billionaires and own private jets. With our country now breeding a generation that believes in wealth without work, it is no surprise that there are leakages almost everywhere, including at the Police Pension office where some unconscionable people feed fat on the misery of retired workers. But before we examine the high-level corruption that now pervades every sector of our national life, let’s deal with the immediate issue of the fuel subsidy scam.

It is rather unfortunate that the federal government does not seem to appreciate the gravity of the situation we are dealing with. Sacking the auditors is not only cynical and diversionary, it presupposes that the government was not aware of what has been going on in the sector until now. That is not true. Aside the fact that the CBN has for two years been warning about the controversial payments, there are now more revelations. In a public statement on Monday, one of the sacked auditors, Otunba Olusola Adekanola, wrote: “We reported several cases of excess claims which could result in overpayment to some identified marketers; consistently reported the exclusion of NNPC PMS laden vessels from inspection by independent auditors and even subsidy claims from verification; reported on non-compliance of some identified marketers and their consignments with the prescribed pre-importation requirements…” So, as Mr Robert Ade-Odiachi (uncle Robbie), asks: who is fooling who here?

Because of my involvement in the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI) to which I was appointed in February 2004 by President Olusegun Obasanjo, I have for a long time been pointing out the monumental graft that is associated with the whole fuel subsidy regime and I have consistently advocated for its removal. In fact, in a piece I did for all Sunday newspapers in March 2009, then in my capacity as Spokesman to the late president, I highlighted some of the crooked deals which include the collusion by the banks, the fraud at the port, the lightering scam in the name of shipping and the lack of transparency at the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Authority (PPPRA).

On February 3, I explained on this page the fraudulent progression in fuel subsidy payments over the years. For instance, in 2006 when we consumed a total of 9.3 billion litres, N261.1 billion was paid as subsidy. That would give us an average consumption of about 25.6 million litres per day. The next year, the total annual consumption had jumped to 10.2 billion litres at a cost of N278.9 billion in subsidy payment. That also translated into about 28 million litres per day. By 2008, the national annual 'consumption' had become 12.2 billion thus giving us a daily volume of about 33.4 million litres for which we paid N633.2 billion as subsidy. Three years later in 2011, according to figures supplied by the PPPRA, our national consumption had reached 59 million litres per day with scandalous fuel subsidy payments, going by figures from the Farouk Lawan committee. Yet the only exceptional thing about 2011 was that we held a presidential election!

We must commend Hon Lawan and the entire House leadership for digging into the cesspool of corruption that the downstream sector of our petroleum industry has become and having the gut to make public their report. It is now clear that except the president can deal with all the people who colluded to gang-rape our country, it will be difficult for him to take the necessary (but now heavily compromised) decision to remove the remaining fuel subsidy.

Still on China

I came back from Beijing at the weekend after attending the seminar on “Media and Publications in Developing countries” organized by the Chinese government. Two weeks ago, I started a series on “The Forbidden City” which is based on my experience and the lessons learnt. Please watch out for the concluding part on this page.

Observations on the Yar’Adua Book

By Sam Oyovbaire

Greetings and compliments, Segun. I did not rush to obtain a copy of your book, “Power, Politics and Death: A front-row account of Nigeria under President Yar’Adua”. But I bought a paper-back copy at N9,000 (even when advertised for N5,000) some weeks ago at a small hotel located at the Abuja Central District. I wish to commend you for the flow of your thoughts as well as the quality of the narrative. I wasn’t quite sure whether the observations I am about to make should be done in the mode of a book review or simply rendered as informal comments only. The press celebration of the book almost made me to want to do an intellectual review but on second thought, I will like you to regard these comments in the mode of informal conversation.

                                                                    

For me, the essence of the book is what the book is not about. There is no way in which you would have devoted the book to the story or analysis of your experience under President Jonathan when he was Vice President. Your large silence of GEJ’s side in Yar’Adua’s presidency is, therefore, quite understandable. One good illustration of what I have in mind appears at pages 283-284 where you recorded the early frustration of GEJ as Vice President – when he sought the permission of President Yar’Adua to return the Vice President’s office to its original status of a self-accounting institution but which Yar’Adua rejected.

This experience demonstrates the poverty of our country’s leadership to build institutions rather than being glorified by the glamour, pettiness and emptiness of personal traits and behavior. Indeed, Dele Olojede indicated it in the second paragraph of the Foreword to the book. The Vice President’s office grew from the military presidency of Murtala Mohammed/Obasanjo government between 1975 and 1979 during which the late Shehu Yar’Adua as the Chief of General Staff built that office, and which, subsequently, was inherited and instituted as office of the Vice President in 1979 till date.  As you yourself know, the personal acrimony between OBJ as President and Abubakar Atiku as Vice President became the undue excuse for OBJ to import the way the VP’s office is run in the US, and turned it into a one-accounting line presidency, thus, denuding the Vice President’s office of vitality and institutional value and credibility. Segun, the Yar’Adua presidency cannot be evaluated in the context only of “power, politics and death” of Yar’Adua without the story of GEJ which, as I have already said, is not your concern in doing an otherwise good book. To continue the inquisition a little bit, do we know whether GEJ, since he became president about two years ago has reconstituted the presidency such as to restore the office of the Vice President to a self-accounting operational status which he requested Yar’Adua to do for him in 2007?

Let me mention a few issues of substance in the book by way of critique. One, the view of the press generally, like in the book by the former editor of PUNCH newspaper, Azubuike Ishekwene about the crusading faultlessness of Mr Nuhu Ribadu, the pioneer chairman of EFCC, bothers me intellectually to no end. The tendency is to portray Ribadu as a substance of virtue and institutional goodness without also indicating the corruptive phenomenon which Ribadu embodied. Chapter two of the book which is largely on Ribadu contains nothing to show that, good as Ribadu was, his underserved but favoured two-rung elevation over and above his professional colleagues in the Nigeria Police Force within two years as well as the indication that he could be appointed IGP if OBJ succeeded in his third term schema conveyed terrible potentials of institutional corruption which Ribadu embodied.

I find this relentless posture of the press to which you also subscribe very annoying. By extension, the same thing can be said about the loquacious Nasir el-Rufai in all his self imposed holier-than-thou posture in the institutional problematic of the underdevelopment of governance and economy in the country. I do not mean that these individuals have not demonstrated courage and elements of virtue, but certainly governance and economy cannot grow, consolidate and be deemed good with gross absence of strong institutions.  For me, the whole Ribadu phenomenon was badly founded; more so that it became highly demonstrated that he fought “his anti-corruption war” for OBJ and not necessarily for the good of emergent democracy. For example, where was Ribadu when OBJ grew within eight years from material poverty to material excesses including the construction and ownership of personal educational institutions, a library, faith-oriented institutions, and a Hilltop family residential mansion? The press is yet to tell Nigerians the material worth of OBJ Hilltop mansion compared with IBB Hilltop mansion in Minna!

Two, on the Niger Delta Summit, you seem silent over the action, or indeed, non action of Yar’Adua about the recommendations of the Ledum Mitee Report. Did Yar’Adua carry his disappointment for not conducting a Niger Delta Summit in the manner of a national conference to the receipt and implementation of the recommendations of the Ledum Mitee Report? Although not exactly within your purview, the role of GEJ in this matter worries critical observers of developments in the Niger Delta.

Three, I find it most inexplicable for you to canvass (p. 151) the view that OBJ should have been “commended for unilaterally using the excess crude (oil) sales account which belongs to the three tiers of (government) to pay for the investment in the power sector” just because the “situation was grim”. This was crude lawlessness which in the functioning of a proper democracy should have attracted impeachment of OBJ, and not commendation. Four, I am not able to find, throughout the relevant sections of the book, the persons who constituted Yar’Adua’s “handlers” “kitchen cabinet” and indeed, “the cabal” although you argued, with the evidence of el-Rufai, that the phenomenon of cabal was “a myth created in the media to neutralize Turai”, wife of Yar’Adua. Five, as an intellectual observer of the Nigeria press, I consider it as pleasant humour, your view that Nigerians could be led to believe a lie repeatedly told by the media (p. 273). I found out all of these myself years ago even when you were at your desk in THISDAY that the media spin and twist of truths or lies can be legitimized and made to become historical truths. You may recall that some of us (myself,  Chidi Amuta, et al.), for example, contested some of such matters with journalists as they related to IBB. It will be an interesting exercise for you, (since you are still very active with very many years ahead for you in the media) to conceptualise the subject matter of the role the media play in the development as well as underdevelopment of governance in Nigeria within the context of truth or lie peddling. Finally, I wish, again, to appreciate your book which to me is an excellent slice of instant history.

-Prof. Oyovbaire is a former Information Minister

NOTE: New copies of the book are now available. Interested persons should please contact Abideen on 08077364217 or orders@kachifo.com. For online buyers, the links remain Amazon(Kindle) Smashwords (Kindle, iPad, and online reading).

Tags: Akintola Williams and Co, Backpage, Delloitte, fuel subsidy payments, Robert Ade-Odiachi

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  • Our enemies have given us issues such as corruption to distract us, while they prepare to conquer the world. It's that simply to understand.

    From: Afulele

    Posted: 2 years ago

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  • I do not understand why people like Prof Oyovbaire who had the opportunity under Babaginda to institutionalise most government departments but failed woefully because of corruption can still propel himself to the high moral pedestal of pontificating about Ribadu and Nasir el-Rufai. Prof, these are men that you are not. Nobody really remembers you but these men have engraved their names in the solid gold. History will continue to remember them but not you Prof.

    From: Edward Osadebay

    Posted: 2 years ago

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  • @Adeniyi, it looks as if you have had a good foot in the door therefore write more books. Not every journalist can write books or become a successful author. You can even become a publisher...

    ***I heard of ThisDay office bombings on SKY News in London, this afternoon. I was deeply shocked.

    From: OJ

    Posted: 2 years ago

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