JONATHAN AND THE TRILLION NAIRA OIL SUBSIDY SCANDAL- [Flashback Series To Unresolved Scandals 1]

By on February 3, 2015

FLASHBACK TO UNRESOLVED SCANDALS UNDER PRESIDENT JONATHAN -PART 1

[This Article was written in the heat of the N1 Trillion Naira  oil subsidy scandal in 2011 and these aritcle is being republised in its entirety without any edits to show that the issues of scandals and corruption remains unresolved under President Ebele Jonathan as part of his REPORT CARD for the last 4 years]

In what has being dubbed as the trillion naira Bazaar by the newspaper columnist, Olusegun Adeniyi, the oil subsidy scandal saga has rapidly moved from the outrageous, to the downright heartbreaking, for a nation whose citizens have been promised a breath of fresh air from the sordid atmosphere of governance. Less than 4 months after the federal government of Nigeria removed most of the subsidy on petrol for Nigerians on very suspect economic, political and moral grounds,  the nation is now mired in a scam scandal of mythical proportions, even in a nation noted for stratospheric levels of fraud and mischief involving its national assets.

Unless you have been leaving under a rock for the last few weeks, or just arrived from the moon, you will know Nigeria has been in the throes of escalating revelations of how a cabal has systematically and with impunity looted the resources of this country in the form of oil subsidy. In the space of less than two years, several of our own citizens ranging from the highly respected people we know,  to totally unknown shadowy figures, have been quietly sharing the money earmarked for subsidy to alleviate the cost of petrol to our suffering citizens.

Following the public brouhaha that attended the government insistence on removing the subsidy on imported petrol in December last year, the searchlight of Nigerians was FINALLY centered on what is really happening with the oil subsidy and how the budget for it managed to balloon from less than N200billion in 2006 to over 633 billion in 2008, to over I trillion in 2011, without any significant increase in consumption levels of petrol. It soon became obvious to the government that these escalating costs cannot be sustained, and it decided that the best solution was to scrap the subsidy regime altogether and let Nigerians pay the actual market price of the petrol and kerosene they consume.

Of course the Nigerian people who are still struggling with survival in an environment where nothing works shouted blue murder as the revelations of the depth of the oil subsidy scandal unfolded. Labor leaders and community mobilizers swung into action to confront the government and the whole affair led to the national strike in January which ultimately ended in a way that left many Nigerians with a sour taste in their mouths, murder in their hearts for their labor leaders and deep resentment for their Government. In an age where everyone with a phone can make his views known to millions of people, the debates continued with increasing venom and passion.

As the debate raged on what really happened with the oil subsidy scandal ,and why the people are now being asked to bear the consequences of this profligacy, the House Of Representatives decided to set up an investigative committee of its members to look into the uproar, and identify what really went wrong with our Oil Subsidy policy. In late April, the committee on the oil subsidy scandal submitted its report, and it turned out to be a bombshell that rocked the nation to its foundations. The report revealed that that there had been a Bazaar of fraud feast going on at the oil sector.

The mind blogging findings of the committee, complete with names and actual figures suspected embezzled by the principal actors show that though Nigerians have been subjected to some amazing levels of fraud before, the oil cabal was playing a whole new game. As the dust of the stupefying figures involved in this scandal began to settle down, we now know that over N1TRILLION Naira belonging to Millions of Nigerians has been shared by a few people. We have since learnt how corruption in the oil sector has graduated from a situation of inflation of amounts of petrol imported by some cabal to a situation where some Nigerians just shared the billions earmarked for oil importation subsidy without importing any oil at all. Some people involved were not even being involved in the petroleum industry business.

The scope of this oil subsidy scandal is such that our founding founders such as Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, and Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, who certainly saw some level of corruption in their days, must be turning in their graves in anger, shame and embarrassment of what has become of their beloved country. They must no doubt be cursing the day oil was first discovered in this great country of ours.

In the storm that followed the release of the Report of House of Reps, the cabal has swung into action to defend its honor. First, some tried everything to suppress the damning report, and when that failed they have taken out full pages in newspapers to denounce the report and its preparers. Many of them have denied any involvement in any illegal oil dealing, or of being participants in the orgy of subsidy payments. Some of have challenged the sincerity of the House of Reps members while some of have reached out to Aso Rock in an attempt to prevail on the president not to act on the report. The smart lawyers from these oil fat cats have already dusted their legal law books for some technical way to stop further scrutiny of the oil subsidy saga, and all of a sudden we are hearing constitutional arguments that the report of the House of Reps is just a recommendation to the President and does not have any legal effect and the Presidency can choose to do whatever it likes with it. The more aggressive legal defense attorneys have headed to the courts to get the almighty injunction to stop anybody from reading or acting on the report.

As the Market Ombudsman, and as a practicing attorney myself, I am a very strong advocate for fairness, accountability and fairness in the marketplace. I certainly agree that in any society, no matter how upset we all are about the issues, everybody is entitled to the most rigorous defense he or she can afford when accused, and that everyone should be presumed innocent  until proven guilty. So, though many of us will prefer to just hang the accused looters, or put burning tires around their necks, we must wait to see how the allegations against specific individuals resolve itself in the law courts otherwise we will be no better than a country of barbarians.

Nevertheless, as we wait, there are several aspects of this developing national shame disturbs me greatly.

Firstly, regardless of who is finally declared guilty or innocent by the courts, the fact remains that over N1Trillion naira of the collective money has disappeared into the private coffers of some people with the obvious collusion of some officials and personnel of the government, its representatives and third parties hired and paid to make sure it does not happen. Yet, the Federal Government who promised us a breath of fresh air, and which has been touting its season of transformation in governance, has not yet fully appreciated the enormity of this grave assault to our National psyche. It is mind befuddling that despite the public uproar and shouts of ‘national rape’ by majority of the people, the government has not come out decisively to show us that it meant to take these allegations seriously, and get to the bottom of the matter to ensure the rot is rooted out, even as we try to determine who is guilty or not.

Like the infamous Emperor who fiddled while ancient Rome burned, the government of Nigeria continues to eat pepper-soup while Nigeria burns. Why has the government not stepped in and suspended some of the affected officials and government functionaries tasked with the task of making sure this monumental fraud does not happen? It is not a matter of whether they are guilty or not. It is a matter of failure of leadership and public responsibility on their part. They should all be fired, or at least suspended, pending final investigations. To continue to allow those in charge of NNPC, PPPRA, Accountant Generals Office And Petroleum Ministry at the time to keep their jobs while these revelations continue, makes the Fed Government culpable in my considered opinion.

oil subsidy4Secondly, the federal government has hurriedly fired the audit firms that were tasked with the duty of auditing the subsidy payments and ensure that the right amounts were paid to the right people who imported the right quantity of petrol. While this may have been applauded by majority of Nigerians, I am very suspicious of this move. I believe it is diversionary. Why sack the auditors immediately and leave the ministers and directors who supervised and perpetrate the fraud in place? Moreover, this move will suggest that the federal government did not know that there was fraud going on until the report was published. Yet, the CBN has been advising it of exactly that since 2009. Furthermore, one of the Auditing firms indicted in this saga, Adekanola and Co has issued several public statements where it claimed and I quote “we reported several cases of excess claims which could result in overpayment to some identified marketers, reported the exclusion of NNPC PMS laden vessels from inspection by independent auditor and even subsidy claims from verification; reported on non-compliance of some identified marketers and their consignments with the prescribed pre-importation requirements” If this is true, then it appears the quick sacking of the auditors is a diversionary tactic to quickly rush to them to judgment to satisfy the public outcry fro blood while forgetting that the executive arm of the government has some serious culpability in this matter.

In any case, why it the Minster Of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Dezeani Allison-Madueke still being allowed to keep her job for weeks after the monumental fraud in the ministry she supervises has been exposed to the public? Whether Dezeani Madueke is guilty or not, she needs to be fired, and if possible, prosecuted for criminal negligence in her handling of the responsibilities entrusted to her, even if she never got a kobo of this money. In any sane country, the minister would have resigned her position as soon as the scandal broke out. Our government officials must be held accountable for whatever happens under their watch. It is not a matter of being guilty of fraud or not.

It is a matter of failure of responsibility and the fact that the federal government is still keeping her around speaks volume of the fed government’s understanding of the situation. In most countries outside Africa, even the President’s job will be on the line for something much smaller than this. The country cannot lose over N1TRILLION Naira under a minister and the minister is still standing thereafter. The longer she stays on, the more the President looks ineffectual, incompetent and culpable in this matter. I will not be surprised if the National Assembly initiates impeachment proceedings against the president himself for gross failure of leadership if he does not man up and put his cabinet in order.

This oil subsidy saga will be a defining moment for the Jonathan Presidency and will show us once and for all the measure of the man. Whether the report of the House of Representatives have the force of law or not, the President is honor bound to investigate and implement its recommendations as a matter of honor and for the sake of our country. This is not the time to roll out the convenient separation of powers mantra. Too much is at stake.

POST SCRIPT: This reproduced Memo by me in 2011 is to show that depite all he cry of Nigerians for jusice in this matter. This scandal REMAINS UNSOLVED in 2015 !

About Dr. Ope Banwo

Dr. Ope Banwo is an Attorney; Pastor; Business Consultant; Author; Motivational Speaker, and Corporate Solutions Provider. He holds several degrees in Law including a Bachelors, Masters and a Ph.D. He was admitted to the Nigerian Bar (1986), New York Bar (1997) and Federal Court of Nebraska (1997) in the United States. Ope Banwo has written several published books on different topics over the years including bestsellers in Christianity; Lifestyle; and Business such as The Kingdompreneur, Overcoming The Gideon Complex, The Kingdom Citizen, The Return of The Prodigal; The Blessings of Adversity; African Internet Business Manifesto; Confessions Of A Guru-Wannabe; Social Media Marketing Genesis; Offline-Online Business Manifesto, Digital Marketing Without Tears For Company Executives etc. Deeply committed to public service and service to humanity, Dr Ope Banwo has also initiated several public initiatives including the Ghetto Dreamz Foundation to empower economically-disadvantaged Youths; The Omega Wealth Club to teach youths legitimate ways to employ themselves online; The Kingdompreneur Academy to impact Christians in Business and the Nigerian Market Ombudsman to ensure transparency, accountability and fairness in the market place.

One Comment

  1. Adewumi Seun

    February 10, 2015 at 10:41 am

    It is a pity that those we look up as leaders are rogues and criminals perverting the course of justice. GOD WILL JUDGE THEM.
    The antecedent of Fayose is never in doubt, the same Obanikoro was indicted on the ondo elections and nothing was done by the president, the revealation of how Ekiti election was rigged is a clear evidence that the president himself is involved in all the attrocities going on in the country. CORUPTION IN THE MILITARY, CORRUPTION IN OIL SECTOR, ELECTORAL CORRUPTION ETC GOD WILL JUDGE ALL OF THEM.

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