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Monday, 9 October 2017

NNPC Crisis: The Corrupt Side of Buhari's Anti-graft War

One of the leading lecturers of the department of Political Science at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State - Dr. Olugbemiga Afolabi recently posted on Facebook that there is no significant difference between President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress and the immediate past President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of the People's Democratic Party, PDP.
 
Dr. Afolabi made the claim in reaction to the crisis of the state-owned oil company - Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) involving the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu and Group Managing Director (GMD) Dr. Maikanti Baru.
 
"I wrote before the 2015 elections that Buhari is just slightly better than Jonathan, but that both are bad for Nigeria in every sense material or otherwise. Many picked offence. But events have proved me right that humongous stealing and corruption is still pervasive as before. Those who have hijacked Nigeria will not let go easily. The details coming out of every facet of governance under Buhari, inclusive of NNPC, Senate, House of Reps and the 36 States is as repulsive as repugnant".
 
This kind of thought is common among Nigerians of late although alot of people fail to admit the sense of truth here and it has been noticed that their confidence in Buhari who has failed to present his minimum educational requirement for the Presidency post - Senior Secondary Certificate Examination, SSCE result is not based on facts but phantom feelings in view of the recent developments in Nigeria.
 
The Buhari product was marketed to Nigerians and accepted widely using his perceived integrity and sturdy intolerance for corruption. In fact, a popular maxim linked to his person during the heated 2015 presidential election was that "if Nigeria doesn't kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria".
 
Buhari was given the messianic status and the poor masses looked unto him as the missing piece of the puzzle called Nigeria. But Buhari started showing signs of his future failure of integrity test from the 29th of May, 2015 during his inauguration when he plagiarized the words of former French President, Charles de Gaulle which reads "I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody" without giving appropriate credit.
 
Two of the cardinal points of this current administration are the fight against graft and security; one can't beat his chest to the fact that Buhari is a success if the score-sheet is being rolled out with a scholarly rating of his performances in those areas not to mention the state of the Nigerian economy.
 
The crisis of confidence between Baru and Kachikwu appears to be the gold-laden coffin of Buhari's anti-graft war which has been described as a clandestine weapon graciously deployed against dissenters in a democratic dispensation.
In an August 30, 2017 memo to Buhari, Kachikwu accused the GMD, Baru of awarding $25billion contracts without consulting either his office or the corporation’s board.
 
He blamed the GMD for alleged insubordination, lack of adherence to due process and running a “bravado management style”. Kachikwu said he was being sidelined by the GMD and other heads of parastatals in major decisions and appointments. He averred that he has been blocked from meeting with the President by some officials ostensibly working in cahoots with the GMD. 
 
The other details are more disturbing than the unemployment and under-employment rate in Nigeria. Even a person with a blocked nose will perceive that Baru could be aspiring to be the next beleaguered former Minister of Petroleum Diezani Allison Madueke under the nose of 'Saint Buhari'. In fairness, today’s response by Baru where he stated that no law obliges him to discuss contract details with Kachikwu requires the expert intervention of lawyers and the law court to reach a compromise.
 
“It is important to note from the outset that the law and the rules do not require a review or discussion with the Minister of State or the NNPC board on contractual matters.
 
“What is required is the processing and approval of contracts by the NNPC Tenders Board, the President in his executive capacity or as Minister of Petroleum, or the Federal Executive Council, as the case may be. There are therefore situations where all that is required is the approval of the NNPC Tenders Board while, in other cases, based on the threshold, the award must be submitted for presidential approval. Likewise, in some instances, it is FEC approval that is required”part of the long statement stated.
 
It should be noted that the oil and gas sector which accounts for over 80% of Nigeria's national revenue is the headquarters of graft in the country. One of the biggest heists in Nigerian history came to light in 2014, when a former Central Bank governor Lamido Sanusi (now Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II) revealed that the equivalent of $20bn had disappeared from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) between 2012 and 2013. The issue today is yet to be fully resolved despite the intervention of the British auditing and consulting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, PWC.
 
Buhari's government is set to go down as one of the most corrupt and fantastically irresponsible administrations in the history of Nigeria if the definition of the term 'corruption' is well understood and juxtaposed with the gory happenings at the corridors of power where the future over 80 million Nigerian youths are being eaten away by their representatives.
 
According to the Wikipedia, corruption is a form of dishonest or unethical conduct by a person entrusted with a position of authority, often to acquire personal benefit.
 
In another perspective, Stephen D. Morris, a professor of politics, also writes that political corruption is the illegitimate use of public power to benefit a private interest.
 
On the basis of the aforementioned, there is no gainsaying the fact that Buhari might be directly and indirectly involved in sharp practices if we are not being economical with the truth. Firstly, Buhari, the custodian of our commonwealth has been running an opaque administration and he betrayed the sacrosanct principle of accountability when he failed to disclose his health status as well as the source and cost of his medical bills in London, United Kingdom for 103 days suspectedly drawn from the tax payers sweat.
 
Under Buhari, the foremost anti-graft body - Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is failing to fully account for the total amount of money and assets recovered from dishonourable public officials. Even the embattled acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu couldn't put a figure to the recovered loot during his senate screening earlier this year. Lack of transparency creates a safe haven for petty, grand and systemic corruption. There are fears that the loot could be 're-looted' as the rumoured case of the late Gen. Sani Abacha loot under former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Constituted Authorities or Constituted Thieves?
 
One enigmatic characteristic of the Buhari administration is the reputation of his cabinet members, political associates and generally other appointees attached to him by party or ethnic lines. This is like a case of a Pastor keeping suspected armed robbers as close friends. It’s only a matter of time before the police whisk him away for the crimes of his friends.
 
One of Buhari's right-hand men, David Babachir Lawal - the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation has been embroiled in an over N200 million grass-cutting scandal. 
 
Mr. Lawal allegedly used his company Rholavision Engineering Ltd, while still being its director, to receive consultancy contract to clear invasive plant in Yobe State from Presidential Initiative for the North East, PINE, an intervention agency under his office. Buhari cleared him of all the charges in his letter to the senate only for the President to make a U-turn in the face of public pressure and daunting evidence. Till date, the issue of corruption right in front of Buhari is being handled like an 'in-house family affair'.
 
The suspicious N13 billion Osborne funds stashed in a luxury apartment in Ikoyi, Lagos State in which the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency - Ambassador Ayo Oke was fingered is also yet to be addressed by Buhari despite the fact that his amiable deputy, Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo presented his panel probe report before him about a month ago.
 
This has given credence to the rumours that Buhari knew about the funds appropriated for a covert operation that looks non-existent. Buhari's Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari has been accused of obtaining N500 million bribe from South African telecommunication company, MTN to lobby its soft-landing after the heavy fine slammed by the Nigerian government.
 
Mr. Kyari has also been accused of prospecting on behalf of a private business - Valiant Offshore Contractors Limited that is being fronted by the major owner of SeaWolf Oil Services Limited, the single biggest debtor of the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON).
 
According to investigative online newspaper - Sahara Reporters, Seawolf Limited owes First Bank of Nigeria about N160billion, as a result of which two oil rigs owned by the company have since been seized by AMCON and parked at the Lagos Marina.
 
Rumours have it that Kyari has also being frolicking with an alleged morally-bankrupt businessman, Jide Omokore who is being tried by the EFCC alongside Diezani Allison Madueke and Kola Aluko over what could be regarded as 'legendary fraud'.
 
Kyari has been linked with a prominent role in blocking an investigation of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) into a huge fraud by Sahara Energy. Some sources claim Kyari has his hands and legs in the plight of Magu as he seeks to remove him for a fresh candidate that could do his bidding. While these are still mere allegations that should be properly investigated with Kyari questioned, Buhari has confidently looked the other way.
 
Members of the opposing People's Democratic Party wouldn't have enjoyed this level of presidential grace. The Ekiti State Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Toyin Ojo; and the Accountant General, Mrs. Oluyemisi Owolabi are languishing in EFCC cells over the alleged misuse of bailout funds by the Ayodele Fayose administration.
 
A former governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola who is now the Minister of Works, Power and Housing was accused of spending a ridiculous sum of  N139m on the drilling of two boreholes and another N78.3 million for the upgrade of his personal website during his tenure as governor. The figure for the latter was later beaten to N10 million through a suspected media manoeuvre.
 
Fashola is not alone in this; a former governor of the oil-rich Rivers State - Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi who is now the Minister of Transport has been accused by Rivers state government of embezzling a whooping sum of N3 trillion in 8 years. As usual, the allegation has been countered with a press statement from Amaechi's camp and the EFCC has kept mum.
 
Similarly, a former governor of Ekiti State and now Minister of Solid Minerals Development - Kayode Fayemi has been accused by the Ekiti State House of Assembly of raiding the state's purse of N40 billion during his single tenure. The lawmakers have laboured in vain to draw the attention of the EFCC to the historical fraud.
 
To be continued tomorrow..................
 
Written by Osayimwen Osahon George from Lagos, Nigeria.

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