Seven Questions On The Crimes Of Former Petroleum Minister
Throughout the lifespan of the Jonathan administration where Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke held sway as the Minister of Petroleum Resources, she never thought it was worthy of her time to address the public on the numerous scandalous and strong allegations that ravaged her ministry and the parastatals under her watch until her last days in office to defend herself.Why is it now that she is vaguely addressing some of the atrocities and wrongdoings that had been leveled against her as the head of Nigeria’s main source of revenue and economic heartbeat, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)? This last-minute attitude of the ‘Almighty Minister’ undoubtedly raises some curiosity. It is on this note that I would like to ask her a few questions bordering on the indiscipline and impunity that characterised her reign as Nigeria’s Minister of Petroleum Resources. I hope we will be as lucky as her benefactor, the man who owns everything he is and has to sheer luck, to get some good response, if for nothing else, to have a record for future leaders and public servants to learn from her mistakes and ‘achievements.’Or what else can one make of her claim that she is only being painted black and given unfavourable public perception because she had stepped on some ‘big toes?’
I. Petrol Subsidy Scam: the monumental, unimaginable fraud of the century, the so-called petroleum subsidy at the inception of Goodluck Jonathans administration is bound to top any list comprising institutional and official robbery in a governmental setting. The issue of oil subsidy scam is not even an allegation; it is a fact that the subsidy amount miraculously rose from N300 billion to N2.3 trillion in just six months of the Goodluck Jonathan regime where Allison-Madueke served with a juicy portfolio. Investigations have exposed the reason behind this extreme rise in the oil subsidy; the records have shown real evidence of the petroleum minister and other officials like Reginald Stanley the Executive Secretary of PPRA (Petroleum Products Pricing Regulation Agency) being engaged in shady deals and nepotism by granting Shorelink, a company owned by Reginald Stanley’s cousin, Obiamarije Stanley an allocation of 75,000 metric tons of oil import. The petroleum minister also granted allocation of 30,000 metric tons to NEPAL OIL even while the company was under indictment by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for “forgery and obtaining money under pretence” and defrauding Nigeria of $6.5 billion amongst other oil companies. The officials connived with the oil mafia and cabal to swindle money out of NNPC aka Nigeria’s free ATM machine for every fraudster or oil criminal with access to the organisation, while leaving the impoverished Nigerian citizens in destitute poverty. The petroleum minister has also been fingered in several national and international probe reports on the monumental oil subsidy scam, such as the one by the Switzerland NGO– The Berne Declaration, for widespread subsidy fraud that cost the country billions of dollars. The report also indicted the minister of granting contracts to her cronies whose companies have no track records or experience in the oil and gas sector nor do they have the capacity to carry out the contracts which involve a large volume of petroleum import, storage and distribution. The question I have for Mrs. Minister is to explain why there was a huge surge in the petroleum subsidy in just 6months of her reign and why she granted large contracts to indicted companies, plus those with no track record in the business? “Investigations showed that Tridex Energy, a company with no track record in the oil and gas sector, was only registered less than three years ago. It is owned by a US-based lawyer, Donald Chidi Amamegbo, who attended the same university – Howard University – in Washington DC, with the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.” – The Berne Declaration report
II. Private Jet Charter Scam: The Minister of Petroleum has been accused of wasting national resources to accommodate her extravagant lifestyle. Samuel Adejare, the lawmaker that exposed this huge fiscal irresponsibility and gross assault of laws on fiscal discipline by the minister, said there’s strong evidence, according to the investigation, that the minister spent more than N10 billion on travelling alone. True to the typical reaction of Nigerian officials in the past 16 years, of aggressive counter accusations when questioned or faced with charges of wrongdoings, the Minister and NNPC resorted into an effort of trying to discredit the probe being carried out by the House Committee on Public Accounts, by trying to distract and divide the public from the main subject by pointing fingers at the Speaker and accusing him of also using private jets while dodging the questions raised on reckless waste of public resources. Now the question is, “Madam Minister, why would you so callously waste such a huge amount of public funds on yourself and your family for such unnecessary luxury, when there are other comfortable options?” I wonder if our leaders are aware of the reality in our society and the plight of the masses for them to always act so blatantly insensitive by wasting national resources on an extreme level in the midst of poverty and failure.
III. Management Instability in NNPC: We are curious to know the real reasons why NNPC underwent an influx of Group Managing Directors (GMDs) and other top officials in a single term of Goodluck Jonathan and Diezani Allison-Madueke’s tenure. There have been 5 GMDs under the Jonathan administration, starting from 2011, Dr. Mohammed Barkindo (2009-2010); Alhaji Shehu Ladan (April – May 2010); Mr Austen Oniwon (2010-2012); Engr Andrew Yakubu (2012-2014) and Mr Joseph Dawha (Aug 2014). NNPC is an organisation that requires stable management and effective policy implementation. But how can this be possible when the senior heads of a crucial organisation are arbitrarily removed without a transparent process or genuine reason for their dismissal. It is common knowledge that the lack of transparency and accountability in the corporation is the root cause of its problems, which invariably affects the whole country. The alleged reason for the abrupt dismissals of some of the GMDs is because they had a disagreement with the Petroleum Minister.
IV. Kerosene Subsidy Scam: The following findings on the fraudulent issue of kerosene subsidy were reported in the report by the committee on payment of fuel subsidies after the 2012 uprisings triggered by the monumental oil subsidy scam. Mr Aigboje Aig-lmoukhuede chaired the committee. The committee’s report findings say, “…in spite of a directive issued by President Yar’Adua on June 15, 2009, that NNPC should cease subsidy claims on kerosene, PPPRA resumed the processing of kerosene subsidy claims in June 2011, and NNPC resumed the deduction of kerosene subsidy claims to the tune of N331, 547,318,068.06 in 2011. Also, the distribution of DPK which was being imported solely by NNPC was skewed in favour of depot owners who have no retail outlets…Two-thirds of the kerosene sold by NNPC between 2009 and 2011 was sold to depot owners and ‘middle men’ who in turn sold the product to owners of retail outlets at inflated prices of between N115 and N125 per litre (compared to the ex-depot price of N40.90), leaving consumers to pay higher prices than the N50 per litre as directed by government. For several years now, the country has been incurring huge subsidy bills for kerosene and its citizens are not getting the benefit. Instead, the country has been financing ‘rent’ for the middlemen.” When the alarm was raised on the illegal continuation of kerosene subsidy payments the first reaction, which is typical of this administration, was to deny the fact that the late President Yar’Adua had given such directives. Then the NNPC shamelessly retracted the statement to say that the late President had reversed the order to stop kerosene subsidy by “word of mouth”, NNPC and the Petroleum Minister thinking their “word of mouth” claim would be indefensible since President Yar’Adua was no more around to defend himself. They were, however, proven wrong with authentic evidence such as the records of memos by the late president written by his secretary, David Edevbie to the serving minister of petroleum at the time, Dr Rilwan Lukman, stating the following “eliminate existing subsidy on the consumption of kerosene, taking into account that subsidy payments by government on kerosene do not reach the intended beneficiaries.” This was the last order by President Yar’Adua on kerosene subsidy. The recommendation of Aig-lmoukhuede’s committee on payment of fuel subsidies was never implemented by the Jonathan administration, just like all the other recommendations by the bunch of committees he set up by the administration to escape scrutiny from its high level of irresponsibility. Now, the million petrodollars question for our minister is, “Why did she insist on kerosene subsidy when she was fully aware that the Nigerian citizens for whom it was meant, were not benefiting? Or was it true that it was only sustained for personal gains and as another avenue for siphoning public funds?”
V. Unremitted $ billions to the Federation Account: In 2013, the loudest whistle was blown by the former Governor of Central Bank, Emir Sanusi Lamido, pointing out the case of missing and unremitted oil proceeds by NNPC to the federation account from the period of January 2012 to July 2013. The former CBN governor accused NNPC of failing to remit $20 billion to the national account at the Senate public hearing on the issue on February 4, 2014. The governor said NNPC exported $67 billion worth of crude oil, but it only remitted $47 billion into the federation account from the of January 2012 to July 2013. The committee set up by the Senate to investigate these serious claims turned out to be a group of biased agents on the side of the accused culprits, and as such had no authentic explanation on the matter. Another investigation was launched by the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-WAHALA, who appointed an audit firm, PriceWaterHouseCoopers (PwC) to probe the accounts and activities of NNPC. The PwC report was finally released after months of delay and intrigues to a lukewarm reception from the public as the first thing the report admitted to was that it was “non-reliable,’’ stating that the report lacked the right integrity and details due to the limited information they had access to work with. The report stated as follows, “The procedures we performed did not constitute an examination or a review in agreement with generally accepted auditing standards or attestation standards.” As a whole, the report is full of hints pointing out to it being far from a standard and complete exercise by the firm due to lack of access to the full account of some key agencies under NNPC. It is common of the minister to refuse full cooperation when it comes to handing out all supporting documents and records needed for conducting investigations. Good examples are the case of the inconclusive report by KPMG in 2010 on its forensic review of NNPC and the brazen lack of partnership with the House committee on investigations about Malabu oil scam. The petroleum ministry under Diezani Allison-Madueke frustrated the efforts of KPMG by refusing to provide the assistance needed to carry out investigations on the process involving issues and renewal of importation supply contracts, evaluation of petroleum products importation bids, criteria for allocation of products and volumes of importers and pre-qualification of approved importers. How evident is it that all the mentioned fields that were denied of KPMG having access to are the critical fields of the NNPC that the monumental subsidy scam of 2011 was derived from. Ultimately, the only thing a great part of the Nigerian public understood from the PwC audit report is that it’s inconclusive and should not be “relied upon”(PriceWaterHouseCoopers, 2014). Therefore, there is no question about this obscure and high level of heist.
VI. Last Minute Shenanigans: Even at the tail end of the Petroleum Minister’s regime, reports of fraudulent schemes from her office are not slowing down. It’s alleged that the petroleum resources minister has obtained the oil mining licence; OML 40 and OML 42 owned by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC). The minister has transferred the ownership of the licences to a private company that is closely linked to her, according to an investigation by a media house. Even in the midst of all the uproar in this last hour of Jonathans’s administration, the minister is said to be plotting and making deals for herself. Workers in the oil sector and unions such as PENGASSAN and NUPENG (the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers) plus NPDC have caught wind of the recent scam and are said to have given the minister an ultimatum to reverse her recent snatching of the two oil licences originally belonging to NPDC. Another last minute scheme uncovered is a collaborative effort with the Petroleum Ministry and Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), an agency that is meant to monitor and regulate the activities of the oil sector, including NNPC, but does the opposite by turning a blind eye to the fraudulent activities in the sector like intentional sabotage of our refineries, fraud in crude oil lifting and subsidy scams, not to mention large-scale crude oil theft in the producing region. The exposed plot concerns an old proposal by DPR to give out licences to investors, of which are now being shared at the last minute, to build modular refineries. Modular refineries are lightweight facilities for refining crude oil around the country. The public and oil stakeholders suspicion comes with the last minute launch of the old proposal just three days to a new government being sworn in. Stakeholders that have applied asking for the licences for a while are livid for being sidelined in the award of licences for building a modular refinery permits, only to be handed out to another set of cronies as done in the importation of oil fiasco that has formed one of the most powerful cabal/mafia in the country. Why did the minister leave these big scale transactions till the end of her tenure?
VII. Relationship with Mr President: The public is curious to understand why the president has insisted on keeping the controversial petroleum minister in spite of all the strong allegations against her. President Goodluck Jonathan continued to turn a blind eye to all these issues, even as they badly affected the country’s image. The petroleum minister, over the past five years of this administration, had displayed an uncommon level of power by her actions. It is said that the minister has an upper hand in national matters. At a point, she was almost operating as a proxy Commander-in-Chief. The president is extremely weak towards the Minister of Petroleum Resources. Some members of the Federal Executive Council have leaked information on the embarrassing manner the minister behaved in meetings, especially in the early years of the regime.