Thursday, 8th June 2023

Oil money missing, missing…

By Afam Nkemdiche
02 July 2015   |   3:01 am
NIGERIA has a long history of whistle-blowing, commissions of inquiry, probe panels; etc regarding suspected misappropriations of public funds.

oil-industryNIGERIA has a long history of whistle-blowing, commissions of inquiry, probe panels; etc regarding suspected misappropriations of public funds.

Some of the notable ones include the Foster-Sutton Commission that investigated the finances of Eastern Region in the 1950s; the Coker Commission, which probed the finances of Western Region in the early 1960s.

The Aguiyi-Ironsi administration investigation of the finances of marketing and housing corporations of Northern Region in 1966; the Lockheed aircraft bribes scandal of mid 1970s; the ₦2.8bn missing crude oil money in the late 1970s; the Siemens bribes scandal/probe of early 1980s; the Pius Okigbo inquiry into Gulf War oil sales windfall; etc.

But in spite of the endless list of commissions of inquiry and probe panels, long-suffering Nigerians are not aware that any tangibles have resulted from those not so inexpensive administrative exercises. So why expend valuable time writing about matters that had been euphemistically described as “exercises in futility”? Two factors impelled me.

Factor number one: The 2014 “oil money missing” whistle-blower’s striking resemblance with the populist Afro Beat musician who had waxed the chart-busting track “Army Arrangement”, otherwise known as “Oil money missing, missing…”. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is as controversial as Fela Ransome Kuti had been. The ex-governor of the apex bank has selfsame slight physique as the late musical legend. Each of these men had dared the wrath of Nigeria’s military might by attempting to create a republic within the bounds of Nigeria.

The musician had christened his “Kalakuta Republic,” while the banker-turned-traditional ruler had called his “Republic of Xcheka”. Whereas the former had stood out like a sore thumb, the latter had developed imperceptibly; even Nigeria’s erstwhile easy-going Commander–in-Chief hadn’t been aware of the territorial encroachment until his authority was rudely challenged.

Both would-be head of republic had belatedly effected audience-specific change in their middle name. “Fela Ransome Kuti” became Fela Anikulapo Kuti”; while “Sanusi Lamido Sanusi” became “Sanusi Muhammadu Sanusi”. Sanusi and Fela had demonstrated a rare concern for the ordinary masses.

The ex-central banker would routinely (in spite of official guidelines) give out millions of naira to internally displaced persons. The late musician would allow countless unemployed youths take up virtual permanent residence at his abodes and performing venues. The ex-banker and the late musician share a common obsession: Singing about Nigeria’s perceived missing oil money.

Lastly, both Sanusi and Fela’s destinies crossed paths with a Muhammadu Buhari’s; it was at those meeting points that the striking resemblance suddenly developed a curious squint. To the audience of one, the older version of “Oil money missing, missing…..” sounded discordant, while the latest version sounds mellifluous (?)

Factor number two: I have had a firsthand experience of what could be termed Price Waterhouse Coopers’ (PWC) professional exuberance, which could be very costly sometimes. Back in 2009, a consortium (Lloyds Petroleum), which I had consulted for, conducted officials of Delta State government to Ghana on a fact-finding mission.

PWC was financial adviser to Lloyds. Lloyds was in technical partnership with a Canadian firm that was at that time participating in the expansion of Tema Oil Refinery (TOR). The objective of the trip had been to verify the facts presented to Delta State government respecting the Canadian company.

Rather than content with the role of a patient observer during deliberations, PWC representative, the company’s Director of Business Advisory, practically flew in the face of discretion by venturing to discuss “sensitive in-house” matter in the open. In a flash, the elderly head of delegation drew the meeting to a screeching halt. Mere hours later, the delegation was staring 28,000 feet down into the deep-blue of the Atlantic Ocean. That singular indiscretion cost our consortium a multi-billion naira contract with Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC).

Naturally, therefore, PWC’s recent so-called forensic audit on the accounts of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) certainly awakened slumbering echoes in the carverns of better-forgotten memory. I couldn’t help but discern PWC’s familiar exuberance in the manner the auditing contract’s Terms of Reference were executed. PWC was expected to examine NNPC’s account-books and confirm whether or not there are missing monies. According to PWC submissions, it duly examined NNPC’s numerous accounts and found no “missing monies”.

However, PWC observed that $1.48bn was yet to be remitted to the Federation Account as final payment for an ongoing asset acquisition from Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC). PWC even went further to state that the reason NNPC had not remitted the $1.48bn was because of as yet to be reconciled asset-assessment (signature bonus) on the particular asset by both NNPC and SPDC.

And, unexpectedly, PWC concluded its report by recommending immediate payment of the outstanding $1.48bn! Therefore money was missing from the accounts (?). What a contradiction, nay obfuscation. This is my point about PWC.

NNPC was obliged to issue an immediate longish statement to clarify PWC’s obfuscating audit report. No less a personage than NNPC’s Group Managing Director had delivered those clarifications, sounding more apologetic than assertive. As though those were not disappointing enough, NNPC sheepishly agreed to commence immediate remittance of the outstanding $1.48bn. Soon after, Nigeria’s sartorially-elegant petroleum empress would confirm that indeed NNPC has commenced defraying the $1.48bn. What then happened to the dispute over signature bonus?

Technically speaking, I do not see that PWC was in a position to make recommendations on the outstanding $1.48bn since PWC couldn’t have carried out a comprehensive evaluation of the particular SPDC asset within the limited time it had to carry out the audit.

NNPC was expected to have spoken categorically along these lines rather than the defensive if apologetic tone it adopted. Now, between PWC’s exuberance and NNPC’s sheepishness, a distracting orchestra of “Oil money missing, missing….” has been erected anew; but the sounds patriotic Nigerians hear are neither discordant nor mellifluous because these patriots are fully in tune with the mute but persistent soul-stirring chants of long-suffering Nigerians:
“Industrialise Nigeria!”
“Industrialise Nigeria!”
“Haba, industrialise Nigeria!”

•Nkemdiche is a Consulting Engineer in Abuja.