Subsidy: Buhari’s NNPC as cesspool of corruption
It is no longer debatable that the deep-seated illegality and abuse of financial procedures which has characterized the operations of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in the last few decades still bedevils it in spite of the present administration’s claim to transparency and integrity.
An instant revelation of this fact is the secret and opaque reintroduction of subsidy in the prices of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) without the approval of the National Assembly as exposed in the Premium Times report of 5th November entitled ‘Exclusive documents show the Buhari’s administration illegally diverted N378 billion NLNG dividend’.
The discovery of this scam has not only pitched President Muhammadu Buhari and the executive arm of government against the legislature but it has sent tongues wagging across various strata of the nation’s polity.
The findings in the referenced report clearly showed that the Buhari administration has continued to make fuel subsidy payments in spite of the stoppage of the fuel subsidy regime and non-appropriation of funds for the scheme. This is really sad and highly deceitful and it is obvious from the marks that greeted this disclosure that Nigerians are unanimous that corruption in under Buhari is not only frightening but is now attaining unprecedented heights of audacious impunity never before seen in the leadership of the oil-rich nation.
In truth, Buhari’s situation is not helped by damning verdicts by two prominent global financial institutions, the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation popularly known as HSBC and International Monetary Fund, IMF, which took the All Progressives Congress (APC) led administration to the cleaners, citing monumental corruption and maladministration.
While the HSBC on the one hand noted that Buhari’s approval ratings sit near all-time lows and this largely reflects the impact of Nigeria’s painful recession in 2016-17 and the sustained economic hardship that has accompanied his presidency, including rapidly rising joblessness, poverty, insecurity and unchecked cases of corruption in his administration, have all raised the risk of limited economic progress and further fiscal deterioration, the International Monetary Fund on the other hand, equally gave Nigeria under Buhari, a very negative appraisal during the recent Annual General Meeting of the IMF/World Bank in Bali, Indonesia, where Nigeria’s growth prospect was revised downwards in 2018 from 2.1 per cent to 1.9 per cent.
To make matters worse, as these two heavyweight financial institutions were projecting into the future of Nigeria with these observations, Premium Times has now uncovered a monumental fraud in Aso Rock, involving the fuel subsidy racket, which has not only revealed the subsidy regime as a huge financial scam, but has added to further rubbishing the so-called integrity of President Muhammadu Buhari. The development is no doubt an affirmation of the already globally lampooned anti-corruption posturing of the administration.
The documents right from the heart of the Presidency as published by Premium Times, revealed the unbridled impunity that is going on inside Aso Rock under the very nose of President Buhari. The corrupt sect is led by few stinking corrupt and filthy rich close associates of the President has fleeced the country dry through the rogue petroleum subsidy regime orchestrated by the cash cow NNPC, which has become even more of a cesspool for unchecked fraud.
What this rightly suggests is that the NNPC is a ready conduit to raise a war chest of campaign funds to prosecute the 2019 presidential elections in the herculean attempt to deliver a second term for President Buhari at all costs.
Tragically, this mind-boggling fraud is happening under the very watch of Mr. Integrity himself, President Buhari, who will ultimately become the direct beneficiary of the colossal corruption via the fuel subsidy route and yet he will bury his head in the sand like an Ostrich and pretend he is not aware of what is happening around him by his own group, while selective persecution of perceived political opponents on the trumped up charges of corruption, continues in the land unabated with reckless impunity and unchecked brutality, embarrassment, humiliation and assault on Nigerian citizens across the country.
The really annoying and sickening aspect of this whole brazen fraud is that President Muhammadu Buhari who also acts as the Minister of Petroleum has not spoken. Thus, the temporary conclusion would certainly point to the speculation that Nigeria’s frail President is never aware of anything that is happening around him or in his government and indeed the country at large, but what becomes quite glaring is that there is now the dire need for appropriate investigations to be commenced and thoroughly conducted on the many violations and corrupt infractions going on in the Buhari administration.
Indeed, the recent decision of the Nigerian Senate to probe the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC over an unaccounted whooping sum of $3.8 billion dollars allegedly shrouded in secrecy, following a point of order raised by Senator Biodun Olujimi representing Ekiti South senatorial district, has opened up another rotten can of worms on the Buhari administration, exposing how the slush fund is managed quietly right now by two people namely the NNPC MD, Maikanti Baru and his Director of Finance, without supervision or appropriation by any know law.
This resolve by the Senate to probe NNPC is in consonance with the 2016 report of the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, which strongly indicted the NNPC for withholding and short-changing the country. In addition to the indictment by NEITI, the NNPC had been accused on a number of occasions of large-scale graft, and serving as a conduit for the diversion of the country’s finances to private accounts and entering into deals that were detrimental to the economy of the country among others.
There are countless damaging reports on the Buhari’s administration but for quick reference, the disclosure from the Natural Resource Governance Institute, NRGI is very disturbing. According to the report ‘within the first six months of the Buhari administration, the NNPC withheld over $4.2 billion, about N824.7 billion, out of a total of $6.3 billion, about N1.24 trillion, realized from crude oil sales in the second half of 2015’.
The NRGI also accused the NNPC of causing the country to lose about $32 billion, about N7 trillion, due to its opaque Domestic Crude Allocation (DCA), questionable revenue retention practices and corruption-ridden oil-for-product swap agreements. These are really worrisome especially coming from a government that claims it is well intended.
Sadly, the NNPC, in an attempt to clear its name, has denied any wrongdoing leveled against it by NEITI, claiming that its failure to remit about $13.294 billion to the Federation account was due to the fact that the funds were utilized legally in running its operations, while the balance of the funds had been transferred to the Central Bank of Nigeria.
As usual, the NNPC equally denied the recent allegation leveled against it by the Nigerian Senate that it has in its custody 3.5 billion dollars Subsidy fund, through its Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Ndu Ughamadu, who dismissed the claims in a statement, noting that at the height of the shortage of products supply at the close of 2017, the National Assembly asked the NNPC to do everything possible to stem the hiccups and further added that the corporation initiated the move to raise a revolving fund of 1.05 billion dollars, since the corporation was, and is still the sole importer and supplier of fuel products in the country, even as he added that the fund had been domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria, adding that at no time was it in the custody of the NNPC.
While these blatant denials have been echoed by the NNPC to anyone who cares to listen, the fact remains that documents presented by Premium Times fully drives home the complicity of some top close persons to the Presidency in the corruption cesspool that is the Buhari administration.
It is indeed amazing and that such massive dastardly level of corruption and fraud are carried out, yet President Buhari will shamelessly stand before the international community and claim that his government is fighting corruption while his own presidency is brimming with and wallowing in all manner of corrupt practices. What these Buhari’s appointees are doing with brazen impunity on behalf the absentee President is to say the least, pathetic.
This is certainly worse than the alleged crimes that had kept some prominent Nigerians behind the bars for so long, despite court orders which have periodically directed that they be released on bail, but which have been continually ignored with impunity, all of which have confirmed the allegations of selective justice and persecution being practiced by the Buhari administration.
What Buhari and his cronies are doing to the Nigerian economy with this kind of audacious corruption that grates the senses and rankles our sensibilities, portends great danger to our democracy as succinctly captured by the HSBC report which has predicted gloom and doom for Nigeria if Buhari wins a second term. Specifically, this huge swindle perpetrated through the NNPC may just be a tip of the iceberg.
It is very unfortunate that the Buhari administration in its usual attitude, has resorted to grandstanding and barefaced negative propaganda and illogical grandiloquence as it attempts covering up the glaring graft with half baked explanations and denials despite abundant facts and damning evidence as revealed by Premium Times and other reputable organisations. This is really sad for a nation that claims to be fighting corruption.
*Shaibu, a Public Communication Consultant writes from Abuja