For several years running, the highly complacent Nigerian public have been treated to bombshells as the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives (NEITI) present its independent audit report. The reports covering the period between 2009 and 2017 were a catalogue of fraudulent manipulations in the oil and gas sector of the Nigerian economy. Even as the agency has consistently recommended that certain key government agencies should refund various amounts of money to the nation’s treasury, the magnitude of organized crime being carried out in the oil and gas sector of the economy is yet to dawn on Nigerians who think that the money being looted is not their own but that of those in government. But until Nigerians begin to ask questions and insist on transparency in the running of the oil and gas sector this mess will continue till the country collapses as an entity.
Yes, NEITA had demanded that the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) should return N4.423 billion to the Federation Account just as it recommended that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and other unnamed firms pay N3.715 billion being “over-recovery” for the period under review into the national treasury. Whether the NNPC and other organizations involved in this scandal will adhere to this demand remains to be seen. Viewed comprehensively, a total sum of N273 billion (8 billion U. S dollars) had not been remitted as of 2011 to the Federation Account by those agencies of governments. Also, a total of 136 million barrels of crude oil estimated at $10.9 billion was lost to theft and a total payment of N3 trillion was made to importers of refined petroleum products during the period under review. Indeed, the tale of the transparent looting in the oil and gas sector is a recurring decimal repeating itself with ubiquity and constancy.
Since oil assumed the centre stage of the Nigerian economy when the military saw it as war booty after the civil war, hopes of Nigerians are readily dashed and expectations largely unfulfilled as each regime strives in a bizarre and predictable manner to outdo its predecessor in the looting of the public treasury. Impoverishment of the citizenry and criminal neglect of social infrastructure has become a routine practice of government in the country. Except in the early 70s when the nation witnessed a yet-to-be-surpassed activity level in infrastructural and human capital development, the song has always ended on the same pitiable refrain: the euphoria that energized the nation at each change in leadership soon gave way to despondency, disillusionment, helplessness, frustration, and anguish.
We say this because the period of the NEITI report covers the duration of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s untimely death when his Vice, Goodluck Jonathan held forth through the Senate’s Doctrine of Necessity (2009-2011). And to say that such monumental sleaze took place during this short period is unbelievable as it is unprecedented in the annals of the nation. In a sane society, this audit report would lead to the fall of any government as the looting reported is comparatively abysmal. What is stolen is far more than what is left to run the country; consequently, the country is bleeding financially at a time when so much volume of crude oil has been produced and carted away abroad. It is unfortunate that in spite of the scandalous fraud in just two years nobody is prepared to relinquish his or her position to set the pace for the rebirth of moral rectitude in the country.
We recall that in 2005, the then National Economic Intelligence Committee (NEIC) headed by Professor Ibrahim Ayagi, in Abuja, released its 2005 second Quarter report with a disclosure that N17.62 billion belonging to the Federation Account as at June of that year, was yet to be remitted to it by the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), the Nigeria Customs Service and the collecting banks of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). The report also disclosed that the NNPC which bought crude oil for local consumption at prevailing prices and exchange rates with special concessions was yet to remit the sum of N122.58 billion due to the federation Account. This means that the criminal conspiracy has long been entrenched. Where is the corruption war the government claims to be fighting?
If we think that Petronas of Malaysia and Petrobas of Brazil are able to change the course of their respective countries’ economies because they are not African countries, let us spare a thought to evaluate the sterling performances of State owned oil companies in Algeria, Angola, Morocco and South Africa. SONATRACH, the Algerian equivalent of NNPC will invest $80 billion in the growth of their oil estate including $14 billion to build four new refineries. Similarly, the Moroccan oil mogul, SAMIR recently commissioned a new distillation section in its existing refinery with a capacity of 4 million tones of refined products yearly. Also, SASOL, South Africa’s petrochemical giant is in the process of commissioning a state-of-the-art gas-to-liquids plant in Louisiana, USA, to take over the emerging international gas market. Here, NNPC still acts as a state within a state supervising the fraudulent importation of refined petroleum products into the sixth largest producer of crude oil in the world. Nigeria, where is thy soul?