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Posts tagged ‘Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’

Looking For Jobs, Finding Death – By Femi Fani-Kayode.


By Femi Fani-Kayode

Whether anyone likes to accept it or not the bitter truth is that 80 per cent of our GRADUATES are unemployed in Nigeria today whilst 51 per cent of our PEOPLE are also unemployed. As a frightful and grave consequence of these shocking statistics, which I happen to believe may well be a world record in terms of unemployment, a terrible tragedy occurred in Abuja and other parts of our country on 16th March 2014.

Approximately 68,000 of our youths gathered at the National Stadium in Abuja for an aptitude test for just 3000 jobs in the Immigration Service. 10 of those children were killed in a stampede whilst looking for those jobs. It did not stop there. Another 20,000 youths gathered in the stadium at Port Harcourt, Rivers state for aptitude tests for the same 3000 jobs and there was another stampede there as well in which 4 of their colleagues were killed and four more were so badly wounded that they remain in a coma up until now.

Similar gatherings for the same Immigration aptitude test took place in cities all over the country all for the same 3000 jobs and three young pregnant girls together with three male youths were killed in a similar stampede at the stadium in Minna, Niger state.

The only crime that all these children that were either killed, maimed or injured in these horrific stampedes in the stadiums of all these cities like Abuja, Port Harcourt, Minna, Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Benin and elsewhere had committed was to try to get a job, to fight for a better life for themselves and to try to secure their future. What a tragedy.

One day Nigerians will appreciate the importance of facts, figures and statistics and the consequences of tolerating atrocious, lousy, insensitive and unaccountable governments. They will also understand the implications of having a government that has no qualms about taking advantage of the pitiful plight of it’s own youths and citizens and scamming them in the most obvious and shameful manner.

Why should anyone be surprised that hundreds of thousands of youths gathered in stadiums all over the country on the 15th March 2014 just to apply for a tiny handful of jobs that are available in Immigration? This is so SIMPLY because there are NO jobs available for these children in our country.

I repeat 80 per cent of our graduates are unemployed and 51 per cent of our people are unemployed. Why won’t they die and be killed or injured whilst looking for the few jobs that are available? Why won’t they gather in stadiums all over the country in their hundreds of thousands just to do an aptitude test for a job in Immigration for which there are only 3000 vacancies? Why should anyone be surprised by this madness and this turmoil? Why should anyone be moved by this horrific carnage when it is now a regular phenomenon in our country for children to be slaughtered. If they are not butchered whilst at school by islamist fundamentalists they are slaughtered whilst they are looking for jobs from a heartless government which has effectively destroyed their future.

Yet look for jobs they must because these children and these youths are desperate and they are suffering. To make matters worse they are also being taken advantage of and scammed by their own government who are desperate to extort money from them by all means available. If this were not the case why would the Comptroller-General of Immigration and the Minister of Internal Affairs order that each and every one of those youths that flooded the stadiums in their hundreds of thousands and that stood in the sun should be made to pay 1000 naira each for the forms that they were to use to do the aptitude test at the various stadiums all over the country.

Someone was set to make a whole lot of money considering the fact that over one hundred thousand youths were involved in this shameless exercise and the amount of cash that they must have made runs into hundreds of millions of naira. The whole thing was just a massive and monuemental scam to extort hundreds of millions of naira from these poor, young and innocent souls and many of our youths have paid for it with their lives.

This is what President Goodluck Jonathan’s Nigeria has done to them. We now have an army of angry, jobless, frustrated, disillusioned and desperate youths on our hands in this country and consequently we are literally sitting on a keg of gunpowder. May God help us and may He forgive us for failing these children and destroying their futures.

Other than this I will say no more on this matter because the truth is that most Nigerians no longer ”give a damn” when blood is shed and when lives are taken. This is so even when those lives are those of children. Permit me to give an example. On the very same day that our youths were dying in stadiums looking for jobs with Immigration another 100 innocent people were being slaughtered by ”unknown gunmen” in southern Kaduna and no-one seems to care. Again only two days before then, on March 12th 2014, 110 innocent Nigerians were butchered by what were described in the press as a group of ”fulani gunmen who were on motorbikes” in Katsina state whilst the President was on an official visit there. What a tragedy.

Under President Goodluck Jonathan we have become a nation of vampires where the death of innocent children and youths means nothing and where we cannot even provide jobs or a decent standard of living for our young ones. Instead we attempt to scam them and to extort money from them. What a government, what a country.

If our government had any sense of decency, justice or accountability the Comptroller-General of Immigration and the Minister of Internal Affairs would have not only been compelled to resign or fired by now but they would also have been arrested and would be facing criminal charges for, at the very best, criminal negligence and manslaughter and, at the very worse, accessories before the fact to murder. Yet we know that that will never happen as long as President Goodluck Jonathan is in power. Far from it.

As a matter of fact instead of bowing his head in shame and showing any sense of contrition or remorse the Minister of Internal Affairs has come out shamelessly and blamed the dead youths themselves by saying that ”they did not exercise enough patience during the exercise”. May God forgive this man. I wonder if he would have expressed such sentiments if any of his own children had been killed in the stampede.

Permit me to end this contribution by quoting from a moving email that I received from a dear Nigerian family friend who herself is a mother and who presently resides in the United Kingdom with her family. She sent it to me the day after the tragic death of the youths in the stadium. I have obtained her permission to share her words in this write-up but for obvious reasons I will not mention her name. She wrote-

”Good morning uncle Femi. I honestly don’t know where to start from. My heart is so heavy. What is it about Nigeria that (or is it we as a nation) nothing  good comes out of the news. I’m beginning to wonder if there is nothing wrong with me when I go through websites expectant of only bad news. Why don’t I ever expect anything good to come out if Nigeria? I don’t even know what to tell my children again. I try to give them a balanced view of the country but something would always come up to make nonsense of that. Why would any sane person want to come and live in that madness called Nigeria where nothing is guaranteed. Life is not guaranteed, jobs are not guaranteed, education is not guaranteed, security is not guaranteed, a decent daily meal is not guaranteed. I could go on and on.

I came to a realization recently which is self-preservation. Abi shebi it’s life/self first. When I saw the early morning pictures of the crowd of youths at the Abuja stadium my heart just sank because I could almost write the script of what would follow. And so I waited (expectantly?)and wasn’t disappointed. Would anything come out of it? No. Would life go on? Yes. Do they care? No. And the moron of a Minister had the gall to say that candidates died because of ”impatience”. Meanwhile the so-called aptitude test was just a ruse. They had handpicked their preferred candidates weeks ago. The crowd alone told me that we have a serious problem of youth unemployment yet Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala would come out and be reeling stupid figures. Please tell her that she’s not fooling anyone. As if the unemployment is not bad enough government is opening more universities like daycare centers and still granting licenses for private universities. Who is going to absorb these teeming unemployed graduates? Where are the industries? Are you creating an enabling environment for investment? In fact I’m just done with agonizing over Nigeria. Self first please!”

Her words and counsel moved me to tears. As far as I am concerned she captured the mood very well and her simple yet succinct submission is reflective of the thinking and deep pain of millions of Nigerians from all over the world that are fast losing hope in their nation. Yet what can we do but just continue to hope and pray. What can we do for the future of our children and to better the fortunes of our nation? This is indeed food for thought. As the bible says, ”may God deliver us from bloodthirsty and evil men” and ”may the balm of Gilead heal our wounds and comfort our mourning souls”.

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

Finance Minister Okonjo-Iweala 2015 would be brutal for economy.


 

ABUJA—THE Coordinating Minister for the economy and Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo –Iweala, yesterday disclosed that with the country’s election looming, the 2015 would be a tough and brutal year in maintaining a strong macroeconomic performance the country has recorded in recent times.
Okonjo–Iweala, however, assured that she is determined to ensure that the country’s strong macroeconomic performance of recent years and reform agenda do not slip.

The finance minister who realises that she will be targeted by opposition politicians jostling for power ahead of elections in February 2015

and keen to denounce the government’s economic policies said, “It will be brutal,” she tells The Banker in Abuja, “We’re going to see extreme bashing. Somebody has to be the scapegoat,” she added.

According to her, “Nigeria’s strong macroeconomic performance in the past five years has seen its standing abroad rise considerably. Many frontier and emerging market investors crave exposure to the oil-rich West African country’s rapidly growing economy and population of 170 million, by far the largest in Africa.

Jim O’Neill, the influential former Goldman Sachs chief economist, has dubbed it, alongside Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey, a MINT – a group whose global significance he believes will only increase.”

Yet for all the hype,  Okonjo-Iweala knows that investors will be watching Nigeria closely to see that its reforms and its fiscal and monetary record do not unravel in the run up to voting.

To help ensure that does not happen, she has proposed a largely conservative budget for 2014. It forecasts a small deficit of 1.9 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) and is based on a real growth rate of 6.75per cent , which is slightly below the International Monetary Fund’s estimate. Total spending will be reduced by 7 per cent from 2013 to N4640billion ($28.5billion).

BY PETER EGWUATU

Source: Radio Biafra.

Senate Hearing: Sanusi Insists $20b Is Missing, Okonjo-Iweala Unable To Prove How $10.8b Was Spent.


Central Bank of Nigeria’s Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi
By Saharareporters, New York

Day Two of the investigative hearing of the Senate Committee on Finance into the alleged missing $20 billion oil money has concluded in Abuja, with the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, insisting the money is missing according to a live blogging of the hearing by Premium Times of Nigeria.

Speaking to the committee, he said that despite the explanation tendered by Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, there is an outstanding $20 billion between what NNPC oil shipments and what it paid to government.

Mr. Sanusi insists the outstanding $6 billion given by NNPC to the NPDC should have gone to the federal government, but that it disappeared into private hands from there, and offered to bring in lawyers to defend that claim on the basis of three advisory opinions the CBN has already received.

Testifying earlier, Okonjo-Iweala aligned herself with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the NNPC, despite declaring her Ministry lacked the capacity to validate the claims contained in NNPC documents from the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) showing how the initial outstanding $10.8 billion was spent.  She said an independent forensic team was needed to examine the documents.

Concerning the $6 billion which Mr. Sanusi said the NNPC diverted into private pockets, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala also said that finding out who owns the money would require an independent legal opinion.

But also testifying Andrew Yakubu, Group Managing Director of the NNPC, basically advised Nigerians to forget about ever seeing the N10.8 billion in question or wasting their time looking for it, declaring it has been “spent on subsidy, pipeline maintenance and other losses.”

“The impression Nigerians have is that $10.8 billion is seated in the four towers of the NNPC [offices],” he said, underlining that the money is gone.

SaharaReporters gathered that  representatives of the Ministry of Finance and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had agreed to present a united from today at the Senate claiming that the ministry was “satisfied” with the NNPC explanations regarding the missing funds.
However, they could not carry out the plan as CBN officials refused to sign the agreement; also the minister of State for Finance, Lawal Ngama reportedly refused accepting the reconciled figures. He was fired yesterday by President Goodluck Jonathan.

President Jonathan, the Finance minister, Okonjo-Iweala and the Petroleum Resources minister,  Alison-Madueke , who rushed back from London yesterday, have reportedly resolved to prolong the investigations by bringing in forensic expert pending the time the CBN Governor, Lamido Sanusi could be completely sidelined.

 

Below is the Premium Times Live Blog from today’s hearing:

Nigeria: Missing $20 billion oil money Senate hearing – Day Two live blog By Ini Ekott

 

CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi

Welcome to our live blog of Day Two of the investigative hearing by the Senate Committee on Finance into the alleged missing N8 trillion [$20 billion] oil money.

12:04 -Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, says NNPC has supplied documents from the PPPRA(Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency) showing how the initial outstanding $10.8 billion was spent.

The minister however said the finance ministry had no capacity to validate the claims. As such, she said they need an independent forensic team to examine the documents.

On the $20 billion- which includes a $6 billion which CBN governor, Lamido Sanusi, said should have gone to the federation, but the NNPC, through the NPDC, pushed into private pockets- Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said that will require an independent legal opinion to know who owns the money.

12:11 – Finance committee chairman, Ahmed Makarfi, asked the finance minister: As the custodian of the federal government’s money, if you feel unsatisfied with what NNPC puts forward, and you said will require a forensic team, what stops you from commissioning a forensic team to verify the documents?

The minister said she hasn’t said anything has stopped her ministry from doing so. “This thing is a process,” she said.

The senate committee presses the ministry why there is need for a forensic validation now if the same PPPRA is vested with the responsibility of signing off subsidy payments.

Minister: “These are extraordinary times, otherwise we would not be sitting here. These are not ordinary times.”

12:16 – The senate committee has tasked the finance ministry to commission a forensic team to examine the PPPRA/NNPC documents within one month in the first instance.

The PPPRA is called upon now to present to the committee the subsidy claims documents it has certified, which the finance minister said requires forensic validation.

12:43 – The NNPC is called to make presentation. But Mr. Makarfi, the senate finance chair, insists that whatever happens, the PPPRA certification will undergo a forensic evaluation.

CBN governor: Sanusi Lamido, said regardless the explanations from the finance minister, as far as the CBN is concerned, there is an outstanding $20 billion between what NNPC shipped and what it paid to government.

Mr. Sanusi insists the outstanding $6 billion given to the NPDC should have gone to the federal government. He said the CBN has received three legal opinions on that position, and offers to bring in lawyers to defend that claim.

12:55 – Sanusi: PPPRA says subsidy on kerosene is legal and that certain amount was paid. PPPRA is the agency authorized to determine that. But I have a letter from the PPPRA in 2010 telling me that they do not pay kerosene subsidy. In the end, it is left for the committee to determine whether such letter was later withdrawn. It is left for the committee to decide.

Mr. Sanusi reads a part of the PPPRA letter on stopping kerosene subsidy. The letter was signed by a former Executive Secretary, Abiodun Ibikunle.

13:08 – Mr. Makarfi said it would be wrong for Mr. Sanusi to delve into the responsibilities of other agencies. He advised the CBN governor to limit himself to what he is legally empowered to do. The comment came in respect of the PPPRA’s decision to pay kerosene subsidy despite a purported presidential directive. Mr. Makarfi said it is for the PPPRA to so decide.

Petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke speaks…

13:22 – Diezani Alison-Madueke said NNPC stayed action on the presidential directive on kerosene to save Nigerinas the hardship of buying at exorbitant rates.

She said if there must a forensic auditing of the PPPRA documents, then it should go all the way back to 2004 when the entire process started. She said there has been no problem since.

13:25-Mr. Makarfi asked petroleum minister if the government will continue with kerosene subsidy. The minister declines response. But Bukola Saraki, a member of the committee, said the senate is concerned about what happened not about the future. He said the question did not arise in the first place.

13:36-Ibrahim Gumba(Bauchi state), a member of the senate committee said it was a clear illegality to have continued with the kerosene subsidy which someone must account for.

Diezani Alison-Diezani shakes off responsibility for the kerosene subsidy. She said she was not in office at the time, but was only relating to the committee what happened. However, Mrs. Alison-Madueke said despite the presidential directive, it was no law because the directive was not gazetted.

That claim draws a murmur from the audience here.

13:43-NNPC Group Managing Director, Andrew Yakubu, speaks…

“The impression Nigerians have is that $10.8 billion seated in the four towers of the NNPC,” he says referring to the NNPC’s corporate office.

He said to put the records straight, the money is not seated anywhere. He explains the $10.8 billion as having been spent on subsidy, pipeline maintenance and other losses.

13:51-“Nigerians believe NNPC is sitting on money. But I want it known that these monies we are taking about are not “realizable flows”- NNPC GMD

14:11- Finance minister, Okonjo-Iweala, takes exception to a comment by a senator, Isa Galaudu, that the finance of “this country is messy”

Okonjo-Iweala claims Nigeria has one of the most transparent budget in the world that allows citizens to know how much is spent on “forks and spoons in state house”.

Mr. Galaudu said Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala must take charge and be in control. Ngozi appears emotional, and is telling the senate committee that the finance ministry has been doing its work and that it believes in transparency. “That is why we are seeking an independent forensic team for this to satisfy Nigerians,” she said.

14:58-The hearing has ended. The committee will receive a legal opinion on the NPDC $6billion next week while the finance ministry will commission a forensic examination of NNPC/PPPRA claims.

$20bn Stolen: Now We All Cannot Buy Shoes! #OccupyNigeria.


By Peregrino Brimah

Before attempting to digest what $20 billion is, it is important to mention what the $20 billion missing is not. $20 billion Nigeria’s income missing/looted is not all that was looted in just 19 months from the nation’s coffers. This sum is at best half the actual total figure that is looted from oil revenue and internal projects and bogus contracts. It is ‘crazy’ to realize that more than half the nation’s income is stolen by those in power and their handful of world acclaimed billionaire cabal co-conspirators.

What is the value of $20 billion?

$20 billion represents one eighth of Nigeria’s total oil derived income. That is one quarter of our yearly earnings.

$20 billion equals 10 million $2000, that is one million $20,000!

With $20 billion, every Nigerian individual, including the poorest in Bama and Baga and the old and dying in all villages, will get N10,000.

With $20 billion, every single Nigerian can get 5 new pairs of shoes.

With $20 billion, which these unconscionable people have pocketed, every 100 Nigerians could have been allocated $20,000 for capital projects. Every 100 Nigerians could get a school built, a clinic, a playground, a park, a community center, etc.

With $20 billion looted, every household in Nigeria, including every mud family home in every single village could get either a $1000 generator borehole or an inverter-solar panel system!

With $20 billion stolen, every home in every village and town could have a $500 laptop computer.

With $20 billion dollars stolen in 19 months, 2 children in every family could be sponsored throughout their education right up to university.

With $20 billion looted, one child of every family of 5 can be sponsored to a good college even in America.

With $20 billion stolen, Nigeria could have purchased 40,000 Armored Personnel Carriers, APC’s to successfully finally decimate Boko Haram and be prepared for any future battles within and outside our borders.

With $20 billion stolen, Nigeria could have bought a million drones, for tracking every single robbery and moving terrorist.

With $20 billion, we could have purchased 150,000 helicopters for all our police, hospital and other emergency departments across the nation.

Brazil, São Paulo’s automated modern subway lines cost $1.6 billion. It had 11 stations, with fully lit automatic trains. In Singapore, 22 miles of track cost $4.8 billion, at $130 million per kilometer. With the $20 billion stolen, 10 states in Nigeria could have had fully functional, ultramodern subway systems!

With $20 billion stolen, Nigeria’s transport system could have had 200,000 luxury buses ferrying Nigerians around the nation.

Nigeria’s oil minister, Diezani Madukwe has blurted that if this stolen money is to be investigated, the Obasanjo government (in power in 2004) too must be investigated since this looting started since then. We have no problem with that. Late Yar’adua (in power 2007-2010) is dead, and though PremiumTimes reports revealed that Yar’adua actually repeatedly executively blocked this cold-blooded robbery, they can investigate him too if they want. We will find our money, every last kobo of it, no matter what it costs us. Many of us Nigerians will never rest till the culprits of such humongous theft are all thrown in jail and the key tossed in the ocean. May this investigation spiral to all old regimes all the way back to our first, we will investigate this!

This is very depressing. Rivers state governor, Rotimi Amaechi told us that it is because we do not protest like every other nation on earth that such insane robberies can occur in broad day light. Are we sitting down with this wicked nonsense?

Let the FGN/NNPC be prepared for a full public investigated investigation and #OccupyNigeria! The thieves who stole our $20 billion will spit it out! Enough is Enough!

Dr. Peregrino Brimah
http://ENDS.ng [Every Nigerian Do Something]
Email: drbrimah@ends.ng Twitter: @EveryNigerian

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

In Quest Of Foreign Technical Administrators By Nehemiah Ikoba.


That public administrators, in general and sports administrators, in particular, have been found wanting in the discharge of their duties in Nigeria over the years, is a fact that is well established. This gross lack of performance by public officials can be seen as one of the leading reasons why Nigeria continues to decline, development-wise. The sad fact is that most of these officials, who have been handed the administration of Nigeria’s resources, see themselves as fool-proof repository of knowledge, not willing to imbibe new cultures and ways that will produce positive results, still willing to continue in their corrupt tendencies at the expense of the beloved masses of Nigeria.

The media has been awash with news that the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) is planning to force a foreign technical assistant on Super Eagles tactician, Stephen Keshi, even though Coach Keshi has insisted that he is okay with his present back room staff. According to some media reports, the NFF members have expressed strong worries on the ability of the former Eagles captain to lead the team creditably at the 2014 World Cup, although the coach insists that he can operate at the highest level without any such fresh staff whether foreign or local.

The call became more vocal after the conclusion of the CHAN 2014, where these officials claimed that the Nigerian team lacked technical support, as shown in our performance in the semi-finals against 10-man Ghana and Zimbabwe in the third-place match. They allude that the inability of the Nigerian team to make its numbers count in those two matches were largely due to dearth of tactical inputs that would have led the team to resounding victory on those two occasions.

There were other allegations bordering on Keshi’s team selection and other sundry actions and inactions taken by the technical crew, including the team’s performance during the Confederations Cup in Brazil, last year.

Why is it that foreign assistants are only needed in the coaching front and not in the administrative sphere? Is the NFF claiming that they are performing their duties in the best possible way and moving Nigerian sports forward? The evidence in the public domain, as well as the views of concerned Nigerians is that sports administrators are not doing enough to move our sports to greater heights.

If one is to chronicle the numerous shortcomings of sports administrators in Nigeria, this write-up will be hugely inadequate. It should be noted that some of the actions of these acclaimed all-knowing eggheads of sports in Nigeria, clearly expose them as extremely inefficient, bereft of progressive ideas, highly unappreciative of Nigerian talent, extremely shortsighted and downright selfish.

The NFF has been always finding ways to put the proverbial spanner in the works of the current coach. This was clearly shown during the 2013 African Cup of Nations. These self-professed administrators of our football should try, through their actions, to clear the impression by Nigerians, who view them to be working more often than not, at cross purposes with the development ideals that would catapult the game to dizzying heights.
While not saying that these administrators should not make constructive criticisms, they should be careful, lest our treasure be snatched by those who value it more than we do.

That Keshi is a shrewd tactician is beyond perhaps, the earlier our football administrators give him his due regards, the better for us all. His performance at CAN 2013, where he showed tactical savvy to take Ivory Coast, with their coterie of global stars, and Mali to the cleaners, and won the competition should be brought to the fore. Even his performance during CHAN 2014 after the opening loss to Mali is also commendable.

The uncommon spirit and determination instilled in his wards at half time when they were being pummeled by the Moroccans is also worthy of mention.
It is an insult to insist that Africa’s current best tactician does not know his onions when he said he has no need of a foreign assistant.

When Keshi was owed his dues for upwards of seven months, did Nigerians request for a foreign administrator to take their jobs from them, even when it was obvious they have been found wanting in the discharge of their duties?
It is the height of extreme myopia for our football administrators to tie Keshi’s stay in the national team to Brazil 2014. We should be able to look beyond that. Such quick fire quest for results in the absence of a robust groundwork has done us greater harm than good. What prevents us from copying the model of Manchester United, who kept faith with their Manager for close to three decades and reaped bountifully? We should emulate such model of stability.

Come what may, if our football administrators make the mistake of sacking Keshi at the conclusion of the World Cup, methinks he will have more willing suitors even within a short time. As the Good Book says: A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before great men.

We should respect the decisions of our coach and stop interfering unnecessarily.

Nehemiah Ikoba, University of Ilorin, Ilorin. Email: ikobanehemiah@yahoo.com

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters 

Again, A Case of Uncounted Billions By Okey Ndibe.


 

Okey Ndibe
Columnist:

Okey Ndibe

To a first-time visitor, much of Nigeria is likely to appear like the wreckage of a long war, what with its gutted roads, rutted infrastructure, the near-absence of electric power, and the paucity of pipe-borne water. It’s a developmental nightmare, a relic of the misshapen monuments of small-minded men and women, a patchwork of ill-conceived, abandoned projects.

Given Nigeria’s shape—or, more appropriate, its lack of shape—you’d expect a certain sense of urgency about transforming the space. You’d expect politicians and experts to focus at every opportunity on ways of creating a healthcare system worthy of human beings, revitalizing the educational sector, creating jobs for milling youths, providing basic facilities, and changing the moral tone.

Instead, what you find is a deranged obsession with a rat race whose sole goal is the primitive accumulation of riches. The country’s political leaders, who incidentally lead the rat race, seem to miss the point that the winners of such a race remain rats! Yes, a lot of them amass obscene sums of illicit wealth, but lucre merely raises their rating as ridiculous figures. The more they steal, the more they consolidate their contemptible quotient.

But Nigeria’s political “leaders” are far from the only problems. If anything, they seem to reflect a broader cultural malaise. Many Nigerians, one suspects, are hostile to the deep thinking that is a precursor to remarkable transformation. We’d much rather muck around in sectarian, ethnic and partisan baiting. Confronted with evidence of systemic collapse, many of us are content to blame Christians or Muslims, Igbo, Yoruba or Hausa, the North or South. We fail to realize that, where it counts, so-called Christian and so-called Muslim figures collaborate in schemes that impoverish the rest of us; that Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa politicians are not averse to acting together to corner looting opportunities; that men and women from the North and South work together daily to abort Nigeria’s promise.

The reportorial priorities of the Nigerian media mirror, I suggest, Nigerians’ little tolerance for substance. Despite Nigeria’s abysmal condition, it’s hard to see any serious debates in the media. It’s all about PDP this, APC that. Nobody, least of all the two parties’ top officials, can articulate what either party stands for. In lieu of any sustained presentation of ideas for making Nigeria a habitable address, both parties settle for parading personalities. What’s worse, the advertised political henchmen (and women) have pedigrees defined less by ideas than their possession of stupendous wealth.

You’d expect Nigerians to pay attention when somebody who ought to know talks about billions missing from the national treasury. But perish the thought!

Last week, Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi of the Central Bank of Nigeria appeared again before the Finance Committee of the Nigerian Senate, and spoke about huge frauds in the oil sector. Mr. Sanusi’s presentation rang with grave claims. Speaking with a directness hardly ever used by any past occupant of his seat, he accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) of failing to account for $20 billion from crude oil exports. According to him, the NNPC sold $67 billion worth of crude oil, but deposited only $47 billion.

He told the committee that two companies, Seven Energy and Atlantic Energy (which he said were owned by the same persons), were beneficiaries of a curious deal with the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC). The deal enabled the ostensible private investors to pocket billions of dollars that ought to belong to Nigeria, the CBN head asserted. He also spoke about “leakages from the system through opaque and complex Swap transactions between PPMC [Pipeline and Products Marketing Company] and some counter parties.” He added: “The Agreements signed by PPMC contained a troubling clause that permits the destruction of documents after one year.”

These are startling allegations, worthy of particular attention by Nigerians and their media. When I googled Mr. Sanusi’s presentation, I found that it received relatively tepid reportage in Nigerian newspapers. It was played up more by online media, especially those based outside of Nigeria.

Even if Mr. Sanusi were talking nonsense, the proper response would be for reporters versed in oil transactions to thoroughly dissect his presentation and expose his misrepresentations. Besides, President Goodluck Jonathan and his aides ought to debunk Mr. Sanusi’s allegations by providing proof that no money is missing. It’s far from an adequate response to point to the fact that the CBN governor’s figures have shifted since September, 2013. The discrepancies may point, in fact, to the complex, labyrinthine nature of the schemes used to defraud Nigerians.

The role of the media has been shameful—but let’s put it aside for now. How about labor unions, student organizations, and such professional bodies as the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), and the Nigerian Guild of Editors? What explains their astonishing silence on the matter? Is Nigeria so affluent—so awash with cash—that $20 billion don’t count?

On the Internet, some anonymous commentators fixated on the fact that Mr. Sanusi, bearer of a disquieting message, is a Muslim and a Northerner. Some accused him of awarding billions of naira worth of contracts to his cronies. Others raised issues about his personal life. Mr. Sanusi’s faith and ethnicity have nothing to do with anything here. If he illegally awarded contracts, he deserves to be called on it—and prosecuted, if he broke the law. If there are lapses in his personal life, they should concern us only if he meddled with public funds. Otherwise, it is up to the stakeholders in his personal life to hold him to account, or choose not to.

If students, lawyers and editors didn’t find the case of the missing billions worthy of a single raised eyebrow, who would blame the rest of the populace for going on, unconcerned? It was as if most of us yawned and quickened our stride to that pepper soup joint! Few, if any, bothered to contemplate all the things that $20 billion could do for Nigeria.

I can’t help contrasting the collective indifference to Mr. Sanusi’s expose with the hysteria over former Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s decision to leave the PDP and enlist in the APC. Nigerian newspapers not only rushed to cover this relative non-event, they have also offered their readers numerous follow-ups.

You’d think that the answer to Nigeria’s crises of underdevelopment lie in Mr. Atiku’s choice to register with a party that has yet to spell out how it differs from the PDP, much less what answers it has for Nigeria’s worsening state.

Please follow me on twitter @ okeyndibe

(okeyndibe@gmail.com)

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

Oil Revenue Leakages: Another Chance for Nigeria By Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai.


 

By Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai

The Presidential Economic Team of 2003 to 2007 which I was privileged to be a member had a running joke – that the NNPC was an independent federal republic on its own totally separate from and way superior to the Nigeria we all worked for! This joke was our way of criticizing the way and manner the NNPC not only sells crude oil as an agent on behalf of the government of the federation as in its enabling law, but even then felt entitled to spend as much of the proceeds of sale as it deemed fit. The NNPC had begun then to be a law unto itself, outside our national laws and above the constitution, hence our joke. Recent revelations of oil revenue leakages have confirmed that this is a joke that has turned into a macabre reality. Our nation’s finances are in grave danger of becoming zero due to the conduct of a rogue institution that has become more powerful than its principal under Jonathan’s watch.

For a country dependent on oil revenues for most of its income, Nigeria cannot claim to have exercised the closest scrutiny on this vital resource. At least not in recent times. As bad as this gross neglect has been, it is surpassed by the failure to seize the moments that have also been presented to the country in recent times to restore some sanity and integrity to the collection and remittance of revenues. The conversation around the sudden explosion in the fuel subsidy payments from N300bn in 2009 to over N2 trillion in 2011, the protests around the removal of petrol subsidy in January 2012, and the subsequent investigations into the scandal regrettably did not coalesce into a new deal on revenue management or sanctions for the beneficiaries of the obvious fraud!

Another such opportunity to clarify compliance with the constitution, law and due process in the collection and remittance of oil revenues has been presented by the rolling revelations made by brother CBN governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. It is a moment the whole country should seize, so that public confidence can be restored in the operations of the NNPC and integrity of the revenue remittance process. But to get there and understand the issues clearly, let’s summarise the constitutional position, the law and the factual contentions.

Our constitution is very clear in sections 80, 81, 82 and 162 in requiring that all revenues are to be paid into the federation account for distribution to various tiers of government in accordance with the provisions of the constitution and the revenue allocation act. No institution or person can spend a kobo on fuel subsidy or pipelines repairs from these revenues without the funds being first paid into the federation account, and then subjected to due appropriation by the National Assembly.  Any spending outside this lawful framework is a case of an agent not accounting honestly for proceeds of sale to a principal. In everyday language, that illegal conversion is called theft, pure and simple, and in violation of the constitution. No one, whether it be NNPC or the Jonathan spin-masters should be allowed to obscure this clear legal position.

Now, what are the facts surrounding the latest case of non-remittance of federation revenues?

In a letter to the president in September last year, Sanusi expressed concerns about the non-remittance of $49.804 billion, monies due to the federation account from crude oil sales. Until December when the letter became public, neither the presidency nor the NNPC responded to the issues, believing like every other instance of corruption allegation, the matter will die a natural death over time. Internally, within the Jonathan administration, no clear action was found to have been taken to cross-check the veracity of CBN’s concerns about the NNPC owing the federation account some N8 trillion.

The NNPC demurred only when these concerns became public, insisting it was not owing the federation account. When all the parties – CBN, NNPC and the Federal Ministry of Finance – met to reconcile accounts, it was agreed that indeed some funds had not been accounted for and may need further reconciliation. The outstanding sum amounted to $10.8bn (according to NNPC and Ministry of Finance on one side) or $12bn, according to the CBN. Further to this, the NNPC then came up with another afterthought – that it had spent the $10.8bn on gasoline and kerosene subsidy payments, repairs of vandalised pipelines and operational costs.  It did not appear that anyone believed the NNPC, on its use of the money, its right to withhold the money in the first place and its initial denial of owing the federation account.

The CBN is obviously one of those not buying the NNPC’s explanation. This week, the apex bank raised the figure of non-remitted funds to $20bn, including the $12bn outstanding from the reconciliation. The balance includes $6bn worth of crude oil NNPC shipped for the NPDC its upstream subsidiary, and another $2bn from “third-party” financing.

What has been lost in the emotions unleashed by these series of disclosures are the substance of the issue, and the caveats inserted by the CBN governor. His letter to the president and public statements are drawing attention to the non-remittance or non-repatriation of funds to the Federation Account. There was no claim then that these monies are missing, at least not yet. That will be beyond the CBN’s brief. But as the banker to the government, the CBN is within its mandate to declare what sums it has received in relation to the funds expected. The onus is thus on the NNPC to explain why these monies have not been remitted or why they cannot be remitted, and point to the laws that permit them to so act. Anything other than this is admission of theft of federation account proceeds and the 36 states and their local governments should act to recover the amounts, if the Jonathan administration does not.

It is my view that the NNPC have to quickly refund the amounts or prove the numbers wrong. It cannot take comfort on the brittle ground that the sums said to have not been remitted have fluctuated. It has not convincingly explained why it held on to monies belonging to the Federation Account, and why it used the monies for its own purposes without the lawful authority of appropriation by the National Assembly. Every kobo not credited to the country or not properly accounted for by an agency of the government violates the constitution and the law.

I do not believe that we have sunk so low or that our moral prisms have so contracted as to consider $10bn – nearly a third of the annual federal budget – as too puny to worry about. A kobo of public funds not properly accounted for should bother us, because a person that can steal a penny will steal billions if opportunity presents itself. We should rather aspire to live in a country whose revenues do not leak, leading us free to concentrate on value-for-money in government investments and expenses.

The Federation Account belongs to the federal, state and local governments, and the quantum of the balances it contains should concern every Nigerian. Many of the 36 states are rightly concerned that the explanations offered imply that the NNPC can practically shortchange them at will. The conduct of the NNPC thus distorts the revenue allocation formula, already weighted too much in favor of the Federal Government. It must be in the interest of the FGN and the NNPC not to allow the perception to fester that the NNPC has indeed become a state within a state, protected and reinforced in its law breaking by a corrupt and benefiting Jonathan government.

As a minimum, that would entail thorough scrutiny of the NNPC accounts which have not been audited since 2005, if only to avoid legal entanglements with state government who are at liberty to sue for the non-remitted funds. The National Assembly has to ask the tough questions regarding the legality of the strategic alliance agreements between the NNPC/NPDC and  Atlantic Energy and other fly-by-night ‘indigenous operators’ with not track record other than connections to the Villa. It is a serious matter when a CBN governor goes public with the charge that “these agreements merely serve to transfer revenue due to the Federation into private hands” – yet another clear, more serious case of theft of federation revenues by a private firm, facilitated by the NNPC.

Citizens should put pressure on all elected officials that amidst these contentions, Nigeria will emerge with a transparent, rigorous and effective oil revenue collection and remittance system. While awaiting passage of the much delayed Petroleum Industry Bill, the NNPC should in the interim be compelled to remit all funds first, and submit verifiable claims for reimbursements later, after due appropriation by the National Assembly. In the meantime, we should thank for the CBN and its  courageous governor for providing the facts and figures, and the opportunity to introduce real transparency in the very opaque oil revenue remittance regime of Nigeria. The ball is now in our court to ensure that this case of financial malfeasance is not swept under the Jonathanian table!

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

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