Oil probe: Ribadu's report and it's half-truths?
IN his desperate attempt to convince or rather deceive Nigerians of government's good intentions in the January withdrawal of subsidy on petroleum products and the subsequent corruption scandals that followed, President Goodluck Jonathan through his minister of Petroleum Resources Diezani Allison Madueke appointed someone with “credibility” to head a probe on financial transactions in the nation's oil and gas sector from 2002-2012. To the President, if an anti-corruption “czar” like Ribadu can give the government a clean bill on the alleged malfeasance, Nigerians would no doubt be convinced that the President acted in good faith. But this obviously has turned out to be the opposite.
Government's intention for setting up the committee was for it to do a holistic investigation into the finances and transactions in the nation's oil and gas industry between 2002 and 2011 but, unfortunately, the committee passed the job of verification's and reconciliation back to government.
The fourth paragraph of the covering letter reads: “The data used in this report was presented by various stakeholders who made submissions to the task force….. Due to time frame of the assignment some of the data used could not be independently verified and the task force recommends that the government should conduct necessary verification's and reconciliations” The implication of this paragraph four of Ribadu's covering letter was that the committee has issued a disclaimer to its own report which will now make it impossible under our laws to indict or punish anybody except and until the federal government fully verifies and reconciles the facts as recommended by the committee in its submission to the government.
Highlights of the probe report had it that within the period under review (2002-2011) Nigeria lost $29 billion on cut-price gas deals; Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) sold to itself crude oil and gas at prices far below spot market rates; Oil ministers during the period discretionary handed out oil bloc licenses; hundreds of millions of dollars of signature bonuses and royalties payments could not be accounted for; and etc.
Unfortunately for the country, whoever leaked the report had clandestine motives because no matter what anybody thinks, the truth is that however good the report is, leaking it before formal presentation has grossly compromised its integrity. The claim that the report was leaked because of fears that the President and his Petroleum Minister may want to doctor it before making it public is unacceptable. The Committee should have known better to have jealously guarded its findings until it is formally submitted and if there was any fear of cover up or doctoring, then, the original document could be released to the public. But as it is now, the report has been killed before its birth. Mark my words!
Also the hype over the findings obviously was mischievous, diversionary and very unfortunate. Everybody who knows how these things work would agree that the responses from Nigerians were exactly what whoever leaked that report set out to achieve- divert our attention from the real issue of looting of our commonwealth.
Let's look at just one issue in the report- the missing signature bonuses, royalties and taxes. With the alleged missing signature bonuses and unpaid royalties, those who know are not surprised that Addax, now a unit of China's state-owned Sinopec, was mentioned specifically by the report. The company as said owes Nigeria $1.5 billion in unpaid royalties which is part of a $3 billion black hole of unpaid bonuses and royalties owed by oil firms.
Now this is the truth which the Ribadu report should have highlighted but did not: Everything and every company or individual involved in the aberration called “Right of First Refusal” and the “Oil-For-Infrastructure” deals of the federal government either did not pay anything at all or underpaid the signature bonuses and royalties as incentive for attracting Asian investors into the Nigerian oil and gas arena.
The alleged missing billions of dollars of revenue in unpaid debts from signature bonuses and royalties, may actually not be missing in the real sense of the word but rather stupidly forfeited by a policy of the federal government that was not only selfishly evil but outrightly driven by corrupt tendencies. Who were the Asian (Indian, Chinese and Korean companies and their Nigerian partners that benefitted in both the Right-of-First-Refusal and Oil-for-Infrastructures 419 deals? And if the Ribadu report did not unravel these people and their transactions with the then Presidency, then it is a half-truth report. In this country, it is time we learn to tell ourselves the truth because we all have equal stakes in the future and faith of this great nation.
Does it surprise anybody that about N86.65 billion earned in 10 years (2002-2012) by the NNPC could not be accounted for as said by the report? Ribadu and his team could have done better to tell Nigerians why the money was not there but they would not because this malfeasance was instituted and directly supervised by Ribadu's direct boss (former), Chief Olusegun Obasanjo while Nuhu himself presided over the nation's anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Ribadu as the then EFCC boss was fully aware that his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was feasting on monies from the NNPC and DPR. Does the oil giant print money? Was it not some of these monies we are talking about now as missing funds and why are we not calling them by names? Throughout the eight-year rule of Obasanjo, the brief stay of Yar'adua and now the current shoeless arrangement at Aso Rock, NNPC group managing directors reported directly to the President even to the point of collecting administrative running costs. Those who know would tell you that Gaius Obaseki, Funso Kupolokun and Yaradua as NNPC GMDs literally worked as personal aides of President Obasanjo and did not sign a single crucial NNPC document on their own. This setting was inherited by Yar'adua ofcourse Turai to be precise. And now Jonathan himself is not behaving better though he may not have been dealing directly with the NNPC GMD. So the issue is not a Diezani issue. It is not a Jonathan issue. It is a PDP thing!
So it was not enough for the Ribadu's committee to say government officials colluded with oil companies to cheat Nigeria of tens of billions of dollars. Who are these Nigerian government officials? Don't they have names or are they ghosts? If you don't want to mention individuals, what of their affiliations/organisations? You see the half truth?
Who were the people or companies that received oil blocs dished out on the discretion of successive petroleum ministers and which oil prospecting (OPLs) or mining (OMLs) leases fell under this category? Which petroleum minister handed out what to who? This is the way we should go so that we can begin to talk of recovering acreages irresponsibly given out for political or mischievous patronage. Nigerians are tired of being told what is stolen without any effort to recover the loot. Let's change the slant of our anti-corruption campaign to tilt more towards recovering the loots as in other countries rather than the present sterile academic adventures that are never implemented. This is my point.