Chukwudi A. Chukwu
Politics is certainly a funny game. But funnier, are players on the political turf. And with the PriceWaterhouseCoopers forensic audit report on the Nigeria National petroleum Corporation (NNPC), we see how funny politics is on the Nigerian plane. Somehow, this is because we have created a system of name and shame where someone is as guilty as alleged even if there are no facts and evidence to support the allegation. This works contrary to our legal system which posits that the accused is innocent until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction. The emphasis here is ‘court of competent jurisdiction’. However, the name and shame maxim, take its own toll on available human capital, making it difficult for many valuable hands to shy away from public service.
The legal maxim of the accused being innocent until proven otherwise worked to help Iyiola Omisore secure election to the senate of the Federal Republic at a time he was in detention (in prison), and undergoing trial for alleged involvement in the murder of Bola Ige, at the time, Attorney General of the Federation and Justice Minister. Olusegun Obasanjo, as president, had while answering questions on a Presidential Media Chat broadcast on national television, with worldwide reach, said then, that Omisore was only an accused person and enjoys the privileges of an innocent citizen until proven otherwise by a court of competent jurisdiction. He was answering to a question as to the morality, and goodness, of Omisore’s victory from prison detention.
Recall too that Theodore Orji was clamped into prison detention by the Obasanjo administration over charges of involvement in corrupt acts as Chief of Staff to Gov. Orji Uzor Kalu. Without campaigning for election, TA Orji still won to become governor of Abia state on the PPA platform. The case for which he was ‘jailed’ has not seen the light of day till date. But one thing was achieved –name and shame.
We are back at it. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s alarm of missing billions struck the nation. Most people did not believe it. Some others, who are used to such alarms, ignored it. Those who had been part of government and knew that in times past such huge amounts had actually gone missing without trace, believed there was some truth in Sanusi’s alarm. Still, there were those who did not believe it, but believed the politics that underlie it. Whatever it was, some truth was going to be exposed some day. And that day came when PwC, a reputable global accounting firm, was hired by the Federal Government to sniff out the missing money which had prevaricated from $40billion down to $18bilion and up to $20 billion.
The auditing firm, PwC did its work and submitted a report. It told Nigerians that neither $40billion nor $20 billion nor $18 billion was missing, but that there was an unremitted $1.48billion, the gates of hell opened with fury. It was fury that would first consume PwC for having the audacity to forensically probe NNPC and refused to give a list of persons who had ‘stolen’ Nigeria’s money. Expectedly, NNPC explained where the unremitted $1.48billion was. That was not what those who had stood on the strength of Sanusi’s allegation to name and shame wanted to hear. Ears were indeed open to hear that PwC confirmed Sanusi’s allegation and also hold some persons accountable for the ‘stolen’ money.
While we are it, we all glossed over the email exchange between Sanusi, as Emir of Kano, and PwC investigators. Clearly, the Emir told PwC investigators that he never said anyone stole money. He reaffirmed his position that as at the time he made the allegation, there was unremitted funds. He also noted that between the time he made the allegation and the time PwC got across to him, the situation may have changed. This position has been glossed over by most commentators. Essentially, what PwC and Sanusi successfully did was to alert the nation to the fact that the internal processes of NNPC does not allow for transparency and accountability. PwC said the same when it noted that NNPC has not been audited since 2005. Affirming that, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who was vice president to Obasanjo from 1999 to 2007, while speaking at the Kaduna Trade Fair, said that the rot at NNPC was exacerbated by his principal, Obasanjo, who doubled as oil minister during their time in office.
Specifically, Atiku said even he as Vice President did not know what happened at NNPC as Obasanjo shielded him from the workings of the corporation. “During our administration, there was no transparency and accountability in the oil and gas industry”. Those were the exact words of Atiku. It essentially means that the PwC audit was the first NNPC has had since 1999. This is a fact we gloss over to our own detriment. NNPC is Nigeria’s cash cow and attracts a lot of interest from politicians on ruling and opposition divides. It is understood that the internal processes of the corporation makes it an appealing place to work too. There are more Nigerians willing to work at NNPC than there are job opportunities.
The PwC report is titled “Investigative Forensic Audit Into The Allegations of Unremitted Funds Into The Federation Accounts By The NNPC”. Note, it did not say ‘stolen funds’. The submission of this report to President Goodluck Jonathan in February met with some suspicion. The House of Representatives disagreed with the executive summary and called for the release of the entire report. General Muhammadu Buhari bought into this and promised to probe further into NNPC just so as to be sure that some interests are satisfied. On this premise, Jonathan ordered release of the report to the public. Within minutes, it had gone viral and most discerning minds, who read the report page after page, were disappointed. The disappointment was on the basis of the fact that the report did not find any missing money, but identified systemic problems with NNPC, which problems were addressed in the PIB which is held back by politics.
Those who refused to discern felt betrayed by PwC. These are the people who are most happy that Buhari has promised to probe the PwC report further. For politics, we are working towards pulling a reputable accounting firm down just so as to achieve vendetta. If vendetta is the objective, then, there is no need to probe further. Just adopt the name and shame ideology. Name someone as having stolen some money, then, put forward a charge, right or wrong, before EFCC, parade the person in handcuffs before the media, like EFCC had always done, and the objective would be achieved. Nothing else! It would not matter if the action does not lead to diligent prosecution and conviction beyond every reasonable doubt. Just name and shame!
That, sadly, is the game we always play with ourselves and our human asset. Name and shame someone one, hound him or her out of society and occupy the space. But, it’s a vicious cycle. Like merry go round, it will always come around.