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Why There Is Noise About Corruption (1)

The Nigerian oil sector has always been a cesspit of corruption as every administration has had one allegation of corruption or the other

Victor Anya

The manner in which Nigerians talk about corruption today makes one think that corruption began with this administration and will also end with this administration. This is erroneous because corruption has been in this country before Nigeria gained independence in 1960. It will interest you to know that the amalgamation of the Southern and Northern Protectorates in 1914 to form Nigeria was the beginning of corruption in this country. It was executed without the consent of the various nationalities that composed the present Nigerian state hence there is mistrust, disunity, bitterness and hatred in this country.

In 1955, late Sarduna of Sokoto and leader of the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, driven by the will to have control over the South, requested the Nigerian Colonial Secretary, Mr. Oliver Lyttleton that “If you want us (North) to be part of this Nigeria you have in mind, then we want 50% of the membership of the National Assembly”. It is on record that in the 1954 National Assembly election, the South won 83 seats (51.23%) of the 162 seats while the North won 79 seats (48.76%).

However, in 1959, the British yielded to the demand of Alhaji Ahmadu Bello and created 312 seats for the National Assembly without any elections or new census conducted to determine the population that warranted the new seats. Thus, the North was allocated 174 seats and the South had 138 seats in preparatory for the parliamentary system of government in anticipation of Nigeria’s independence. Alhaji Ahmadu Bello asked for 50% of the seats in the National Assembly but got 55.7% of the seats! So, the South that originally had majority seats than the North suddenly became the minority in the National Assembly! This was how the dominance of the North over the South began.

This was how the claim that the North is more populated than the South also began. This was the second monumental corruption that plagued the country at that time which is still bedevilling the country at the moment. The January 15, 1966 coup was the aftermath of corruption and the massive irregularities occurred during 1965 general elections. The Nigerian oil sector has always been a cesspit of corruption as every administration has had one allegation of corruption or the other.

Prominent among the allegations was the $2.8b that developed wings and flew out of the coffers of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) between 1976 and 1979. General Olusegun Obasanjo was the Military Head of State while General Muhammadu Bahuri was the Minister of Petroleum. No probe was instituted to ascertain the veracity of that allegation. Again, $12b got missing during the administration of General Ibrahim Babangida. Till date, no answer has been provided to the question as to how that colossal amount of money got missing from the NNPC. In addition, General Sani Abacha’s regime witnessed abysmal performance in the oil industry as hundreds of billions of naira were spent on turn around maintenance (TAM) of the four refineries without meaningful improvement.

That regime also witnessed the importations of poisonous and acidic petroleum products. Since 1999, billions of dollars have been traced to the foreign private bank accounts of Gen. Abacha. The return of General Olusegun Obasanjo as civilian president between 1999 and 2007also witnessed a dramatic change in the oil industry as he doubled as President and Minister of Petroleum. Much was not heard or said concerning the oil sector as he bestrode the oil ministry like a colossus.

The claims for subsidy resurfaced in the oil sector and the nation lost gargantuan sums of money to oil marketers who imported the refined products from other countries. Incessant increase of prices of imported petroleum products became the hallmark of the Obasanjo led administration as prices of petroleum products were increased eight times which made life unbearable for Nigerians.

The National Identity Card Project under ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo and late Chief Sunday Afolabi, then Minister of Internal Affairs gulped billions of naira without the project coming to fruition. The power sector also gulped $16b under the same administration yet this sector remained comatose. But the emergence of Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) who is now the Emir of Kano, came fresh allegations of missing monies in the oil sector.

First, Sanusi accused the NNPC of not remitting a whopping sum of $49b, the sum he recanted but claimed the missing sum had become $20b. Since the allegation of this missing sum was disclosed, Nigerians have been busy branding this administration as the most corrupt regime this country has ever had. Not even the outcome of the forensic audit by the Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) which revealed that the NNPC was accountable for $1.48b unremitted funds could sway Nigerians.

That some Nigerians insist that $20b is missing from the NNPC even though a renowned auditing firm has cleared the air on the alleged missing money shows that some Nigerians have made up their minds to malign and discredit this administration at all cost. The continuous claim by some Nigerians that $20b is missing from the NNPC when PWC has exonerated the NNPC of that sum also shows that many Nigerians don’t read newspapers. If these Nigerians that hold this view do read newspapers they would have come to terms with PWC that requested the NNPC to remit only $1.48b which it has not remitted to the Federation Account.

(To be concluded tomorrow)

•Victor Anya, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Ikeja, Lagos. Tel: 08039181737

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