Mr President, Alison-Madueke’s Cup Is Full – Punch Editorial
THE recently-uncovered financial recklessness and obscene lifestyle involving Diezani Alison-Madueke is truly the apex of cumulative impunity by the Minister of Petroleum Resources. She is accused of living extravagantly at the expense of Nigerians by wasting about N10 billion to maintain one of the three private jets she is using for official and personal travels. More shocking disclosures are still streaming in.
The details of the preliminary enquiry in the House of Representatives are unnerving. The minister is said to have spent €500,000 (N130 million) monthly or N3.21 billion in two years to maintain a Challenger business jet. Every time she flies the second jet on a round trip, taxpayers lose €600,000 (N137 million), while the cost of the third aircraft is still to be ascertained. The irreducible minimum Nigerians demand of the House Public Accounts Committee is to establish the facts of the case.
But as usual, a duplicitous Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has attempted to turn the page on the scandal by defending its deviant minister. It says, “It is standard practice for a large oil and gas corporation such as the NNPC to make use of the most efficient means of transportation to ensure the effective and efficient coverage of the vast scope of critical oil and gas assets under their purview.” The Presidency, also playing the ostrich, claims it is not in possession of documents or papers or “has any petition relating to such issue” and will “rather await the outcome of the ongoing investigation by the House of Representatives before it can undertake any reasonable action.”
The public is waiting, too. But the same President Goodluck Jonathan did not bother to follow the due process in line with the law and civilised practice before suspending Lamido Sanusi, the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, over allegations of financial recklessness. How many probe reports will smear Alison-Madueke before Jonathan saves his government from the NNPC’s serial graft scandals?
Alison-Madueke’s tenure as Petroleum Minister, which started in 2011, has been scarred by pains, controversies, sickening graft at the NNPC and now, wantonness at the expense of a country in dire economic straits. The 2011 petrol subsidy scandal, in which the parliament approved only N245 billion for payments, saw the government spending N2.5 trillion. The protests that trailed the January 2012 petrol price hike and the subsequent investigations made it obvious that the government used the humongous amount to corruptly enrich Petroleum Ministry and the NNPC officials, staff of the petroleum subsidy agencies, marketers and cronies, though some of them have been undergoing lacklustre prosecution since 2012.
It is noteworthy that the government has been spending about N971.1 billion annually since then to offset petrol subsidy, showing that more than N1 trillion was plundered from the nation’s coffers in 2011 alone on petrol subsidy under Alison-Madueke’s watch. In 2012, the minister secured the approval of the parliament for a loan of $1.6 billion to carry out Turn Around Maintenance of the nation’s four refineries. Brimming with false excitement, she had promised the nation that the refineries would function at 90 per cent capacity after the repairs. But the best the facilities have averaged since then is a measly 22 per cent.
Why has our Petroleum Minister, just because the NNPC generates more than two-thirds of the country’s external income, become so prodigal? Earlier this year, the nation groaned helplessly with the unveiling of the kerosene subsidy scandal, for which the NNPC has been deducting illegally from national revenues in spite of a presidential directive that stopped the subsidy in 2009. In February, the Senate uncovered how the corrupt oil corporation had been spending N700 million daily to subsidise kerosene without the product reaching consumers who pay as much as N150 per litre, instead of the NNPC’s N55 per litre.
In a normal environment, the aggregate of these misdeeds is enough to send a minister packing. In France, a former president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is being tried for allegedly receiving money illegally to fund his party’s campaign. Nigeria should also be a society where anybody, no matter how highly placed, is subject to our laws.
But, there is more. Sanusi, at a series of parliamentary hearings this year, listed wide-ranging fraudulent acts by the NNPC, the sum of which is that the rogue oil corporation has not remitted $20billion of oil money it sold to the Federation Account. “It is established that of the $67 billion crude shipped by the NNPC between January 2012 and July 2013, $47 billion was remitted to the Federation Account. It is now up to the NNPC… to produce proof that $20 billion unremitted either did not belong to the Federation or was legally and constitutionally spent,” Sanusi said. The NNPC, which Alison-Madueke supervises, has yet to give the nation satisfactory answers to these posers.
The NNPC has been swimming in a sleazy barter arrangement with some international companies over the 445,000 barrels of oil per day the government sets aside for domestic refining though the four refineries have the capacity to produce just at 22 per cent.
Corruption has never been so brazen and sickening in the country as in recent times. Regularly, fresh nerve-jangling allegations of venality in public office assault the citizens. Unfortunately, the parliament, as usual, may just make futile noise about this outrageous case, as many of such probes have been prematurely interred in its burial chamber.
But Jonathan must know that it is hard to move on when so many questions on graft involving his government are still unanswered, foremost being what he has done with our oil money.
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