A friend was teasing me yesterday about how I seem to have lost my tongue since news broke that former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, allegedly syphoned the sum of $153,310,000 from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
This became news after a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos ordered the temporary forfeiture of the alleged loot pending contrary evidence by the parties which include three Nigeria’s banks.
Even then, I did not know what to say. And that is not because I think it was alright for the former minister to personally appropriate all of that public funds but more because I have arrived at a point where Nigerian’s excitement at these issues does not infect me.
That is no doubt a huge amount of money, but is it the most anyone in the last administration would be accused to have stolen?
Former National Security Adviser, C1ol Sambo Dasuki is still in court for allegedly diverting more than $2bn! Former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Patrick Apkobolokemi currently faces prosecution on many counts one of which is the stealing of N34bn!
So what the heck?
I cannot find anything spectacular about monies stolen by anyone who presided over the Ministry of Petroleum Resources for the number of years Allsion – Madueke did even if the story is proved to be true.
And this is the most important point. Law enforcement agencies in Nigeria are fond of jumping the gun and shouting wolf when there is only a mouse. So I’ll rather hear the other side before joining the depressive frenzy of calculating what $153,310,000 means in today’s economy and what it would do for generations not yet conceived.
In reality, does any of those social media vituperations add anything to the veracity or otherwise of this story. In any case, the matter is already in the courts and if this sad event indeed happened, not only should Nigeria retrieve the money, those who perpetrated it and their collaborators should be made to restitute in some other concrete ways provided by the laws of the land.
But what worries me more is that Nigerians are never really bothered about the real important issues. Even if the woman and her collaborators did steal the money, thank goodness the EFCC is about to get it back through the courts, but what happens after that? Would it màrk the end of stealing in Nigeria?
From experience, we must realise that the oil and gas sector is a cesspool of corruption in Nigeria and for as long as the law allows the minister of petroleum wield the kind of power he/she currently does; Nigeria will not be free from these kind of scandals.
Alright, we do not worry now because we have a Saint as minister in charge of oil and gas right? I hear you but remember that it is from the kitchen where this Saint sits with his cabinet that one member is alleged to have accepted half a billion naira in inducements and another cut grass for over a quarter of a billion. Who says deals cannot be cut under the watch of the Saint?
More importantly, Nigerians will actually do well to realise that there is no Saint in Nigerian government. Very soon, pressure will mount about how to fund the must-win 2019 elections and caution would be thrown to the winds.
Did anyone even ask questions about the recently awarded oil lifting contracts and remote connections that may exist between any of those companies and anyone in government? I don’t think so.
Nigerians are so sold on the facade of integrity of those in charge that they find no need to ask questions, but should we be such a docile people? Shouldn’t we even sometimes, just ask questions for asking sake?
We should demand quick action on the Petroleum Industry Bill such that we do not need to depend on the feeble honesty of strong men for accountability. We should ask for strong institutions supported by useful legislations.
I can never forget something former Governor Adam Oshiomole said at a debate during the attempt to deregulate downstream oil and gas in 2012.
It was to the effect that temptations created by the opacity in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector are so much that very few if any Nigerian can overcome them. Only Chief Olisa Agbakogba indicated that he would be above such temptations and I recall that Oshiomole reaction was a mocking snigger. I can never forget.
We need to stop deceiving ourselves and make our system less porous. This is what Nigerians should discuss rather than dissipate energy on monies, whose recovery is already within our reach.