“If he does not really think there is a distinction between virtue and vice, why, Sir, when he leaves our houses let us count our spoons”.
Dr Samuel Johnson, 1709-1784 in Boswell’s LIFE OF JOHNSON, 9 July 1763.
I feel extremely delighted to join the National Life team for three reasons. First, I like the founding members, virtually all of whom I enjoy reading; especially Louis Odion. Second, I have read two of the first issues and they have a focus that is in many respects similar to mine. Third, they dropped into my territory at Ikeja without paying homage; so I decided to retaliate and invade their paper. God willing this column will appear every Sunday until further notice. Only the readers will decide whether it is worthwhile or not. Without further ado, let me launch into the first article –it is in connection with the revelations at the probe into the activities of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC from 1999 to 2007.
President Obasanjo doubled as the Minister of Petroleum Resources for most of the eight years and only appointed a Minister of State in the last nine months. But he was still very much in charge till the very end. But before going into the matter of the $2 billion or N273.60 billion oil block which was sold for a mere $5 million or N600 million making it a N270 billion giveaway in a country where every major highway is a death trap.
In addition, it was also revealed that the block was initially Oil Mining Licence, OML 65 but was renamed Oil Prospecting Licence, OPL 298 when it was being sold illegally by the staff of the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR. NNPC’s Legal Adviser, Mrs Sena Anthony, who should be aware of such transactions said that the OPL 298 was first awarded to an NNPC subsidiary, Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC before it was sold for a pittance by the unpatriotic elements in the DPR. If Mrs Anthony was surprised and shocked, as she should well be, the matter was reported to the former Group Managing Director, GMD, Mr Funso Kupolokun – a recycled GMD who was Justas astonished. Even the GMD was kept in the dark about the transactions. Then who gave the order?
The answer to that riddle was soon given by a suspended Director of DPR , one Tony Chukwueke, who told the panel that the bid was conducted by the NNPC and the Minister of Energy. In short Chukwueke is implying that Kupolokun might be pretending not to know. Chukwueke went further to state that OML 65 was awarded on the directive of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Another former Director, Macaulay Ofurhe, re-confirmed what Chukwueke had said. According to him, “Most of the decisions are taken “upstairs” and the DPR was instructed to carry out the instructions”.
There you have it. First of all, it is clear that Funso Kupolokun was being clever by half when he tried to evade the charge of being an accessory after the fact of a grievous crime being committed against the country. Granted, he might not have been a party to the decision to change the designation of the oil block and to sell it at $5 million after the NPDC had spent $1.18 billion or N141.6 billion in developing the block which was sold at N600 million, he certainly knew about the shady deal when he was in office and chose to keep quiet about it until he was called by the probe panel. The question that comes to mind immediately is this. If Mr Kupolokun would expect to be regarded as a patriotic Nigerian whose interest was he serving by keeping quiet about this outrageous theft of our commonwealth? Certainly, not the interest of road users who could have benefited from better roads if all the N270 billion had been channeled into roads and certainly not our university students whose facilities have deteriorated to abysmal levels and surely, not the patients in Federal Government Teaching Hospitals which have become abattoirs?
Whose interests was this man who held such an important position, perhaps the second most important in the country, in trust for the people serving by concealing the fact that the country has been raped mercilessly by its leader? Does Mr Kupolokun these days sleep with a clear conscience despite the knowledge that he had in fact been in possession of facts of such magnitude without divulging them to the people on whose behalf he was acting as GMD? But, let’s leave Kupolokun for now — a sorry figure who had greatness thrust upon him but instead is now revealed as a man unworthy of that exalted position.
We now turn our attention to the men “upstairs” issuing these instructions which can only politely be described as criminal. One other witness, Mr Emmanuel Ememuo, the Exploration Manager of NPDC, and one of the few, so far, who apparently possesses any moral courage, informed the panel that a former Minister of State, name withheld unfortunately, told him [Ememuo] to shut up at a meeting where the matter was discussed. Well, Mr Ememuo’s courage might fail him; otherwise he should have named the Minister of State. But, he needs not worry. There was only one Minister of State in that Ministry at the time and his name was Edmund Dakouru. And to leave nobody in doubt about Dakouru’s role in these bizarre transactions, Chukwueke, ealier presented had informed the panel that, “The transaction was carried out the office of the Special Adviser to the president on energy, His Royal Highness, Edmund Dakouru”. His Royal Highness, is now one of the biggest traditional rulers in the Niger Delta, where the more patriotic youth, called militants or criminals by their elders who connive with economic saboteurs, are fighting with their lives for a better deal for their people. I wonder what those kids would think of His Royal Highness after this. One also wonders if His Royal Highness feels good about himself after this revelation. What sort of leadership can any one, Royal Highness or not, offer to his people after selling them down the river in this manner?
But, Dankouru, was not the only occupant of “upstairs” where this and other felonies were taking place. Sitting “upstairs” was a president who bluntly refused to appoint a Minister of Petroleum Resources until the last seven months of eight years of deliberate and unprecedented misrule. At first, the plot to turn the NNPC into a cash cow for a favoured few was concealed by making Nigerians believe that the president was hanging on to the portfolio himself because it was too sensitive to be entrusted to anyone else. Street-wise people knew right from the start that it was a ruse. “If you believe that you will believe anything” was what I said in 1999. And guess what? The president sitting “upstairs” had not failed to disappoint the people who also believed him when shortly after his release from prison he announced that he was a “born again Christian”. Some of the most heinous crimes have been committed by “born again Christians”; yet the gullible believed the man who moved “upstairs” to direct, or rather misdirect the affairs of the oil sector.
Unknown to most people however, the scam started from the time the BIG man “upstairs” refused to appoint a Minister because it was a contravention of DECREE 33 of 1977. This Decree which gave birth to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation was actually signed into law on April 21st, 1977 by Lt-General Olusegun Obasanjo. Because it is a lengthy decree, only those portions relevant for our purposes here will be presented.
The explanatory note to the decree stated as follows:
“The Decree provides for the dissolution of the Nigerian National Oil Corporation and the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources and their merger to form a new body to be known as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
The new corporation is empowered to engage in all commercial activities relating to petroleum industry while an independent department thereof, to be known as the Petroleum Inspectorate will confine itself to the enforcement of regulatory measures relating to the general control of the petroleum sector”.
From the explanatory notes we begin to have a glimpse of the perversion of a decree which has been incorporated into our 1999 Constitution by the President who promulgated it himself. Centralisation of control, or rather “privatization” of the NNPC by Obasanjo was not an inadvertent occurrence by a president ignorant of the law, but a deliberate breach of the decree and the constitution by a Head of State very much aware of what he was doing. “All power corrupts…”. Below are the clauses in the decree which demonstrate clearly that the president has willfully and unlawfully assumed the role of sole administrator of NNPC in contravention of the constitution which he swore to uphold.
Decree No. 33
PART 1. – ESTABLISHMENT OF THE CORPORATION
1. –(1) There shall be established a corporation by the name of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (herein in this Decree referred to as “the Corporation”) which shall be a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal and may sue and be sued in its corporate name.
(2) The affairs of the Corporation shall, subject to Part II of the Decree be conducted by a Board of Directors of the Corporation which shall consist of a Chairman and the following members, that is –
(a) the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance;
(b) the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Economic Development;
(c) the Managing Director of the Corporation; and;
(d) three persons appointed by the Federal Executive Council….
(3) The Chairman shall be a Commissioner [Minister] in the Government of the Federation who shall be known and styled as the Federal Commissioner for Petroleum.
Let us pause here and examine some of what the Decree sought to achieve. First, it was never designed to be a one-man enterprise. Instead by bringing other into the Board, the principles of accountability, transparency and checks and balances were expected to prevail. And although the Decree stipulated that the Chairman must be called a Minister, a further reading of it will show clearly that it was not intended that the President or Head of State should assume that role and be reporting to himself. When one looks at the statements of Ememuo, Chukwueke and Ofurhe, it is abundantly clear that none of the Permanent Secretaries mandated by the Decree was ever mentioned in any questionable transaction because the president has sidelined them. And, the exclusion of these people from decisions affecting the NNPC was deliberate; it was intended to enable the president to create a small cabal which would seize control of the NNPC; discard the principles of checks and balances and treat our common heritage as a personal property. “Upstairs” sat a president who daily subverted the constitution of Nigeria.
The question is why did the staff of DPR, His Royal Highness and the president do this to us? I will not answer that question now. We wait for more evidence, although what we already have is sufficient for even a dunce to hazard a guess. And two questions should help the thinking process. Why would a person or persons presumed to be sane give away such a colossal sum while breaking the law and risking jail in the process? Late Chief M.K.O. Abiola of blessed memory once observed that, “Nobody stands all day in the rain for nothing”. What these people have done is stranger than staying in the rain for a hundred years. What motivated them to do this? One answer we know cannot be true is, “in the national interest”. Then in whose interest have they become economic saboteurs at such high levels of government knowing what everyone knows about Nigeria today?
To be continued……
$2 BILLION OIL BLOCK AND BABA IYABO — 2
Last week, this two part series ended by referring to portions of Decree No 33 of April 21st, 1977 which was signed into law by the former military Head of State, Lt-General Olusegun Obasanjo and how the same Obasanjo violated the principles of checks and balances entrenched in the said decree by unilaterally awarding oil blocks to self-chosen individuals –usually at giveaway prices. But, there was more to the decree and the former president violated more portions of that decree than just the portions cited last week. These will be highlighted now. But, first, it is important to note why this matter is being dealt with so extensively.
The probe panels which started as serious attempts by the National Assembly to undertake its over-sight functions seriously has almost become a joke. Some people, including this writer, even suspect that they have become another avenue for making easy money by the legislators. Their collective integrity is now in doubt. First because of bare-faced discrimination in the way those who testify are treated –especially Obasanjo who obviously had a hand in every case so far determined. While the Chairman would announce that everybody must come to testify openly, Obasanjo is always allowed to send written statements. Second, the probe panel members either fail to do their homework properly or they side-track important evidence. For instance the panel on Transportation allowed Senator Ogunlewe to get away without asking him about the 500 Roads Project which he and Obasanjo proclaimed in 2005 as a “success”. Surely, a serious panel should have asked Ogunlewe for proof.
The Chairman of the panel looking into this and other questionable deals from 1999 to 2007, Igo Aguma, who had earlier boasted that there will be no sacred cows and went further to state that even Obasanjo must come and testify, had already started to back-pedal on that matter. In THE NATION report of July 31, 2008, Aguma was reported to have said that “a questionnaire would be sent to Obasanjo for his response”. If that is true, then the panel needs help. As a start they will need to obtain a copy of the said decree and ask Obasanjo to address the various violations of a decree which he passed himself. Ignorance cannot be a defence in this matter.
Having said that, let me proceed to other sections of the decree which were routinely violated by the President who after usurping the powers of the Minister specified by decree, failed to comply with the mandatory requirements for holding that office. Two sections will serve our purposes here – Sections 2 and 6. They state as follows.
2 – (1) There shall be appointed by the Federal Executive Council [underlining mine] a Managing Director of the Corporation who shall be the chief executive officer of the Corporation and shall subject to Part II of this Decree, be responsible for the execution of the policy of the Corporation and the day to day running of the Corporation’s activities and its associated services.
Let us pause for a moment and examine that statement and what really took place. Everybody knows that none of the Group Managing Directors of NNPC was appointed by the Federal Executive Council; the matter was never on the agenda. Obasanjo unilaterally made the appointments. Secondly, from what we discovered and mentioned last week, it was also indisputable that the former President and his Special Adviser, Dankorou, interfered, or rather, seized control of the day to day activities of the NNPC; at least where award of oil blocks was concerned. Honourable(?) Aguma and his colleagues on the probe panel should ask the former president why the usurpation of a power that was not given to him by law.
Now we turn our attention to the section of the Decree 33 which actually proves the extent of corruption that pervades the NNPC. At all times, the reader should bear in mind that the Decree was signed into law by the same Obasanjo who was controlling the NNPC.
6 – (1) The Corporation shall keep proper accounts and proper records in relation thereto in a form which shall conform to the best commercial standards.
(2) The Corporation shall as soon as may be after the end of the financial year to which the accounts relate cause its accounts to be audited by auditors appointed by the Corporation with the approval of the Federal Executive Council.
(3) The auditors shall, on the completion of the audit of the accounts of the Corporation for each year, prepare and submit to the Corporation…
Yet it is on record that the accounts of the NNPC were not audited from 1999 to 2007. Several individuals have testified that revenue derived from sale of oil blocks cannot be traced. The Hart Report written by a group of accountants appointed by NEITI, to audit NNPC, had already submitted a report indicting NNPC, although the report was hastily swept under the capacious rugs of the presidency. It is clear that virtually all the subsections of the provisions of this decree were repeatedly and deliberately violated under Obasanjo. It is evident that the Federal Executive Council, was also sidelined; the members serving only as rubber stamps for decisions taken “upstairs”.
One philosopher, a leading authority on ethics, had defined corruption as “saying one thing and doing something different”. Aguma and co should include in their questionnaire the following. Why were the accounts of the NNPC not audited? Why were proper books of accounts maintained by the Corporation? And what happened to the Hart Group Report.
TO MY FRIEND BODE GEORGE
“He who speaks without modesty will find it difficult to eat his words”.
Bode George and I have been friends since childhood. And although I have looked with horror, his involvement with the rowdy lot which later “captured” the PDP and turned the party from its noble beginnings to the curse it has become to Nigeria, still, there remains a warm place in my heart for Bode. I will not turn my back on him –even in this hour of need. But, I will offer advice which I hope will be accepted in the spirit in which it was given.
For more than four years the media had published stories, features, editorials etc asking the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to prosecute Bode for alleged embezzlement of funds when he served as the Chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA. Each time, I was confronted with the matter, I always responded by pointing out that the EFCC Act was passed in 2004. In fact, page 35 of the booklet carried a statement by Ibrahim Salim, CON, Clerk to the National Assembly, which sated as follows:
I CERTIFY, IN ACCORDANCE WITH SECTION 2 (1) OF THE ACTS AUTHENTICATION ACT, CAP, 4, LAWS OF THE FEDERATION OF NIGERIA 1990, THAT THIS IS A TRUE COPY OF THE BILL PASSED BY BOTH HOUSES OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY. That was dated 3rd Day of June, 2004.
Clearly, the EFCC Act could not have come into effect before that date. Having read the entire Act, I cannot find any section where it has retroactive effect. So, I used to tell those who were anxious to see Bode in EFCC net to look elsewhere because he ceased being NPA Chairman in 2003.
That however, did not mean that I exonerated him. Whether he is guilty as charged or not is a matter for the courts to decide. However, having been close to the corridors of power, where it was routinely abused for eight years, I expected Bode to understand that those in authority are often lawless and one should avoid provoking them.
When the rumours started circulating that Bode was on the run, with the EFCC in pursuit, I expected a different reaction from the one he gave when he landed at the airport about two weeks ago. The open challenge to the EFCC was akin to waving a red flag in front of several raging bulls. Even if the EFCC did not want to arrest Bode, he had given them the excuse to do so – because they have an image to protect.
I wept as I watched Bode in that interview and I remembered Homer, c900 B.C saying, “Foolhardy man! Why provoke one whose temper is foul already?” As usual for the security forces, I was certain they will go for him close to the week end; just to make sure he spends at least three days in their custody. Now he will spend many days and several millions when “no comment” would have been the best answer to the journalists. Power is transient; and the sooner yesterday’s men, like Bode, understand that, the better.
Please, Bode, tune down; your garrison group is no longer in charge. Another gang, imposed by your cabal, has taken over. And like your former leader, there is no gratitude for your efforts. Return to Lagos and start making amends. Believe me that is the only option left.