By Jide Ajani
N365billion is a lot of money. Worse, N365billion is a lot of money to lose in just one month. In any currency, in any clime, under any circumstance and for any people, that amount is huge. To put it in proper context, consider this: N365billion naira is the equivalent of not less than $2.25bilion.
The now contentious military assistance that the United States of America, USA, provides to the Egyptian military annually is the equivalent of $1.2billion.
This is an assistance that the Egyptian military eagerly awaits and uses to its fullest. Just recently, the State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, revealed that Washington still hasn’t delivered some $585 million — almost half the annual military aid package — for fiscal year 2013, to the Egyptian military.
Pray, which country on Earth would have its Minister of State for Finance, announce glibly, that it recorded a revenue loss of N365billion in just one month? From President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, to the Petroleum Resources Minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke, the Finance Minister and co-ordinating minister for the economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Presidential Adviser on Amnesty, Kingsley Kuku, the lamentation song that the theft of Nigeria’s crude oil is doing grave damage to the country’s economy, has become all too familiar.
Whereas the military task force that has been bursting illegal refineries continue to do its work; Whereas there has been a number of successes recorded in the attempts to pick up some hoodlums who engage in pipeline vandalisation; Whereas there is an almost weekly bulletin heralding exploits of arrests and display of suspected pipeline vandals; Whereas the Minister of State for Defence, Madam Olusola Obada has been crying that European governments should come to the aid of Nigeria in the fight against crude oil theft by refusing to buy the stolen products; Whereas the International Oil Companies, IOCs, have also been lamenting the loss of crude;
Whereas it has been generally acknowledged that some powerful, very powerful Nigerians are behind the crude oil theft; Whereas government itself has not come out to provide the exact volume of crude exported and produced per day in its strictest sense; Whereas the actual number of barrels lost per day to oil thieves hover between 400,000 and 600,000; Whereas, whereas and whereas…… Now, therefore, it should be admitted that either a paradigm of recklessness or irresponsibility or both has taken over in Nigeria. N365billion loss! Strange but true!
After three weeks of investigative work, Sunday Vanguard discovered that the only authority that can stop crude oil theft in Nigeria is the authority of anti-corruption. The discoveries went as far up to link friends of those in very senior positions in government and in the IOCs. Firstly, a government that is at pains to give an accurate figure regarding export volume can never be said to be sincere about stopping crude oil theft.
At best, what that tells the oil thieves is that a commodity the volume of which cannot be certified and verified, ab initio, would be difficult to calculate in terms of losses; and at worst create a free-for-all environment for the sustenance of the theft.
The regular stunts about burning and destroying illegal crude refineries are no more than submissions to tokenistic dramatization of a sense of duty because the real crude oil thieves continue to thrive with the active connivance of those making the hundreds of millions from the crime.
Does this administration know that there could be a correlation between a government collapse and crude theft because with such losses, it would find it difficult to run its business and the people could in turn rise against it?
Yet, had the theft been an activity being carried out in states controlled by the opposition, the hired guns who are quick to read-meanings, no matter how warped into anything, would have insisted that opposition parties want to sabotage government.
Mind you, the states where the theft is happening are controlled by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, including President Jonathan’s own state of Bayelsa. Had it been happening in Northern Nigeria, it would be interpreted as part of a bigger anti-South agenda. In the final analysis, it should be borne in mind that crude oil theft, in its very pure, undiluted form, also includes the misapplication of revenue accruing from its sale.
The following report is just the first part of the reports from the investigation. N365billion loss in the month of July! And there is no protest? And the people and government are going about their normal business as if nothing has happened? Really strange!