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Storm over NLNG dividends, Nigerian politicians are shameless

By Omoh Gabriel

The recent controversy over dividend paid by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Company, NLNG, portrayed Nigerian politicians as neophytes who do not fit well into civilized political culture.

In the wake of the controversy, each side of the divide — PDP and APC  — sought to outdo each other by a holier-than-thou attitude. In a cultured and disciplined society, Nigerians should have seen beyond these  smart alecs who parade themselves as political leaders.

1000-naira-notesThe first question that should bother any right thinking person is who was the money paid to? It was paid into the federation account. Whether it was PDP or APC government makes no difference.

In a society where transparency and accountability are the rule, corporate bodies publish their accounts for the public and investors to have access to information about them.

This is not the case in Nigeria. NNPC, NIMASA, NPA and the rest have never made their accounts public. Many governments in the Nigeria federation have never published their full accounts. This is so because those in positions of power have so much to hide. It is the avenue from which they loot the country’s treasury.

In a country where there is transparency in the conduct of government business, the issue of who paid what into the federation account would not have arisen. Here we are, fighting over dividend paid into the federation account by one company. If the shameless Nigerian political class were serious, they should be asking how many NLNGs are in Nigeria to bail the country out of its present dependence on oil.

In the case of the PDP stalwarts, how many new NLNG did they in their 16 years of governance, add to the Nigerian economic space? How many ailing industries in the country did PDP revive to contribute to the economy of the country in the last 16 years? What new initiative did PDP set in motion to restructure the Nigerian economy?

It is funny that APC that is currently sleep-walking has the courage to join in the fray of what was paid. The tactless politicians in APC deceived Nigerians with its mantra of change. In the first instance, they have not been able to change themselves not to talk of changing anybody. The sleep-walking members of APC believe that dividend could accrue to a shareholder in one month. APC has been in government for 40 days and would want Nigerians to believe that it received dividend from NLNG in one month.

Gullible Nigerians bought the bait of these few Nigerians who on daily basis loot,  pillage and cart away our resources and seek diversionary ways to cover their misdeeds. What Nigerians should be asking these shameless men of yesterday who cling to power, is what new thing they intend to bring to the sharing table, since all we do is share.

Imagine if Ajaokuta Steel Rolling mill was working and making profit. It would have earned Nigeria more dividends; yet, this political class is not interested in seeing it work. What about Delta Steel Rolling mill? What of Jos, Oshogbo machine tools, the Aluminum Smelting Company? What has become of them?

Their carcasses litter the whole place. Apart from these, Nigeria had Volkswagen plant, Peugeot, Leyland, Steyr and many others to name a few. If these companies were nurtured to the stage NLNG is today, Nigeria could have been earning close to $50 billion in taxes. Here are Nigerian politicians and policymakers fighting over $2.1 billion.

Notwithstanding the figures being doled out from Nigeria’s confused politicians, the Federal Government earned about $17.6 billion from the  NLNG as dividend and tax since inception of the project.

The break down showed that government earned about $14.7 billion as dividend, being its 49 per cent stake of the $30 billion paid by the liquefied natural gas company over the last 15 years. The balance of $2.9 billion represents tax payments between 2013 and 2014, that is, $1.6 billion in 2014, and $1.3 billion in 2013. But PDP and APC sent out conflicting figures regarding the actual revenues the Federal Government, through its representative, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, may have earned from its 49 per cent equity investment in the NLNG over the past 15 years of the NLNG operations.

The ruling APC and the opposition, the Peoples’ Democratic Party, have engaged in a war of words over who paid what and where the sum went to.

Releasing its Fact and Figures on NLNG 2015, the Managing Director/Chief Executive, NLNG, Mr. Babs Omotowa, said in Lagos that the company had paid $30 billion in dividends to its shareholders over the years, including the government, which owns a 49-per-cent stake through the NNPC. He also added: “Just a few days ago, we paid $1.6 billion to the government as tax and this will go a long way to assist the new government in solving some of its problems.” Omotowa explained that the dividend and tax were derived from the export of natural gas worth about $85 billion since its inception.

He said: “For us, it has been a success story. Between 1999 when we came on stream and now, we have realised some $85 billion from exports of liquefied natural gas to buyers in Europe, America and Asia.” Regarding its contribution to the Nigerian economy, the NLNG in its Facts and Figures also said: Payment to Joint Venture (JV) feedgas suppliers from inception till date is almost $21billion; 55-60- per cent of this amount goes to the Federal Government via its shareholding in the NNPC.”

Managing Director of NNPC should meet on the issue of NLNG dividends and report back to the IMTT. Unfortunately, that meeting has not held.” Omotowa said plans were afoot to expand the NLNG plant in Finima on Bonny Island, in the oil and gas-rich southern Rivers State, by 2017. With six trains currently operational, plans for building Train 7 that will lift the total production capacity to 30 million metric tons per annum of LNG are currently progressing,” he said. He said Train 7 would cost an estimated $12 billion, create 18,000 construction jobs and bring in an additional three billion dollars in exports when operational.

The question is: What is the level of attention being given to the NLNG by the Federal Government? What was the level of cooperation it received from government agencies in the last eight years? Why has the Train 7 not taken off if the government was so keen on growing the nation’s revenue base? After the clarification of the payment made by NLNG by its Chief Executive officer, I am ashamed of Nigerian politicians, I think every Nigerian should be. Nigerian politicians have no shame though.

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