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Petrodollar ‘bankers’ awry plans in whistle-blowers dens

By Sonny Atumah

It was Chinua Achebe in his African classic: Things Fall Apart who gave the Umuofia village proverb of Eneke the bird that said that since men have learned to shoot without missing he has learned to fly without perching. It manifestly implied the way some of our present day leaders devise witty and amusingly clever ways of illegally acquiring large amount of money meant for everybody without regard for anybody. However, in the 1958 novel Nwakibie the wealthy character explained that someone must know how hard someone worked for something to command respect.

From the ex-Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC Mr. Andrew Leah Yakubu, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC recovered US$9,772,800 and £74,000 last week. Like deposit money bank the hundred dollar bills and pounds sterling were packaged in wide layered high heels in a vault tucked away in Yakubu’s flimsy building in the shanty town of Sabon Tasha in Kaduna metropolis.

Yakubu who was the NNPC tzar from June 2012 to August 2014, claimed ownership of the large amount of money given to him by donors yet to be mentioned. Would Yakubu have stolen that amount of money with nobody raising alarm of missing money? His sources may include kickbacks which are corruption we all suffer from. Slush funds are not from genuine sources and may not be deposited in banks, say experts. Unconfirmed reports say there are more vaults yet to be recovered from the bespectacled Yakubu.

The former CBN Governor, now Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II, blew his cover in 2014 over monies the NNPC did not remit from crude oil sales even though he could not keep tabs on the figure. We have four refineries that were killed by the NNPC to be selling crude oil and importing petroleum products; meaning some persons benefit from our inability to refine. Again persons benefit from the 445,000 barrels of crude meant for the four refineries on a daily basis in the last 20 years.

In September 2016, ex-GMDs of the NNPC as a group became crybabies having rehearsed a drumbeat for petrol price increase and suggested to the NNPC that the PMS cap price of N145 per litre was realistically incongruent with the liberalisation policy of government. From the blues, they cited foreign exchange rate and other price determining components such as crude cost, Nigeria Ports Authority, charges, among others remaining uncapped as reasons for their act. It is now clear that some of the importers maybe their proxies for petroleum products thus fuelling crony capitalism in Nigeria.

Since the whistle-blowers exposed Yakubu, many illegal bankers of that ilk have relocated sites of their loot away from potential eagle lenses. The havens for illicitly acquired public funds denominated in foreign currencies are unoccupied private residences, bunkers, overhead and underground water tanks, septic tanks, refrigerators, warehouses, tombs in mansions, and farms etc. The late Afrobeat king, Fela Anikulapo Kuti in his hit tune VIP, vagabonds in power expressed scandals of epic proportions by leaders.

The headline in one edition of my column last year was: “Nigerians father prebendalism, murder utilitarianism.” It discussed the findings of a scholar in the North Western University Programme of African Studies, United States, Joseph A. Richard whose research on the corruption pattern of patron-clientelism in Nigeria known as prebendalism. Prebendalism according to him, is the attitude of inheriting public trust as ones lost property to repossess, to own and to dispense to whoever it pleases one.

Richard describes how public officials and government workers feel they have a right to a share of government revenues and use them to benefit their supporters, co-religionists and members of their ethnic group. But looters now think about immediate families as sole beneficiaries. Before now as revealed by the Panama leaks funds were siphoned overseas, but with the Yakubu money vault, it was obvious individuals now own money deposit banks.

A lot of sterile funds are outside the financial system and cannot be tracked by the radar of monetary authorities. It calls to mind the revelations last week at the public hearing of the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on the review of the pump price of petrol that the NNPC warehouses foreign exchange from international oil companies operating in Nigeria for local marketers to import petrol.

Although the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu tried to colour the scheme by almost having the CBN Deputy Governor in charge of Economic Policy Dr. Sarah Alade in tow, it was obvious the CBN knew nothing about the NNPC foreign exchange deals. Kachikwu who was edgy about who approves the allocation and to who, explained that it had not come to his knowledge that the process of allocation was not transparent as alleged by marketers who preferred foreign exchange allocations by the CBN.

The story is that NNPC hardly accounted to either the government or the Nigerian people. Oil has become the milk cow with tubes to siphon funds from the Nigerian commonwealth. Nigeria is being milked to death for primordial selfish interests and there are thoughts whether Nigeria would survive. The Central Bank in a panicky and obtrusive move floated the currency and devalued the naira by about 70 percent in June 2016.

In 1991, then military president General Ibrahim Babangida genuinely expressed his thought to senior editors of the old Daily Times on an economy which had experienced excessive hemorrhage, in coma but for divine reasons Nigeria remained afloat under life support. With economic theorems fathomed on Nigeria’s problems, he said the economy defied logic. Twenty one years after Babangida left office thoughts on thievery from the privileged class in Nigeria continued smartly and with sophistries.

President Muhammadu Buhari has gone round the world soliciting for Nigeria’s US$150 billion stolen and laundered in financial hubs across the globe. Government activation of whistle blowing as a policy is bringing to the fore that they may be more laundered funds in our shores than offshore. Some Nigerians embezzle funds and make the illegal acts of converting public funds into private use appear legal. It had been one’s wish since June 2015, that Buhari would beam a searchlight on the state oil company to uproot this monster within NNPC. What they have stolen over the years can rehabilitate our refineries that have gone into oblivion and also to construct new ones if necessary.

The reasons for the thievish traits may well be in the realm of sociologists and psychoanalysts to conjecture what went wrong that those placed in charge of public resource behave the way they do. We may devise ways of making these sophisticated thieves to bring back our dollars into the conventional banking system. The Professor Itse Sagay, Presidential committee on corruption should work out a landing for privileged thieves. Is it amnesty?

 


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