By Tony Eluemunor
Question: How serious is Nigeria’s anti-corruption fight?
Answer: That depends on the accused, the accuser and the amount of prejudice (bias, preconception, prejudgment, predisposition, partiality) and the “politricks” involved.
Item1:Bureau of Public Enterprise (under Nasir el-Rufai) chose the management-contract option to enhance NITEL before privatisation and advertised for OPERATORS ONLY, not CONSULTANTS and CONSORTIUMS. Yet, instead of sticking strictly to its own terms and opening up discussions with the phone operators only, BPE evaluated all the 14 applications.
Indeed, a consultancy as opposed to a core operator, Pentascope International B.V Private Ltd of Belgium, emerged first, ahead of BNSL/TCIL of India, a core operator. Interestingly, while BNSL/TCIL had proposed to be paid US$35 million over three years for its services to NITEL and Nigeria, Pentascope charged US$45 million, yet Pentascope won.
On January 16, 2003, NITEL Board kicked against the deal and only signed the contract after the weight of Obasanjo’s administration was invoked against it. So, BPE, under Nasir el-Rufai, had its way.
Page six of the Management Contract showed Pentascope won the bid because of its claimed relationship with KPN, a major Telecoms player, as testified in a letter from KPN—which was later proved a forgery. A report had informed BPE and the government that Pentascope was a small consulting firm with a share capital of €5,000 (five thousand Euros) and an unsubstantiated annual turnover of €25,000 (twenty-five thousand Euros), and it was coming to manage an outfit worth over a $1 billion. Most of all, while Pentascope claimed a turnover of €25, 000, the company that came second in the bidding had a verifiable year 2000 turnover of US$2.560 Billion. Only in Nigeria!
Nigeria’s loss: NITEL’s N15 billion profit in 2002 turned loss of N19 billion in 2003, turnover dipped from N53 billion to N41 billion. Yet, Direct Costs and Overhead Costs increased from N21.3 billion to N26.3 and from N19.4 to N30 billion. NITEL collapsed. Nobody was punished for that misadventure and the man who headed BPE went on to become a minister and state governor later. I am not accusing anybody in the BPE of corruption, I’m calling attention to the fact that EFCC whether under Nuhu Ribadu, never cast a glance at BPE and Obasanjo the self-decorated anti-corruption crusader, hardly asked any questions. And so too our decorated journalists.
Item2: 3pm Wednesday 29, March 2006, a top-secret business was at last nearing conclusion; and all €107,500,000.00 (One hundred and seven million, five hundred thousand Euros only) was wired out of Nigeria from a bank in Abuja Central District; half of the total payment.
The contract: an Israeli company to “design, develop, manufacture, install and prepare for operation three Aerostar Unmanned Aerial Vehicle intelligence systems (drones) and three Seastar systems for aerial and marine use”.
At the then prevailing exchange rate, the €215m contract sum equaled $US260m. Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said:“As for the Aeronautics Ventures deal, experts estimate that, according to the value of the equipment, and even if Aeronautics profits from the deal reach 100 percent, the scope of the deal will not exceed $150 million.” So, the contract was seriously inflated by over $100 million dollars.
And that was when Nuhu Ribadu was EFCC Chairman. He was busy chasing Obasanjo’s perceived enemies but he never said a word about this Israeli contract. Obasanjo himself? Ah, when Obasanjo’s National Security Adviser, Lt. Gen. Aliyu Gusau (rtd) publicly denied any knowledge of it, Obasanjo dropped him. When I reported about the contract scandal in the Daily Independent, I was arrested.
Item 3; Obasanjo attempted to tar and destroy former Vice-President Atiku Abubaka using the hallucinated Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) sins. Obasanjo sent the EFCC’s stupid report on Atiku, to the Senate, after the Administrative Panel of Inquiry he had set up had used it to ban Atiku from contesting elections. A court threw out the panel’s decisions. The Senate Committee heard from Atiku that the PTDF funds was used to pay a lawyer that owns a higher institution N250 million in September 2006 for registering a company (Galaxy Backbone) with the Corporate Affairs Commission; paid up share capital -N1b (so it should not attract more than N23m CAC fee).
May 10, 2006, during the third term scheme, PTDF requested for N20b for its projects and got approval the same day, plus for N10b immediate release. By 2005 December, PTDF had N20b and $150m in fixed deposit, N533m and $6.3m in current account. Five months later only N12.9 remained of the N20b. The dollar account dwindled too. PTDF Management spent N60m to renovate its head office, N36m on a lift for the two story building.
Even Aso Rock’s Media Office under the late Mrs. Remi Oyo got N100m for progress reports and photograph productions for the Villa Library. Yet, PTDF’s mandate has been to develop expertise and proficiency for Nigeria’s Petroleum industry. It was used to buy computers for Civil Servants. A bazar was on.
Now the question: If Obasanjo, Ribadu, and Nigerian journalists have been terribly opposed to corruption, why is it that over 99% of corruption issues have been usually swept under the carpet? Why did the kind of noise over the mere signing of an MOU between Nigeria and the United Kingdom, over the return of £4.2 million pounds to Nigeria, money seized from three female associates of Chief James Onanefe Ibori, never arose over the items listed above? Some, even began to demonise the Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa administration in Delta state, manufacturing reasons why the £4.2m should not revert to Delta, forgetting that Nigeria is a Federation. Politricks had crept in.
Answer: When the obedient servants of the British Empire were failing to stop Ibori, in stepped the UK to keep the Nigerian part of its empire in check. The Niger Delta region was getting restless, and a son of a nobody, called Chief James Onanefe Ibori was giving the “natives” ideas. His resource control agitation, sensitisation and mobilisation was a threat to UK’s interests. Two other Governors had joined him; so he was getting “dangerous”.
Then the Empire Struck Back; Ibori had to be decoupled from politics and leadership… like King Jaja of Opobo, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah and other Africanists who attempted to THINK INDEPENDENTLY. A death sentence was passed on him—to be arrested DEAD OR ALIVE—April 22, 2010. Ibori should thank God that he is alive today.