By Lakinbofa Goodluck
We have been here before. This is not the first time a government official would raise alarm over financial inconsistencies in a government agency. Most notable is the $49billion the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria alleged was missing in NNPC. After the usual hullabaloo that trailed the revelation, the figure was eventually reconciled by the Reconciliation Committee to $10.8billion, but the CBN stuck to $12billion. The NNPC insisted that no money was missing that the corporation remitted all the statutory funds to the Federation Account and spent funds on subsidy claims. In an effort to douse the tension generated by the revelation the Auditor General of the Federation appointed PricewaterhouseCooper (PWC) to carry out a forensic audit of the Corporation. PWC eventually reported $1.48billion as total unremitted amount, which is quite lesser than what the CBN had stated. However, the Audit firm provided a caveat: “the procedures we performed did not constitute an examination or a review in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards or attestation standards.” Eventually, the CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido, was removed unceremoniously. As it was yesterday, so it is today and perhaps, so it will be tomorrow if we keep lubricating a defective system that fuels corruption.
Like a repeat of the past, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, had written to the President alleging a breach of due process in the approval of $26billion worth of contract. As usual, the NNPC in a detailed response denied the allegation with an attempt to school Nigerians on the NNPC contract approval process. The parastatal clarified that the President who also doubles as the Minister of Petroleum, and was on medical vacation at the time, approved the contract in question, further heightening doubts about the integrity of the process. To further clarify, the Spokesperson for the VP stated “In response to media inquiries on NNPC joint venture financing, VP Osinbajo, as Ag President approved recommendations after due diligence.” Now the Vice President has stated that he only gave approval for loansnot contracts. Essentially, we still do not know who actually approved the loan.
There were insinuations in 2014 that the then CBN Governor was working against the PDP and the allegation of unremitted funds was only a move to tarnish the image of the government. Considering the eventual romance between the former CBN Governor and the APC, especially during his installation as Emir, it may be difficult to think otherwise. Would we then say the Minister of State for Petroleum is working against the government and only wrote the letter to tarnish the image of this government? I refuse to believe that.However, whether the Minister had a political motive or not, what is really important to Nigerians is the approval of a contract valued at huge amount without the necessary due process. The financial inconsistencies in the NNPC are becoming unbearable. There is hardly any administration since the return to democracy in 1999 that did not have to deal with issues of financial shortcomings at the NNPC. Many would have thought things would be different in the current dispensation considering that the President also doubles as the Minister of Petroleum.
For an administration that rose to power on the promise to fight corruption, this is another opportunity to win the hearts of many Nigerians who are beginning to see the government’s war against corruption as a mere rhetoric. Nigerians are still waiting for the government to address the report of the Vice President on the suspended SGF and the DG NIA. Considering that no new SGF has appointed, conspiracy theorists might conclude that the office is still being kept open for the suspended SGF’s return. It is saddening that the Senate is now at the forefront of unravelling what actually transpired. The best the Senate Committee can achieve is to provide the general public a side of the story that they want us to know. They will also make recommendations to the executive and expect the President to implement. So the buck will eventually stop at the desk of the President.
In the immediate the expectation of many is for the President to order a probe and unravel the truth of the situation. Beyond that what is more important is to instil the culture of discipline and due process in the operations of parastatals of government especially the NNPC. The parastatal needs some sweeping reforms not by changing individuals but by dealing with the fundamental legislative and executive framework underpinning its operations. Again, how the President responds to this confusion will significantly affect the perception of the public about his administration stance against corruption.
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