Friday, 18 January 2013

NNPC: Nigeria's Shrine Of Corruption.


The nation has been inundated lately with the news that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, to borrow $1.5 billion to pay its foreign creditors, including Glencore and Mercuria, which it owes $3.5billion in accumulated fuel supply bills.
The NNPC reportedly pledged 15, 000 barrels of crude per day as collateral for the syndicated loan deal said to have been brokered by Standard Chartered Bank, with funds to be supplied by a consortium of foreign and local banks, which would be paid over a period of five and half years. Granted Section 6 of the NNPC Act permits it as a state-run oil business concern to borrow with or without the approval of the “council of Ministers”,  we unequivocally state that every constitutional righteousness must be fulfilled to ensure transparency and accountability in such transaction.
No one is averse to it meeting its financial obligation to its offshore partners, but things must be done constitutionally. One of which is seeking proper advice from the Debt Management Office, DMO, and seeking the approval of the National Assembly in doing so. Since DMO in consonance with the Ministry of Finance is empowered to handle the country’s local and foreign debts, one would naturally have believed it had been notified.
One wonders why such borrowing was not initially captured in the medium-term expenditure framework of the present government approved by the National Assembly.
Besides, bypassing the National Assembly is clearly a breach of fundamental constitutional procedure and smacks of a clandestine motive by the NNPC to shroud the process in secrecy.
Such unilateral decision in the management of a collective patrimony is illegal, unconstitutional and exposes NNPC’s abhorrence to corporate governance. It also shows its disregard for constituted authority and a tendency by a cabal in government and their corporate sector collaborators to alienate themselves from the rest of society, create its own rule and carry same through with odious gusto and impunity.
If the law says no government agency or states within the federation can borrow without approvals by the National Assembly, on what basis could some executive deviants rationalise their ill-conceived descent to official recklessness?
In spite of various mind-boggling revelations of sleaze, inefficiency, and mismanagement in the NNPC, successive governments have demonstrated spineless incapacity to push through logical reforms that would help the behemoth it has become stand on good stead and become competitive among its counterparts in other climes. Rather, it has become a festering sore, which stench makes worse the odious air of corruption permeating the Nigerian oil sector.
The NNPC has become no more than a facilitator to rampaging foreign oil companies and unscrupulous indigenous oil shieks at the detriment of the country. No wonder it has been described as a shrine of corruption in some quarters.
This was revealed in the findings of the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force headed by Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, which indicted some oil majors who, in cahoots with highly placed government officials, in swindled the nation of billions of dollars in signature bonuses and cut-price gas dealings, among others. Like many before it, and several others that would precede it, the Ribadu Committee report is gathering dust in shelves somewhere.
We make haste to ask: where is the “breath of fresh air” President Goodluck Jonathan promised when he stood election for the office of President? The incumbent government seems to have conferred sovereignty on the NNPC, with the Petroleum Minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke as its de facto empress. She is so powerful that Jonathan cannot touch her in pite of the corruption in NNPC which her ministry presides over.
Let the “breath of fresh air” start with NNPC.

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