Many years ago, a young Nigerian chose to become a police officer instead of a lawyer at the NNPC. I am thankful he chose the less travelled road.
Mondays are particularly hectic in Victoria Island, the commercial hub of Lagos State. It is difficult to navigate through its mazy streets, especially at lunch break, when most of the workers are scuttling to replenish lost calories at the various quick service restaurants that litter the district. One Monday afternoon in January 2011, I stopped a commercial motorcycle and asked him to head for AIB Plaza, at the end of the popular Adeyemo Alakija Road. Thanks to my able rider, I got back to my base within an hour, I was then a volunteer for Nuhu Ribadu’s presidential campaign.
I always admired Nuhu Ribadu. His declaration of an intention to become Nigeria’s next President sparked a mixture of naiveté and hope in me. I became a spammer of mailboxes, presenting how Nigeria could benefit from voting a policeman as president for the first time. The rest is history; a few plane rides and handshakes later ensured Goodluck Jonathan dominated the polls and became Nigeria’s 4th elected President. Nuhu Ribadu disappeared from the spotlight, till the stench from the Augean stables required a team of cleaners, led by Nigeria’s most famous police officer.
In February, he was appointed Chairman of the Petroleum Revenue Task Force by President Jonathan. The task force was mandated to “enhance probity and accountability in operations of the Petroleum Industry” and report to the Minister of Petroleum Resources. When he accepted the offer the lead the team, a part of me was disappointed. I felt he was lending his name to an obvious charade masterminded by the President’s handlers to douse public tension.
The team had 60 days to produce a report, an unrealistic target by all accounts; so when the initial period expired without a report in sight, the cynic in me returned. Now, 8 months later, a report has appeared on various websites, suggesting that the committee has submitted a report that was covered by interested supervisory parties. It is amusing if nobody saw this coming, especially the government. By asking the Task Force to report to an interested party, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, the President created an opportunity for real or imagined allegations to spring up.
The version of the report I read is certainly damning, even if it’s not surprising. It merely confirmed what we all knew but could not validate. We knew the country was losing up to 10% of daily production, and an estimated N1 trillion annually. It is not a secret that traders lift crude without being on the approved list of traders or possessing valid contracts with the NNPC. Hopefully, this will help us answer why Nigeria chooses to use middle men to sell our crude, instead of direct sale to refineries.
Wale Adebanwi did a great job showing that Nigeria’s history is littered with probes and commissions of inquiry. He reminded me of the famous “if you Tarka me, I go Daboh you” affair and the $2.8 billion scandal I first heard about listening to Fela’s Army Arrangement. In 1994, a team led by the brilliant Pius Okigbo found out that the $12.4 billion generated from the increase in oil prices during the Gulf war was depleted to $200 million by the Babangida administration. Not only has nobody been held accountable for this fraud, the original copy of the report has been missing for almost two decades. This is why we don’t need a crystal ball to suggest the report of this task force will be a footnote in another book scheduled for release in 2020, another incentive for an already corrupt society to continue in its ways.
If the report being distributed is an accurate representation of the situation of our oil industry, Mallam Ribadu and his team can walk with their head held high. Many years ago, a young Nigerian chose to become a police officer instead of a lawyer at the NNPC. I am thankful he chose the less travelled road.
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