Nigeria’s Corrupt Oil Market

Corruption did not begin with President Goodluck Jonathan’s government. But, at the current rate, corruption would kill Nigeria on his watch. By a number of credible accounts, more than $500 billion (N80 trillion) has been stolen from Nigeria’s public coffers since independence in 1960. We don’t know exactly how much of this has been stolen under Jonathan. With record heists reported almost daily from the oil sector to pension funds, it is beyond a doubt that corruption is plumbing new, frightening depths under this government.

And the crooks are roaming free. Not only that, they are enjoying executive protection and daring the public to do its worst. This is the climate under which the world has witnessed the bizarre drama following the submission of the report of the Nuhu Ribadu-led Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force last week.

While Ribadu was submitting the report to President Jonathan, two members of the task force, who had been offered jobs in the same NNPC that they were supposed to be investigating and who contributed nothing to the panel’s work, were allowed to discredit the report without anybody reprimanding them. In the particular case of one of them, Steve Oronsaye, it is baffling that he is never in short of supply of juicy appointments from every government in power. He is not only on the board of the NNPC, he is also on the board of the Central Bank of Nigeria. A few days after the Ribadu panel submitted its report, the president’s aide, Doyin Okupe, dismissed it as shoddy and “impossible to implement”. And now there’s a rash of spin about everything other than about when the criminals will be brought to justice. How long will this nonsense continue?

President Jonathan has often spoken of his administration’s resolve to crush oil thieves or drive all economic saboteurs in the country into another planet. While inaugurating new service chiefs last month, he gave them a marching order to crush oil thieves. For the umpteenth time, last week, at the launch of Reforming the Unreformable, a book authored by finance minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the president swore that all those found culpable in the fuel subsidy scam would be severely punished after they had been forced to refund the funds they illegally collected. He was obviously referring to those who allegedly stole N2.6 trillon in the name of fuel subsidy funds last year. The Ribadu report, by the way, revealed that $16 billion or N2.8 trillion had been separately stolen in the oil sector.

Indeed, it’s under the Jonathan regime that the country has witnessed the exposure of looted trillions of naira. Billions – like the N100 billion stolen by a syndicate that specialises in stealing pensions — have become relatively insignificant! The source of looted trillions, of course, is the nation’s oil wealth — oil contributes more than 80 per cent of government’s revenue.

Need we recount a few other cases of larceny on a grand scale? Nigerians are aware that the country loses 600,000 barrels of crude oil daily to illegal bunkering. At the current price of N112.52 per barrel, a whopping sum of N 3.7 trillion ($24.64 billion) is lost annually. The NNPC disclosed that 1.7 million barrels of crude oil were lost between May and June 2009 alone. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has reported that “West African pirates have been increasingly attacking ships further and further from shore. They illegally siphon US$3 billion yearly worth of crude oil and refined petroleum products between 100,000 and 130,000 barrels a day with an international market value of about US$3billion; the equivalent of a large 95,000 metric ton crude oil tanker is being stolen from Nigeria without punishment”.

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Article courtesy of Indepth Africa.


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