Tuesday with Dan Onwukwe 08111813033 email@example.com
ANY expectation that the President-elect, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari will kick-start his administration by healing the wounds in the land may be dashed.And any conclusion that Buhari had learned from his shortcomings of letting go the past might turn out like expecting a leopard to change its spots. On the contrary,the first 100 days of his administration may be dogged by probes,and perhaps witch-hunt.
The outgoing Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke may be the ‘guinea-pig’ to kick-start Buahari’s ‘transparency’ and ‘accountability’ in government. Considering the complaints and complexities of the oil industry,the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC) has always been a ready script to demonize and throw cheap shots at those who supervise that money spinning government agency.Undoubtedly, on this score, for about two years now or more, the Petroleum Minister has been on the vortex of the storm.She has been the target of all kinds of vitriol,frivolous gossips,malicious,malevolent sycophancy and vindictive libels.
She is perceived (perhaps wrongly) as stubborn and arrogant.But she’s a stickler of what she believes in. This has come at a price: she has suffered an acute public discomfort for her devotion, loyalty and selfless service to her fatherland. She sees all the darts being thrown at her as the machination of agents of international “oil cabals” who have been disallowed from milking the country dry, using their local agents.
But, can’t there be a limit or an end to this poisonous politics against Diezani? What she is going through now comes close to the character in Robert Graves novel 1,CLAUDIUS. Claudius was an inquisitive character who asked his grandmother,Livia,whether she prefers slow poisons or quick ones to dispose of a rival. She replied that she wanted “repeated doses of slow tasteless poisons which would give the effect of consumption”.
In short, the most popular poison in the Nigerian oil industry is bad publicity. In massive doses,it surely can destroy any reputation outright, no matter how long it has taken the person to build his or her good name. This is the kind of forces Diezani, who last year was elected the first female President in the history of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)is currently up against.
The smoking gun has begun.The ‘smoke’ actually begun early last year when the ex-Governor of the Central Bank, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (now the Emir of Kano), flew off the handle. He threw up a grave allegation that NNPC had not remitted about $20bn to the Federation Account. This is as required by law under section 162 (2) of the 1999 Constitution.
Actually, Sanusi first claimed the missing fund was in excess of $40bn. He changed the figure several times before arriving at $20bn. He lost his job. But, before then President Goodluck Jonathan had appointed renowned auditing firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers(PwC) to carry out an indepth probe into Sanusi’s allegations. After months of investigation, the firm submitted its report to President Jonathan. It found among other things that $1.48bn was unremitted to the federation Account by NNPC, and not $20bn as alleged by Sanusi.
The management of NNPC had during the PwC probe averred that it provided the necessary information and explanations on the difference between the gross revenue aggregate remittance leading to the potential excess remittance of $0.7bn. Diezani reaffirmed last week that NNPC is complying with PwC order. But, it appears the incoming government would want nothing less than ensuring she leaves office with her reputation in tatters. Indications to that have begun to emerge. Last week in London, former governor of Ekiti state, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who is Buhari’s Director of Policy said NNPC may need to refund more than the $1.48bn. He claimed that the incoming government has “seen credible information that what PwC says is more than that. We will make it available to Nigerians as soon as we have full information”.
It must be stated that there’s nothing wrong in exposing the facts and getting the ghost of the “missing funds” behind us. But the question is: why make catergorical statement on such a weighty issue, as Fayemi has done when they are yet to get full information? Not having full and incontrovertible information before going public clearly suggests a mindset,or rather an equivalent of a ‘pre-emptive strike’.It amounts to demonizing one’s reputation, to say the least. That creates a voracious appetite for drama with a possible,predictable outcome .
If Fayemi’s “expose” is not enough to read the lips of the incoming administration to ‘deal’ with Diezani,the President-elect himself over the weekend, gave us a mirror to look into his mind once he is sworn in, May 29.
Speaking when he received a delegation of party faithful from Adamawa State,Buhari maintained that he would further probe the missing money, despite the fact that PwC report had said $1.48bn, not $20bn was the amount unremitted to the government coffers. Nothing is wrong with that. But everything is wrong with his language.
It therefore lends support to the Petroleum Minister’s version of the story that she is a target of a grand conspiracy. In her first major public reaction to the searchlight on her tenure, Diezani last Wednesday said that she is been persecuted by those she called ‘cabals in the oil industry’.She also repudiated rumours that she was seeking asylum when she had not been indicted of any crime. Her words: “I have not sought such assistance because I am not aware that I have been indicted of any crime that will require a soft landing”.
One thing is plain in all of this. As she puts it: “During this period of time, I have stepped on many big toes particularly the feet of the cabal members in the industry”… Any keen follower of happenings in the oil industry under Diezani will have noticed that she has ruffled some feathers by the policy reforms she introduced in the sector. For instance, the local content policy that has opened up the industry to enterprising Nigerians in oil and gas business.
In that regard, billions of dollars have reportedly been taken out of the hands of multinationals and their subcontractors, into the hands of Nigerians. Anyone who has done this, expectedly, should be a public enemy number one of those she has “spoiled” their underhand businesses. That’s why Buhari as President has to be extremely cautious, very circumspect and reflective in the way he goes about his expected reforms in the NNPC. No doubt, NNPC should operate within the laws that set it up and abide by the regulations that are binding on it.
Buhari as President could do well if he realises that even though government must conduct its business openly, transparently as well as hold officials and agencies of government accountable, it should not design its operations in ways that will lead to suspicion of a witch-hunt. That’s why the so-called missing funds should not be been as a subject of propaganda. http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=116703
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