Missing Billions: Why Blame IBB?

BY EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO

One general characteristic that marks out Nigeria’s current government is the inability of all the relevant arms of government to be up and doing in the critical area of maintaining global best practices in terms of accountability, probity and transparency in public finance. These qualities are the democratic benchmarks that marks a Country out as a responsible constitutional democracy. 

Closely following the above, is the illogicality and fallacies being bandied about, and promoted in the media by propagandists allied with Federal government as means of confusing everyone so as to justify the clear lack of accountability. Unfortunately,  the Nigerian media have completely abandoned her sole role and responsibility as the most credible agenda setting institution and have decided to offer news pages to all kinds of characters masquerading about as key government officials.  
One of such attempts which appears so ludicrous and laughable is the claim made by the Director General of Voice of Nigeria- Mr. Osita Okechukwu who has demonstrated an uncanny ability to use subterfuge and deception to try to hoodwink the reading public to continue to see a messiah in the person of President Muhammadu Buhari who has been President for six Years but has failed to manifest any atom of his messianic tendencies.

And so it was that we woke up today to find out that the media has once more indulged Osita Okechukwu of his regular pastime of beating about the Bush in a bid to confuse Nigerian reading public and to maintain his obsession with the person of the President.    The Director General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu had blamed the increasing rate of insecurity in the country on the extreme poverty imposed in 1986 by the military administration of President Ibrahim Babangida through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) sponsored Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).

He maintained the insecurity challenge being faced was the manifestation of the inhuman seed sown by the military through SAP.
Okechukwu, who is a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), cautioned instead of the anger and blame game on the governing party, “we should come to the reality that the insecurity challenge we face today is the outcome of Extreme-Poverty planted in 1986 by the IMF Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).”

The VON boss, in a statement in Abuja on titled, “Insecurity in Nigeria: Challenging crisis of extreme poverty”, observed the development calls for introspection and deep reflection on how we became the World Poverty Capital and how best to exit fast.
“Yes we of the APC pledged to fix security in our dear country in every particular matter. That’s our pledge, and to be honest we are deploying billions and every material and human resources to contain it.

“However, we are confronted with Extreme-Poverty planted in 1986 by the IMF Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). The day SAP was born was the day the gross economic inequality and insecurity in Nigeria was born. It has badly mutated since 1986.
“Economic inequality breeds extreme-poverty, hate, division and hostile insecurity, in countries wherever it is allowed to thrive throughout history.

“To be exact no matter how much trillions of Naira we spend on military hardware or how many times we change Security Chiefs, with Extreme-Poverty security will remain a mirage.”
My reading of this laughable excuse and the continuous blame game which to all intents and purposes are diversionary and spurious, is the underlying plots by these actors in government to conceal the incredible amounts of public funds that many of the central government’s revenue yielding institutions are yet to account for. How on earth will someone who has been in the corridors of power begin to spread the toxic illogicality that the policy framework put in place about 30 years back is the reason the government he serves can not as much as guarantee the security of boarding schools around the Country? This is standing logic on its head and he will get away with it and come up with another ridiculous proposition because they all think that Nigerians are fools. Duncan Clarke who wrote a book on the corruption that afflicts the crude oil industry in Africa has perfectly situated this kind of delusional approach to governance as manifested in hige quantities by some key officials of the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration including the DG of Voice of Nigeria. 
“Is it then just bad politics and serial conflict that have led to Africa’s repeated difficulties? I think not.
Recently, economists have sought to come to grips with the economic failures found in Africa. Some have hard lessons to impart. It is no secret that Africa’s downward drift inspired western aid and debt relief initiatives, remedies that were intended to plug the savings gap, infuse capital, allow for growth and cut extreme poverty. Around $500 billion has been poured into Africa in this manner over the past 30 years. Little appears to have resulted from this western largesse. 

The author then said: “Now some advocates want to magnify this flow of funds, with corporate oil doing its own bit in the form of social investment. Robert Calderisi offers a damning critique of this failed strategy in The Trouble with Africa: Why Foreign Aid Isn’t Working.”  

He then asserted that Politicians and corporate oil should pay attention because according to him, with a 30-year career in development economics, Calderisi dismisses conventional excuses for contemporary African economic failures: the delayed economic impacts of slavery, legacies of settler colonialism, insufficient foreign aid, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (15RD) led structural adjustment, negative impacts from globalization, indebtedness, geographical determinism, harsh environments and biased inter-national economic forces. 

“The Cold War did leave deleterious marks- but thereafter Africa did little to rid itself of its residues in flawed economic regimes. None of these excuses adequately explain why the sub-Saharan world went backwards for 30 years”. 
The breakdown of many agrarian societies in Africa can be traced to mismanaged central power, with the peasantry (the majority of the population in most states) left to fend for them-Selves, argues the author and I dare say correctly. 

“In fact, the social matrix is often the one protection that acts as the bedrock against increasing immiserisation in Africa’s peasant societies. Many have crumbled as structural transformations took place while the modern economies expanded.”

He then argued further that more at issue to my mind is the congenital history and current record of under achievement that all this implies. 
“If, say, 2-3% per year in GDP growth is lost (equal to the growth deficit vis-a-vis competitors), the cumulative effect is considerable.”

“Catch-up can be a very long game, even impossible. Crucial here are the opportunities for structural transformation that Africa has forgone but that its competitors have grasped Aid alone is unlikely to repair the damage.”
Other cogent and critical views emerge in the Shackled Continent by Robert Guest, as Africa editor at The Economist, Duncan Clarke says. 

“This text, with the ambitious subtitle Africa’s Past, Present and Future, ranges perceptively across parts of some sub-Saharan states, finding that leadership (“crooked and incompetent”) and predatory governments lie at the root of African poverty. This is largely valid. However need additional exposure to discern the deeper structures that have moulded Africa’s economic world. There is more complexity in Africa’s underdevelopment than flawed leadership allied to predation and political deficiencies”. (Crude Continent the Struggle for Africa’s Oil Prize by Duncan Clarke). There in lies the fundamentals of the state of insecurity in Nigeria and not in any way related to the IBB YEARS as alluded to by Osita Okechukwu.  

The critical questions waiting for clear cut responses from the relevant supervisory institutions especially in the law enforcement and the legislative bodies are to task them to locate exactly where all the missing billions are with the aim of bringing all the public thieves before the court of Law so as to retrieve every kobo stolen, diverted or misappropriated by government functionaries.

We will in a short while remind Nigerians about some of these missing billions. But first, can we state that it is disingenuous for any official of government to seek to divert our focus away from the critical issues of a total lack of transparency, accountability and probity in the deployment of public fund by some of Federal Government Institutions.

Also, we state emphatically that the fundamental cause of insecurity is the corruption and economic crimes that are going on in the different government offices and should definitely not be linked to the economic policy of structural adjustment programme that took place over 30 years back as Osita Okechukwu disingenuously wants gullible Nigerians to be believe.
Nigerians should ask the following questions.

Where are the missing billions in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation with specific reference to the report release by a foreign non-governmental organization around August 2015 of a damaging report which reportedly led to reorganisation within the NNPC?
President Muhammadu Buhari had replaced the head of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation on the day an NGO released a detailed investigation into poor management, inefficiency and corruption at the state oil company.

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent a Freedom of Information request to the Minister of Water Resources Engr. Suleiman Adamu, urging him to “clarify the action that his Ministry has taken to address and find the alleged billions missing from the Ministry and its agencies.”
SERAP also sought to know “if there is relevant admissible evidence of corruption and mismanagement, to refer the allegations to appropriate anti-corruption agencies for investigation and prosecution.”
The organisation urged the Minister to “ensure the full recovery of any missing public funds, revealed in the 2017 annual audited report by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.”
 
In the FoI request dated 27 February 2021 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said:
“Allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the Ministry and its agencies can cause serious harm to the socially and economically vulnerable.
Satisfactorily addressing these allegations and recovering any missing public funds is a critical matter of public health, human rights, transparency and accountability. Now here is the reason for the insecurity.  
Closely related is the manner of enforcement of the law on the subject; enforcement must be within the ambit of general sense of legality. This implies that government should be conducted within the framework of recognized rules and principles which restrict discretionary power as opposed to the uncertain and crooked cord of discretion as held by the Court in the cases of Miscellaneous Offences Tribunals v. Okoroafor (2001) 10 NWLR (Pt. 745) P. 310 and All Nigerian Peoples Party v. Benue State Independent Electoral Commission (2006) 11 NWLR (Pt. 992) p. 597. 
 
In the English case of Arthur Yates & Co. Pty. Ltd. v. Vegetable Seeds Committee9, Herring C.J held thus in this regard:“It is not the English view of the law that whatever is officially done is law … On the contrary, the principle of English law is that what is done officially must be done in accordance with the law.”

Nations which have achieved stability and national security are those which have elevated law above political, religious, ethnic sentiments. The present federal government advocates national security on the basis of sacrifice of not only individual rights but also the rule of law. It is important to note that by section 1 (3) of the Terrorism Prevention Act (as amended) strikes and demonstrations are excluded from the definition of terrorist acts, provided they are not intended to result in any harm referred to in subsection (2) (b) (i) (ii) or (iv) such as seriously intimidating a population, influencing a government or international organization by coercion or intimidation. The demands of citizens, whether individually or collectively, which accord with law is not terrorism and cannot be proscribed. Section 14(1) and (2) of the Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) provides that Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice with security and welfare of the people as the primary purpose of government. In the same vein Section 17(1) and (2) provides that the State shall be founded on ideals of freedom, equality and justice and that government action shall be humane and the independence and integrity of the courts shall be secured and maintained.
 
Also, on the question of probity,  there is a probe by the Nigerian Senate into whether state oil firm NNPC improperly withdrew money has expanded with the amount under investigation doubling to over $2.2 billion, a committee said on Wednesday.
 
The Senate recently  voted to probe withdrawals of $1.05 billion by Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), from NLNG, a venture owned by the state oil firm and foreign energy companies, without approval.
 
The committee led by Senator Bassey Akpan, chairman of Senate committee on gas, said on Wednesday it had found more withdrawals in excess of what it set out to investigate.
 
Akpan asked NNPC and central bank officials to provide documents to back up the withdrawals, carried out at various periods between 2016 to 2018.
 
NNPC officials said documents were being assembled ahead of next hearing due on Nov 22 and declined to comment further.
 
Nigeria’s Premium Times newspaper reported that NNPC had used the portion of NLNG earnings that should have been passed to local and federal state authorities to fund the state oil firm’s fuel purchases and subsidies during a shortage in late 2017 and early 2018.
 
The shortages left people queuing for hours at filling stations and saw NNPC spend at least $5.8 billion on fuel imports.
 
NLNG, which produces liquefied natural gas (LNG) for export, is a joint venture company owned by NNPC and foreign energy firms Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Total SA and ENI. These are what should worry Nigerians and not to allow themselves to be hoodwinked into transferring the cause of the current misgovernance and corruption to a government that ended over three decades ago. 

 
EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and blogs@www. theingerianinsidernews.com, www.huriwanigeria.com.

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