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Nigerian Probes Uncover $12bn Oil Fraud

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Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 17.18.45In 2012, the Senate investigated the contentious Malabu Oil Field transaction. The Upper House re-opened investigation into an allegation of $1.1 billion round-tripping involving the federal government and two international oil companies – Shell and Eni (Agip) – over the sale of a contentious OPL 245 oil block.

BY EDEGBE ODEMWINGIE AND BODE GBADEBONov 10, 2015 

The National Assembly has conducted 18 legislative probes into sundry cases of crude theft, pipeline vandalisation, misappropriation, Joint Venture agreements, missing crude revenue in Nigeria’s corruption-tainted oil and gas sector from 1999-2014.

According to the outcomes of the selected major probes in the oil sector, about $15bn was lost to fraud while a whopping $6.8bn subsidy was unaccounted for. The period also witnessed the alleged missing N500bn SURE-P claims for oil subsidy for a period of time.

Also, about $16bn was unaccounted for in the power sector while about N2trillion was unremitted by the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).

This information is contained in a recently released study by the National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS). The study made public on October 20 contains a detailed report of 82 key probes and investigative public hearings undertaken by the National Assembly since inception.

In 2000, a 14-member House Ad-hoc Committee investigated the federal government’s crude exports and refined imports amongst other oil and gas industry issues for the period of May 1999-2000. The Ibrahim Ganyama-led House Ad-hoc Committee in its findings reported that Nigeria lost $80 million crude revenue from January-August 2000 as a result of NNPC’s failure to follow the statutory empowerment of lifting 300,000 barrels per day.

The Ad-hoc committee described NNPC’s operations, record keeping, and tendering processes as “shoddy” and “fraudulent”.

“Illegal sale of petroleum products becomes a booming business as Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF) continues to pay equalisation claims while NNPC continues with endless bridging, and DPR went to sleep in the exercise of monitoring,” the 2000 probe reported.

In 2007, a Senate Ad-hoc Committee investigated allegations of impropriety in the handling of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF). The Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba-led Committee in its report gave three controversial rulings: (a) that [former] President Olusegun Obasanjo acted outside the law but should be advised to follow due process in the future; (b) that [former] Vice President Atiku Abubakar diverted and mismanaged public funds and should be sanctioned; and (c) that certain other persons, Adamu Maina Waziri, Ahmed Vanderpuye, Hussein Jallo, Hamisu Abubakar and Otunba Johnson Fasawe, should refund money to the federal government and face prosecution.

In 2008, the House investigated former NNPC group managing director, Gaius Obaseki, over the mismanagement of funds of the Corporation. Obaseki was indicted for wasting over N2billion in less than four years on hotel accommodation.

Also in 2008, the House probed operations of the NNPC and its subsidiaries from 1999-2007. The probe uncovered “deliberate and unaccounted” increase in the daily quota of petroleum production against OPEC allocation. It also uncovered funds budgeted for Turn-Around Maintenance (TAM) of the country’s refineries were “misappropriated”.

Nigeria also lost $5.74 crude revenue as a result of NNPC’s shady deals with marketers and “manipulation of prices” of crude allocation to its refineries.

In 2011, the Senate probed oil subsidy expenditure. The Senator Magnus Abe-chaired joint committee found that the NNPC paid itself N847.94 billion even after it had been paid N844.94 billion by the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency in 2011, suggesting that the NNPC had been making double withdrawals for years from the public treasury.

In 2012, the Senate investigated the contentious Malabu Oil Field transaction. The Upper House re-opened investigation into an allegation of $1.1 billion round-tripping involving the federal government and two international oil companies – Shell and Eni (Agip) – over the sale of a contentious OPL 245 oil block. No report was submitted.

Also in 2012, a petroleum subsidy probe conducted by the Farouk Lawan-led House Adhoc committee was rocked by a bribery scandal. The probe, however, revealed that $6.8 billion oil revenue was unaccounted for.

The House in 2013 investigated the propriety of contracting the protection Nigeria’s waterways and pipelines to private firms reportedly owned by ex-militants.

In 2013, a Senate Committee that investigated a “missing” N500billion SURE-P fund reported that the NNPC could not account for the N32 removed as subsidy on each litre of petrol sold from January 2012 to September 2013.

Also in 2013, the House launched a forensic inquest into NNPC’s Joint Venture agreements with some multi-nationals. No report was submitted.

In 2014, the Senate probed allegations by former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi that NNPC failed to remit $49.8 billion. At the end of the probe, the committee’s report debunked the claim. It also accused Sanusi (now Emir of Kano) of jumping to conclusions and generating falsehood allegation against NNPC.

In the same year, former petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke was investigated over allegations of financial recklessness. The probe was inconclusive.

Meanwhile, apart from the numerous probes of the oil sector by the National Assembly, there were other investigative hearings into other areas of national life, some of which produced no tangible outcomes.

In 2009, the House instituted a probe into the about $16 billion allegedly spent on the power sector.

The exercise was perceived by many as one in futility at the beginning but it went ahead to expose the problems with the National Independent Power Projects (NIPPs).

Several contracts were found to have been awarded to people who did not know what to do in the first place, while millions of dollars were paid upfront for the projects. In many cases, the contractors didn’t even know the construction sites.

The Hon. Ndudi Elumelu-led House of Representatives Committee on Power and Steel brought to the notice of Nigerians the true position of the NIPPs but the committee’s report was later itself mired in confusion and another panel was set up to probe the report.

Another legislative intervention by the House in the 7th Assembly, perhaps not implemented, was the probe of the indiscriminate displacement of skilled Nigerians by foreign companies based in Nigeria.

The matter was handled by the Joint Committee on Interior, Labour and Employment and Productivity in 2009. But according to the NILS study report, the joint committee’s report was not available by 2014.

President Muhammadu Buhari had last week Friday directed Federal Ministries of Works and Lands, Housing and Urban Development to urgently prepare action plan for speedy revitalisation of the nation’s vocational training centres.

A statement by the president’s senior special assistant on media and publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, said Buhari gave the directive at a meeting with the Board of Directors of Julius Berger Nigeria Plc.

It said that the president was told that, because of shortage of competent construction workers and artisans in the country, construction companies were forced to bring in skilled expatriates.

The statement quoted the president as observing that the practice was very detrimental to his administration’s commitment to boost employment opportunities for young Nigerians.

“Buhari, therefore, pledged that his administration would move quickly to address the shortage of skilled construction workers in the country,” Shehu said.

Also, in 2012 the House probed the remittances by ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government through its Standing Committee on Finance, chaired by Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin.

The committee in its findings uncovered a N2 trillion fraud by the executive arm of government after an investigation into the revenue generation and remittance of 60 ministries, departments and agencies of government which showed that top heads of MDAs generate revenue from their agencies’ activities running into trillions of naira but under-declared such revenue while diverting the remaining to other use.

Another issue the House looked into in 2013 – and still generating controversy today – is the status of assets seized by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

A public investigative hearing was organised to unravel the status of all assets seized and recovered by the anti-graft agency since its inception. This was necessitated by complaints from the public on seized assets by the commission, which led to a committee being mandated to find out the status of the seized and recovered assets.

Consequently, it was revealed that between 2003 and 2014, the EFCC confiscated over 200 mansions and large sums of money through 46 forfeiture court orders.

“These landed property, monies, and business concerns which were estimated to be worth in excess of N2 trillion, included bank accounts, shares in blue-chip companies, exotic vehicles, fuel stations, holdings, warehouses and shopping malls among others,” the then Speaker Aminu Tambuwal had stressed.

Tambuwal had lamented the lack of prudent and careful management of these assets, making them go to waste.

The committee had noted “cases of vandalism, abandonment, and waste of hitherto operating companies prior to forfeiture, lack of clarity in their use while litigation is on, coupled with the reported breach of the seal of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and attempts at unlawful and forceful repossession by those whose properties which had been confiscated.”

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