As The Nigerian Oil Sector Rots In Induced Quagmire

by Peter Claver Oparah

Sometime ago, at the wake of the flurry of committees and panels set to review operations of the Nigerian oil industry, I wrote an article on “Why Nothing Will Come Out Of The Oil Subsidy Probe.” This itself was borne out of the spates of quirky reactions Nigerian officialdom showed with the huge public expression of outrage at the increment in petroleum prices on New Year’s Eve. Months later, and after a rash of panels and committees (some of which have ran into intractable logjam), I and of course the millions of Nigerians pessimistic about the induced crisis visited in the operations of the shambolic Nigerian oil industry, have great cause to feel vindicated. Get me right, to feel vindicated is not to gloat over the fact that the oil industry in Nigeria has been ran into a cesspool where it funds the huge corruption industry that pervades Nigerian officialdom. We are not happy that irreformable locusts and vermin have found the nation’s oil industry a feasting puddle to rob and plunder the economy. We are not happy that vandals have invaded the oil industry, ran it aground and employ it as a tool on unending torture to hapless and helpless Nigerians as we are seeing today. The feeling of vindication merely stems from the fact that some who delight in casting surreal hope in situations that point to utter hopelessness have had their noses bloodied and must have learnt a lesson or two on how not to trust a government that lacks honour.

As at the time I wrote, the House of representatives had released the report of its probe panel on the scandalous fuel subsidy scam that oozed so much thick stench as to infest the Nigerian polity in such asphyxiating tenor that Nigeria as a polity nearly chocked from the foul odour. This itself was necessitated by the kind of public opprobrium that greeted the inhuman revving up of the price of petrol as a means of financing this huge scandal. Later, the Jonathan government was to launch into a frenzy of empanelling several committees to look at the same issue when it was obvious that it was hugely implicated in the House of Representative probe and Nigerians were baying for the blood of the dramatis personae in that scandal. The Aig Imokhuede Committee was one, the Ribadu Committee was another such committees and the Kalu Idika Committee was yet another. My feeling is that given our experience as a nation in the macabre rape the oil industry finances especially since the PDP blitzkrieg started in 1999, all these efforts would end up in smokes; as a huge joke that serves enfoolment values on the citizenry while the rape continues without let. With our experience thus far, I feel even humbled by how my reading had been proved right far above my own expectations.

Come to think of it, as at the time I wrote, the House of Representatives Committee headed by Farouk Lawan established the payment of a hefty N3 trillion as phantom subsidy to sundry crooks and felons; all of whom enjoyed unimpeded favour with and access to the presidency. It established that no verifiable services attended the dubious payments and these happened in a triangle of vice involving the Finance Ministry, the Petroleum Ministry and the so called oil cabals, which is the synonym for friends and closet financiers of the PDP and the Jonathan presidency. Rather than go for the jugular of these economic pests, the federal government went on an expensive binge to run down the report. This culminated in the setting up of an indecorous Farouk Lawan as a final plot to discredit the report. From all seeming indication, the government has succeeded for the subsequent Aig Imokhuede Committee had a seemingly cadent mandate of watering down the house committee report to reduce it to the wishes of the Jonathan presidency and this it did. Even at that, the culprits in the scam are being treated to a Tom and Jerry show in the name of prosecution. It is a complete parody where they are made to go through a predictable, programmed judicial sesame and left to disappear into a conspiratorial oblivion to enjoy their loot. What is even so shocking is that some high operatives of the Jonathan government put in presence at the courts to bail some of these felons.

Perhaps the most poignant indicator of the horrible sham the stage managed probe of the oil industry was meant to be is that as at date and nearly a year after the public acknowledgment of this scam, no person, not even a clerk has resigned or been booted out of his position. In any sane society, a scandal that runs into as much as N100 billion will torpedo and crash a regime. But here, we are talking of a N3trillion heist and no one is moving an inch. The government is staying put and scavenging for enemies apart from its operatives and its friends it chooses to call the cabals. None of the ministers under whom this earth shaking scandal took place is moving an inch. At most, they leverage huge sums of tax payers money to buy expensive media spaces to lampoon their invisible enemies who want them out for anything but their willful indiscretions in office. None of the aficionados and fixers in the nation’s rotten and smelly oil industry is moving at inch. Collectively, they would rather create insidious situations to pass the costs for these willful acts of economic predation. They now excel in creating doomsday scenarios of the nation’s oil industry so as to force down higher prices of fuel on Nigerians. No one is bearing the rap for the complete defenestration of the oil industry and its reduction to a colony of vampires where mind-blowing acts of corruption are carried out by government officials and their subalterns.

As I write, the Ribadu Committee has been forced to wangle through an untidy, vicariously mangled process of submitting its report. As is in sync with the regime that empanelled it, there were severe efforts to frustrate the report, which led to an open show of shame between the committee members, sharply divided along two camps; those that have independent minds and those planted by government to colour the eventual report to its flavor. Suffice it to say that with this very distasteful show, the Ribadu report was dead on arrival as the government, now versed in the inglorious art of employing awkward and outlandish means to bolt the stable door after the horse has escaped, has mounted open campaign of calumny against the Ribadu report. Like with the other committees that never presented reports that were sweet to the ears of the Jonathan’s government, there have been extensive efforts to rubbish the Ribadu report and in line with this, the government has set up a committee headed by one of its operatives who is alleged to have interests in a company fingered in the oil subsidy scam, to ‘review’ the Ribadu committee report in a measure seen by critical Nigerians as working out a report that aligns with the desire and whims of the Jonathan government.

All these have further proved my doubts about the existence of a sincere effort to unlock the gridlock of rot that enchains the Nigerian oil industry. The government has no interest in freeing the Nigerian oil sector from the moths and rodents that feast on it at present because such state of decay provides the lifeblood for the thriving of illicit government conducts and its many horrendous acts of corruption. Come to think of it, it was the Jonathan government and its operatives that paid out trillions of Naira to phantom companies owned by its cronies, fronts and hirelings for no verified services done. It is the same government that has reduced the so-called prosecution of those that have been identified as the fuel subsidy criminals into a huge parody, a sick and mirthless joke. Operatives of the Jonathan regime still bail out some scammers in this gargantuan deal from prison custody. Some officials of the Jonathan government have been fingered as having commanding interests in these identified scam companies. When you go further, you pick out the high presence of government functionaries, their hidden

and open hands, their friends, their fronts in the monumental oil stealing business that forms another arm of the egregious assault that is being visited on the Nigerian oil industry.

All said, the Nigerian oil industry has become a hatchery for fat maggots who feast uncensored on the people’s woes. The nation is passing through an induced fuel scarcity miasma that is the longest in its history. Unlike in previous scarcity cases, the government hides its head in the sand like a mischievous octopus and pretends it is not aware of this sad fact. It stokes the fire from behind so as to break the wills of Nigerians’ resistance o its opaque deregulation policy that finds expression only in fixing high prices of fuel. In the conspiratorial maze Nigerians have found themselves, government has not even raised the least concern about the plight of Nigerians who are forced to buy petrol for as much as N250 per liter in some parts of Nigeria. of course, the source of fuel supply are the remote, private fuel stations and the ubiquitous road side black marketers who mart fuel in jerry cans as the government’s official NNPC fuel stations and the major marketers have closed shop in line with government’s direct connivance in the present fuel scarcity. No one is in doubt that the aim of this present persecution of ordinary Nigerians in a nation where life hovers on the very nadir of poverty, is to force Nigerians to accept this government’s hemlock of fixing higher prices of fuel. This is the sad trajectory of an oil rich nation whose leaders have turned the people’s natural endowment to fonts of despoliation and scorpions to chastise the citizenry to submission.

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