- Category: GENERAL
- Published on Monday, 30 July 2012 23:26
- Written by Elombah.com
The sons of the past and current PDP chairmen have been indicted for being alleged beneficiaries of the much-talked-about fuel subsidy fraud. Mahmud Tukur, managing director of Eterna Oil and Gas was on Thursday arraigned at the Lagos High Court in Ikeja by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission along with Mamman
Nasir Ali, and three others for conspiracy, obtaining money under false pretense, forgery and the use of false documents.
Mahmud is the son of Bamanga Tukur, the current Peoples Democratic Party,PDP national chairman; while Mamman Nasir, is the son of the former national chairman of the party, Ahmadu Ali.
Since the reported arraignment of the former, the trial seemed to have not only shifted from the courts to the media, but also shifted from the sons to their father.
PDP Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur
Mahmud Tukur and his Eternal Oil And Gas Plc were docked for fraudulently obtaining the sum of N2billion from the Petroleum support Fund for a purported importation of 80.3million litres of Premium Motor Spirit.
Mamman Nasir Alli and his company, Nasaman Oil Services are also to face charges bordering on obtaining N4.5billion from the Federal Government of Nigeria under false pretence. The sum is alleged to have been fraudulently obtained as subsidy payments from the Petroleum Support Fund for the purported importation of 30.5million litres of Premium Motor Spirit from SEATAC Petroleum Limited of British Virgin Islands.
Analysts say this is how members of the Government and the party in power shares the spoils, allowing the relatives of senior leaders to cash in on one of the biggest economic sector in the country: as rogue operators who abuses their power, even as their family members accumulate a substantial fortune.
But evidence is mounting that the relatives of other current and former senior officials have also amassed vast wealth, often playing central roles in businesses closely entwined with the state, including those involved in finance, energy, domestic security, telecommunications and entertainment. Many of these so-called princelings also serve as middlemen to a host of global companies and wealthy tycoons eager to do business in Nigeria.
“Whenever there is something profitable that emerges in the economy, they’ll be at the front of the queue, said Daniel Elombah, a lawyer and blogger”. “They’ve gotten into private investments, state-owned enterprises, mineral oil — you name it.”
The case of the former National Chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Ahmadu Ali,is worse. While he was Board Chairman of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), it has been alleged, no member of the board knew the criteria used to determine firms licensed to import petroleum products.
A Guardian reports quotes a former board member, who served under Ali’s chairmanship, as saying that the criteria set to determine those who should import fuel into the country was shrouded in secrecy.
He said: “As a Board member, I did not know what criteria were used to determine the suitability or otherwise of those that moored fuel into the country. “Each time we raised the issue, Ali would dismiss us with a wave of the hand, saying we did not know how the country operates.
“Apart from that, each time we brought the issue up with the management, they informed us that we could not understand the technicalities that were involved in determining the criteria. They eventually decided to send members of the board abroad for training on the technicalities. By that time, I had left the board ”
Of course, Alli has reason to keep the criteria secret, while he manipulates it to the favour of his son. This shameless rascal made his wife Senator, when he was the PDP chairman!
A company owned by Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, daughter of former President Olusegun Obasanjo has also been reported to be among the beneficiaries of the Federal Government’s recent secret allocations of prize oil blocs.
Findings reveal that All Grace Energy, in which Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello has majority stake, got the oil block -Ubima Creek field OML 17 - in a discretional process without competitive bidding.
The secret allocations are against known international best practices. While the federal government had been telling Nigerians that the process of awarding oil licences will be executed publicly through competitive bidding, it was discovered that the secret allocations were secretly done over the past one year.
Records at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) revealed that Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello is the major shareholder of All Grace Energy, which was registered on July 12, 2006 with N30 million share capital. Mrs Obasanjo-Bello has six million shares
This development flies in the face of the Goodluck Jonathan-led administration's consistent pledges to conduct fresh oil bid round. It is on record that the last public oil block bid was conducted during the regime of President Olusegun Obasanjo.
A source at DPR revealed that the process of awarding the oil blocks to Iyabo actually started during Obasanjo’s administration but “a disagreement between Shell and DPR over the area to farm-out couldn’t be reached until recently when the Malabu oil block deal was sealed between the Federal Government and the multinationals.”
Evidently, the government resorts to secret allocation of choice oil blocks to companies belonging to cronies, family members and associates.
Much of the income earned by families of these senior leaders may be entirely legal. But it is all but impossible to distinguish between legitimate and ill-gotten gains because there is no public disclosure of the wealth of officials and their relatives. Conflict-of-interest laws are weak or nonexistent. And the business dealings of the political elite are heavily censored. Nigeria officials and their relatives rarely discuss such a delicate issue publicly.
The spoils system, for all the efforts to keep a lid on it, poses a fundamental challenge to the legitimacy of the Peoples Democratic Party. As the state’s business has become increasingly intertwined with a class of families, the so-called Nobility, analysts say the potential exists for a backlash against increasingly entrenched elite. They also point to the risk that national policies may be subverted by leaders and former leaders, like Babangida, Obasanjo, Danjuma among others, many of whom exert influence long after their retirement, acting to protect their own interests.
Foreign investors are aware that the easiest way to choice business deals is to partner with siblings of those in power. “There are so many ways to partner with the families of those in power,” said one finance executive who has worked with the relatives of senior leaders. “Just make them part of your deal.”
Worries about the appearance of impropriety and growing public disgust with official corruption, should spur the Nigeria government to re-enact its ethical codes and tighten financial disclosure rules.
Government should require all officials to report the jobs, whereabouts and investments of their spouses and children, as well as their own incomes. The disclosure reports should not remain secret like our president’s declaration of his assets which has so far been entombed in the vaults of the Code of Conduct Bureau; proposals to make Jonathan’s asset public have been shelved repeatedly by the federal government-controlled Bureau.
President Jonathan has vowed to prosecute these subsidy thieves, but the PDP is unlikely to move more aggressively against these oil subsidy thieves because families of high-ranking past and current officials are now deeply embedded in the economic fabric of the nation. Over the past two decades, business and politics have become so tightly intertwined that the PDP has effectively institutionalized an entire ecosystem of crony capitalism. “They don’t want to bring this into the open,” said Daniel Elombah. “It would be a tsunami.”
The new Petroleum Industry Bill is not expected to accomplish much. Critics charge that powerful vested interests are now strong enough to block reforms that could benefit the larger populace. Changes in oil and gas industry, for instance, could affect the interests of the families of Ibrahim Babangida, Bola Tinubu, and virtually all the Nigeria major power brokers.
“This is one of the most difficult challenges Nigeria faces,” Daniel said. “Whenever they want to implement reform, their children might say, ‘Dad, what about my business?’ ”
There are also growing concerns that a culture of nepotism and privilege nurtured at the top of the system has flowed downward, permeating bureaucracies at every level of government in Nigeria. “After a while you realize, wow, there are actually a lot of princelings out there, you’ve got the children of current officials, the children of previous officials, the children of party officials, Senators, Reps, military officers, police officials. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of people out there — all trying to use their connections to make money.”
To shore up confidence in the government’s ability to tackle the problem, the Federal Government digs deeper into the fuel subsidy scam, promising that more suspects will be prosecuted.
Reuben Abati told newsmen yesterday that the president was very serious about the prosecution of the subsidy scam suspects and that he promised to expose or prosecute more fraudsters.
When asked about the feelings of the president on the arraignment of the son of Tukur and that of Ali, the presidential spokesman said, “What their arraignment means is that the president is not ready to spare anybody as he has been promising Nigerians.”
He explained that, “More people other than those who are currently being prosecuted will be arraigned. “Since these cases are already getting to the court, we can no longer be talking extensively on them.” He further said, “The arraignment is just confirming what the President has been saying that there will be no sacred cow in the anti-corruption war. The president is committed to fighting corruption and he will definitely walk his talk.”
But Nigerians are not convinced.
Allegations of bribery and corruption against the nation’s top leaders typically follow this same pattern of exposure, noise-making and then forgotten.
Evidence has surfaced in the past of at least $16 billion squandered by Former president Obasanjo and his cronies on the Independent Power project. After all hell was raised on the floor of the National Assembly, it died a natural death
And with no independent EFCC in Nigeria, government and PDP leaders would essentially be charged with investigating themselves. President Jonathan has promised to be tough on corruption and the subsidy fraudsters, but if they want to clean house, it may be fatal to his administration.
Nigeria tycoons have also been quietly welcomed into the families of senior leaders, often through secret partnerships in which the sons, daughters, spouses and close relatives act as middlemen or co-investors in real estate projects or other deals that need government approval or backing, according to investors who have been involved in such transactions.
Moreover, Nigeria’s leading political families, often through intermediaries; hold secret shares in dozens of companies, oil corporations, telecom, the media and banks. Lately, the progeny of the political elite have retooled the spoils system for a new era, moving into high-finance ventures, oil and gas, even multi-nationals where the potential returns dwarf the benefits from serving as a middleman to government contracts or holding an executive post.
They are everywhere, as long as the industry is profitable. The culprits include:
Wale Tinubu: nephew of former Governor Bola Tinubu, and Oando CEO, Wale Tinubu appeared in the second issue of Forbes Africa magazine where he was referred to as the “The King of African Oil,” it only brought to fore the grip the Lagosian has in the African oil market.
A very quiet person, almost without social life, Wale started his growth in the oil business at Ocean and Oil Services before entrenching himself as a don in the oil and gas industry. The company he runs, Oando Plc, is a major oil products distribution company.
Sayyu Dantata: a chip off the old block of the Dantata family, Sayyu Dantata has come to establish himself as a major player in the Oil and Gas sector. His passport to the nation’s sweet crude is the MRS which recently acquired major shares in multi national company Texaco/Chevron.
Femi Otedola: son of former Lagos State governor, Sir. Michael Otedola. Femi Otedola is the billionaire owner of multi-billion naira indigenous oil giant Zenon. Zenon, which is directly run by Otedola is the dominant force in diesel business among oil marketing concerns. It supplies this all important fuel used to power the generating sets of most Nigerian industries to nearly all the major manufacturing firms in the country.
He is also the CEO of African Petroleum Plc, and at one time appeared as one of only two Nigerians (alongside Aliko Dangote) to appear on the 2009 Forbes list of 793 dollar-denominated billionaires in the world, with an estimated net worth of over US$1.2 billion. How his name has disappeared on the list of Forbes Africa’s richest 40 may be a pointer to the gist making the rounds that the billionaire has been embroiled in a series of debt mess, causing a downturn in his business fortunes.
Finally, now that Mahmud Tukur has been fingered in the oil subsidy scam, his father's continued stay in office as the PDP chairman is not tenable. The senior Tukur has tried to distance himself from his son's crimes, but as the PDP chairman, "Alhaji Tukur has a say in who becomes the chair of the boards of the key agencies in the oil sector that are linked to fuel subsidy (e.g. NNPC, PPPRA and PEF), his continued stay in office is inimical to efforts to clean up the tainted sector”.
In the words of the opposition ACN, “is it a coincidence that the ‘stars’ in the court trial of the subsidy fraud include the sons of the past and present chairmen of the PDP? Will it be wrong to say the sons of Dr. Ahmadu Ali and Alhaji Bamanga Tukur ‘benefitted’ from the subsidy largesse because of their father’s positions in the ruling party?
“Is it a coincidence that many of those named as suspects are big donors to the ruling party? The truth is that the PDP and its bigwigs are right at the centre of this scam, and it is too late for the party and the bigwigs to now seek to distance themselves from it” .