Obasanjo and our oil boom

Obasanjo and our new oil boom wars Print E-mail
Thursday, 08 June 2006

President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote the House of Representatives on the last- minute measures he took to save the national headcount held last March from failing. The way a brave general would take bold measures to save his nation from imminent collapse!



Apparently explaining why he withdrew N2.1 billion oil funds, Obasanjo told the lower house that after due consultations with state governors,(we failed to notice that) local council chiefs and other stakeholders, he withdrew N2.1 billion ($17.2 million) to fund the extension of the exercise by two days.

He said the money was used for fuelling, logistics and payment of allowances to the National Population Commission (NPC) ad-hoc workers.

Obasanjo said that he was compelled by urgent need during the exercise to withdraw the said money from the excess crude account so as to make the scheme a success.

In the letter dated June 5, 2006 titled: “2006 Population Census: Supplementary Expenditure from Excess Crude Account,” Obasanjo explained that during the census, delays were experienced resulting from problems associated with logistics, which led to many areas not being enumerated. The President further said that many state governors called to complain that their states were affected by the problem and after due consultations he granted an extension for two days.

He said that the extension resulted in additional cost of N2.1 billion, with the sum of N2.07 billion used to pay the allowances of functionaries while the remaining amount was spent on fuelling and other logistics.

The president said that his consultations with stakeholders led to the conclusion that only a two-day extension would salvage the situation. To cope with that, he said, extra funds were needed.

Since no budgetary provision had been made by the government for this supplementary cost, and given the urgency of the situation, Obasanjo said he convened an emergency meeting of stakeholders, including Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission to discuss the funding options.

The National Assembly should look at the issue critically from the point of the constitution and the propriety of the action of the President. The letter raised the issue of irregularity because request for funds outside the Appropriation Act must be brought to the legislature for approval and not after the money had been withdrawn.

Recall that during the Third Term crisis, Critics have alleged that large scale withdrawals were made from Nigeria external Reserves and the petroleum fund to prosecute the third term agenda. Government functionaries, including the “respected” minister of finance, Ngozi Iwealla, and the “award winning” governor of the Central bank, Mr. Soludo, made strenuous efforts to discountenance the claim.

The Punch editorial of June 8, 2006 reported that under President Obasanjo’s watch, ministries, agencies and government parastatals are ignoring constitutional requirements to submit annual audit reports of their financial activities.
This administration’s generally poor record of accountability in public finance is legendary.

Permit me to lift some portions of The Punch Editorial, verbatim ad literatim.

Apparently riled by Nigeria’s global rating as one of the most corrupt, President Obasanjo had, in 2000, directed an audit (which should be routinely annual) of all federal agencies. The report read in 2002 by Vincent Azie, the acting Auditor General, indicted for graft the Presidency, National Assembly, ministries, agencies and other government parastatals. Rather than direct the appropriate authorities to apprehend the culprits for punishment and plug the leakages, the Presidency faulted the audit report, called Azie names and subsequently retired him. Since 2001, nothing has been heard of the second part of Azie’s report and no culprit is known to have been indicted or tried.

Indeed, that was the signal the bureaucrats needed to continue their business of fleecing the nation through payroll fraud, inflated contracts and payment for unexecuted jobs. Reported cases of fraud have been mind-boggling. One official vehicle was fueled thrice in one day at a cost of N150, 000; a minister’s car was serviced for N1 million and the grass of an airport was mowed for N120 million.

Again, recently, President Obasanjo halted midway the public reading of the first independent audit report on the oil and gas industry in 50 years. Rather than blame the FIRS, DPR, CBN and the NNPC for sloppy accounting system that gave room for colossal thefts, President Obasanjo directed his anger at the auditors for not apprehending the thieves — a job most appropriate for law enforcement agents. As was the case with the Azie report that may be the end of the NEITI audit and other probe reports, while the poor bookkeeping and oil revenue thefts continue as usual”.

Furthermore, the EFCC at the behest of the FEC investigated the Nigerian Ports Authority and published a report, indicting the PDP vice-chairman west, Bode Olajumoke for financial improprieties during his tenure as NPA chairman; the president again dismissed the report, and ordered the EFCC to start the investigation afresh. The EFCC chairman sounded so comical, as he strenuously tried to defend that Federal Executive Council action in a recent interview.

Gaping loopholes for monumental corruption and waste are the fallout of unedited public sector finance of two to three trillion naira that drives the economy and is disbursed through government agencies every year. But the failure to keep proper financial records or audit the books is a clear contravention of the nation’s laws.

Section 85 (5) of the 1999 Constitution says “The Auditor-General shall, within ninety days of the receipt of the Accountant-General’s financial statement, submit his (annual) reports under this section to each House of the National Assembly.” Why has the National Assembly been timid to perform its responsibilities by demanding for the audit reports as part of its oversight functions?

why are the Accountant-General, the Auditor-General and the National Assembly failing to perform their constitutional functions of watching over the nation’s financial health? Has the entire ruling class conspired to look the other way when public treasury is being pillaged, in so far as a few persons’ nests are being feathered?

VICE President Atiku Abubakar this week took a swipe at the on-going anti-corruption war of President Olusegun Obasanjo, describing it as full of double standard and selective prosecution.

The vice president at a meeting with his political associates said “We intend to continue the war against corruption without the double standard or selective prosecution. We shall run a small government and devolve power and resources from the centre to the other tiers of government. We pledge to run a true federalism as well as imbibe the ethos of fiscal federalism”.

Is this a conspiracy of the ruling class? We still await the full details of the FBI investigation into his bribery saga.

It pathetic  to note the so much noice some people make about Obasanjo’s supposed achievements in office. The Third Term saga makes it appear as if that was Obasanjo’s’ only failing in office. It’s made to appear that but for his inordinate ambition to perpetuate himself in office, Obasanjo’s legacy would have made his administration the best thing that would have happened to Nigeria. 

I still believe the Third Term saga is an unnecessary distraction. I and Segun adeniyi belongs to the camp of the cynics who don’t really believe that OBJ’s heart is really on third term. Did he really believe that he would hoodwink Nigerians and go for a third term? Or was it a diversion for the perpetration of something more sinister, the details of which are yet to manifest? Time shall tell.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I listened to Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iwealla say; “we need to demand and vote for a leader who is going to continue this reform and that will finally create jobs for people; a leader that will enable the middle class to get benefits and feel the impact of the reforms. We have to keep steadily on the path of these reforms. One by one we are touching every sector and if we keep doing it, we will see that at the end of the day the life of every Nigerian will improve.”   She admitted though that their “reform is not perfect, so I’m not here to say that everything has been wonderful and there are no problems,” she, however, stressed that “we have embarked on a path that has opened up possibilities that we are talking about today and for that President Obasanjo should be given full credit for what he has done because he has decided to lay a foundation on which we can build”

The fact remains that over the past seven years when Nigeria experienced uncommon economic boom as a result of our oil fortunes, Nigeria have never had it so good. Nigerians appeared not to be aware that the economic boom of that late 70’s and early 80’s is back. The era of Gowon’s, “money is not the problem but how to spend it” is back in full force! The million naira question is: How has this oil windfall benefited the ordinary Nigerian?

I believe that another Pius Okigbo panel is in the offing post-2007

The jury is still out on the hallowed Okonjo-Iwealla’s management of our oil boom as opposed to Buharis’ management of the Petroleum Trust Fund; Between Abacha’s management of our foreign exchange regime, taking into consideration the hiccups our economy were subjected to-including international sanctions and pariah status compared to the ‘wonder boy’ Charles  Soludo solution.

If Obasanjo had tried one bit to be the incorruptible president that he purports to be, he would have made a better president than he did over the past seven years when Nigeria experienced uncommon economic boom as a result of our oil fortunes. If he were more principled and transparent, he would not have hired discredited political mercenaries to work for him. We would not have seen the ugly political footwork that took place in Anambra, Plateau, Bayelsa and Oyo States. There would be no need to distribute 50 million naira to prosecute the Third term. There would be no Ghana must go syndrome. The “third term” misadventure would not have taken place. The reforms would have worn a human face and Nigerians would be seeing the real dividends of democracy. Nigeria’s global rating as one of the most corrupt would have been improved considerably. If Obasanjo were Nigeria’s’ Mr. Clean, there would be no attempt to corrupt the Legislative process by smuggling in a corrupted version of the 2002 Electoral Act.

However, juxtaposing Obasanjo’s avowed policy of zero tolerance to corruption along current happenings, there is no doubt that Obasanjo, the critic, between 1979-to mid 1999 (Remember his forceful key note address he delivered at a workshop, entitled, “The State of The Nation And The Way Forward”, organized by the Center For Historical Research and Documentation, ABU, Zaria, otherwise, Arewa House, between February 2-3, 1994. About a year before then he granted an interview to Tell magazine which it carried in its edition of April 26, 1993.) Is different from Obasanjo the president since mid 1999 to date. What the picture shows is a leader who believes less in what he says more like, an Imam/Pastor who preaches virtues today only to indulge in the opposite the following day. In other words, ‘do as I say, not as I do’.