Without mincing words, all the rage about the NNPC’s reported $1.5billion loan could best be described as mere noise- making and nothing more than that. The NNPC as it is today is a business entity that can borrow money anytime it wants and there is nothing anybody not even the National Assembly can do about it giving stipulations in the enabling Act that established the corporation.

Let’s even look at the entire loan issue: Reuters said on Monday 7 January, that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has concluded arrangements to obtain a $1.5 billion syndicated credit facility to help it pay debts for fuels already supplied by international oil traders. The deal struck at the end of last year was seen by the corporation as crucial to easing the burden on the foreign commodity traders, who were facing the prospect of painful multimillion dollar write-offs.

All those shouting now have been deaf and dumb all these while that the NNPC which used to account for less than 50 per cent of Nigeria’s total fuel imports, suddenly was importing virtually all domestic petrol requirements which they said stands at over 38 million litres daily for premium motor spirit (PMS).

And as part of the blackmail racket to continue this stupid one hundred percent dependence on imported fuel for our domestic need, the NNPC came up with the story that the inability of the Federal Government to pay fuel importers including the corporation over $8.1 billion in outstanding subsidy claims was straining their ability to continue the offshore bridging operation.

It would be recalled that President Goodluck Jonathan last month requested The National Assembly to approve a supplementary budget totaling N161.6 billion “to settle accumulated fuel subsidy arrears owed local oil marketers.” The President expressly stated that that the supplementary budget was needed following the forensic audit carried out which established that the provision for fuel subsidy in the 2012 budget was underestimated. Do you hear that? So whose fault was it? But you know what, the “frugal” National Assembly surprisingly did not raise a single eyebrow over the request- you know why- they were to be taken care of from the package. What a country! This supplementary budget approved by the National Assembly meant the country spent about N1, 041,881,608,594 on fuel subsidy payment and for sure the controversial outstanding bills are over seven times what we have already paid. Shame to our so called administrators!

If the federal government cannot check its financial rascality, is it the NNPC they want to check? By the way, the NNPC cannot even be separated from the ruling PDP because “na the same people.” Ofcourse the people in the NNPC know too well that nobody in government can dare accuse or prosecute them for any irregularity because those who should are all part of the conspiracy against the ordinary Nigerian people.

We must sincerely ask ourselves what kind of a state-owned oil company we really want. And until this is resolved with or without the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) the NNPC (intact or unbundled) would remain a lame-duck fraud- laden dysfunctional giant national oil company.

The managers of the corporation and of course the Presidency as reported took a smart course to accounting for the huge gap in the fuel import bills being fully aware that the law establishing the NNPC authorises it to borrow in the exercise of its functions. Sections 6 (1)(c) and 8 (1)(2) of the NNPC Act states:  “The corporation, in fulfillment of its duties can enter into contracts or partnerships with any company, firm or person, which in the opinion of the corporation will facilitate the discharge of the said duties under this Act.

“Subject to the other provisions of this section, the corporation may from time to time borrow by overdraft or otherwise howsoever such sums as it may require in the exercise of its functions under this Act and the corporation shall not, without the approval of the National Council of Ministers, borrow any sum of money whereby the amount in aggregate outstanding on any loan or loans at any time exceeds such amount as is for the time being specified by the National Council of Ministers.”

Truth be told, those perpetuating and benefitting from these heinous sleaze in the NNPC are the ones hell-bent on making sure they kill the spirit of intent of the PIB. It is only a legally-backed fiscal framework as proposed in the bedeviled PIB that can check the massive sleaze in the nation’s oil sector especially in the NNPC.

Politicians in the National Assembly with evil tutorials from their corrupt godfathers in the larger polity should actually hide their heads in shame that rather than insist on strengthening the oil and gas sector through the legal and fiscal frameworks outlined in the PIB they have turned the entire debate into sectional, ethnic and partisan political campaign propaganda.

As clearly said by leaders of both Nigerian Labour and Trade Union Congresses, politicians in the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) party don’t want things streamlined in the NNPC because that is where they make their money and fund all sorts of things including election campaigns. How long can we continue like this as a nation? Fraudulent businessmen in the nation’s oil arena and their associates in the ruling party with surrogates planted in government agencies like the NNPC and the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) don’t want Nigeria to get out of the fuel importation trap. But whether they like it or not, we must find a lasting solution to this advance fee fraud called offshore bridging.

(Ifeanyi Izeze, Abuja: iizeze@yahoo.com; 234-8033043009)

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

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