President Jonathan has said that corruption in Nigeria is exaggerated. In the eternal words of William Shakespeare, if it were so, it was a grievous fault on the part of those Americans who pointed it out. And grievously have those Americans answered it.
For the purpose of simplifying this argument, let us forget everything that happened when Goodluck Jonathan was Deputy Governor under Governor Diepreiye Alamiesegha or when he was the governor of Bayelsa State following the impeachment of Alamiesegha for corruption - including the arrest of Mrs. Patience Jonathan for money laundering (redacted and deleted from the memory of Nuhu Ribadu and the EFCC). Let us forget all that happened when he was Vice President under President Musa Yar’Adua or Acting President following his death. Let us start from the time he won elections as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on April 16, 2011.
Two weeks later, on April 29, 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan secretly approved the transfer of $1.1 billion to the London account of Malabu Oil and Gas owned by former Minister of Petroleum and a convicted money launderer, Dan Etete and Sani Abacha’s son, Mohammed. The money came from funds paid to the Federal Government by two multinational companies; Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited and Shell Nigeria as part of the settlement of the Malabu oil block case between the Federal Government, Malabu and the two multinational oil companies. As soon as the money got into the account of Malabu Oil in London it was wired to secret accounts of cronies and some political associates of President Jonathan. One of the beneficiaries was Abubakar Aliyu. He received over $500 million of that money through several companies he owned. Nobody could fathom what his companies did to warrant such payments. All that we know is that the man is a close associate of Diepreiye Alamiesegha and that he was the same man who (with President Yar’Adua’s help) bought 80,000 square feet of NITEL’s land in Abuja for N1 billion and turned around (with President Jonathan’s help) to sell the same piece of land for N20 billion to the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Other than travel round the world, the next big thing President Jonathan did was increasing the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise called petrol, from N65.00 to N141.00 on January 1st 2012. This action prompted spontaneous protests across Nigeria and abroad. Even though President Jonathan and his team threw around conflicting figures- which showed they had no understanding of what was really going on in the oil industry- they kept arguing that the pain would be temporary and that after the pain the benefits would overwhelm Nigerians. They promised urban buses, monthly publication of the amount of money saved, maintenance of the Port Harcourt refinery, construction of eight major roads, two bridges etc. The subsidy they said had gulped down N1.43 trillion by the end of 2011. With subsidies removed the government said it would realize N1.134 trillion. The protests forced the government to adjust the PMS price to N97. That would have brought half of the projected N1.34 trillion; that is N600 billion into the coffers of the government. However, a year later, none of the promises had been fulfilled. Nobody can say, with any authority, where the N600 billion made in 2012 in subsidy removal was.
In the course of the tussle over the subsidy removal, the Ministry of Finance was forced to set up an inquiry into the government’s subsidy payments to oil marketers and importers. The committee led by Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, looked at the subsidy claims of 2011 and discovered that the Federal Government had overpaid importers and marketers of petrol by a whopping N430 billion naira. Yet, before December 2012, the Federal Government had exhausted N888 billion of the 2012 budget meant for payment of subsidies. An additional N161 billion in supplementary funding had to be approved for subsidy payments else marketers and importers were going to carry out their threat to cease importation of petrol into Nigeria, thereby grounding the country.
(Please pause and think of this: In 2012, N600 billion was realized from partial subsidy removal. N430 billion in over payment to marketers and importers was discovered from the 2011 receipts. Also N888 billion was budgeted for subsidy payments in 2012. Yet, by December 2012 an additional N161 billion in supplementary funding was added. So despite the identified overpayment of N430 billion, Nigeria spent N1.14 trillion in subsidy in 2012. And if you add the unaccounted N600 billion saved, that gives us an amount of N1.6 trillion wasted.)
As part of the gains of the protests, a presidential panel was set up to look into what was really happening at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). The Ribadu-led panel came out with a report that suggested that Nigeria had lost about N4.64 trillion in the last 10 years from deals Nigerian government officials signed with foreign oil multinationals. (A good example is the recent deal involving Petroleum Minister Mrs. Diezeani Alison Madueke and Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) Limited over foou large oil blocks (OMLs 26, 30, 34 and 42). The Madueke deal is said to shortchange Nigeria to the tune of billions and billions in loss associate with billions of cubic feet of gas. Five aggrieved oil-producing communities in Delta State are engaged in a fight with the minister and her friends at the multinational companies). The Ribadu report also revealed that the NNPC had failed to report N86.6 billion to the government in 10 years by simple manipulation of exchange rates by officials of the corporation. The report further showed that about 150,000 barrels of crude oil are stolen each day in Nigeria. So Nigeria loses about $13.5 million per day (at $100 per barrel). In a year, that stands at $5 billion (N750 billion)
In January this year, a presidential committee on public service reform discovered that top government officials in Nigeria take home N1.126 trillion a year in salaries and allowances – out of a national budget of N4.9 trillion. These public officers constitute just 0.013 per cent of Nigeria’s population. It is common knowledge that Nigeria’s 108 senators each make over $1.7m dollars a year when US President Barak Obama only makes $400,000 a year. That alone is $183.4 million (N28 billion). Then the 360 members of the House of Representatives each takes home over $1.2 billion dollars, which amounts to $432 million dollars (N65bn). Again, each state governor collects an average of N200 million naira a month just as security vote. In a year, they each get N2.4 billion naira. So our 36 governors take home N87 billion naira on security votes alone every year. Add our 38 ministers and ministers of state, 100 plus heads of federal and state agencies, over 432 state commissioners, 774 local government area chairmen or caretakers, almost 10,000 councilors and you will understand where the N1.126 trillion goes.
While all these were going on, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole was arrested and charged for embezzling a N10 billion naira loan borrowed on behalf of the House. He has since been released- awaiting trial, like many governors of the past 13 years. Also an assistant director in the Federal Civil Service, John Yusuf together with his friends stole N27.2 billion from the Police Pension Fund. He was tried and sentenced to 2 years in jail with an option of a N750, 000. At the same time, a Pension Reform Task Force set up by the government to recover looted funds found billions in some banks. Its chairman Alhaji Abdulrasheed Maina transferred the recovered funds to his private account. When asked to appear before the senate, he absconded to Malaysia.
Around the same time, the former Minister of Education, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili accused Presidents Yar’Adua and Jonathan of squandering in 4 years the $67 billion in External Reserves left by Obasanjo’s government in 2007. She offered to have an open debate with Jonathan’s government but the government called her names and shut her down. Jonathan’s team told Nigerians excited by the prospects of a debate to keep quiet; after all, Nigeria’s external reserve is back up to $48 billion and our national Sovereign Wealth Fund is now $1 billion. (Big deal, until you look at what Algeria ($190 billion) and Libya ($130 billion) and India ($290 billion) and Singapore ($260 billion) have in their foreign external reserves.)
This is the world of revolving billions and trillions that President Jonathan and his 0.013% of Nigerian public officials are living in. In such a world you will understand why President Jonathan had no sense of outrage as he pushed through a proposal for a First Lady Mission that would cost N4 billion to build. You will also understand why a food allowance of almost N1 billion did not sound outrageous to the presidency. In this world of revolving billions and trillions, where everyone in their circle is getting theirs, you will understand why nobody who is getting paid will seriously raise a hand to point at others in the same club.
Many of us do not know but Nigeria makes an average of $20 billion dollars (N3 trillion) in oil and gas revenue a year. Nigeria also makes N5 trillion from Federal taxes. From Customs duty, Nigeria makes another one trillion. That is a total of N9 trillion. If you add a typical year of $10 billion in Excess Crude Account, you are looking at an annual income of over N10 trillion.
In a typical year, Nigeria budgets N4.9 trillion. N10 trillion in revenue minus N4.9 trillion budgeted you have about N5 trillion out there for politicians to play with. If we were to share the N10 trillion naira revenue amongst 170 million Nigerians, every citizen should get N59, 000.00 naira each. A typical family of six will get N354, 000.00 a year.
And if Jonathan closes the loophole through which N750 billion is lost in stolen crude oil, even if it is by 50%, an additional N370 billion will come in. Last December, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala announced proudly that Jonathan’s government has recovered N29 billion naira from oil marketers out of N234 billion certified as stolen. Again if Jonathan ends the waste from oil subsidy, at over N600 billion a year, Nigeria will get an additional revenue of one trillion naira a year for a grand total of N11 trillion each year.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s external debt has been on the increase since Ngozi Okonjo Iweala came back. It is projected to hit $20 billion in external debt and N6 trillion in domestic debt next year. That means, in less than 10 years after Ngozi Okonjo Iweala paid $12.4 billion of Nigeria’s money to the Paris and London Clubs to fulfill her now abandoned goal of having Nigeria as a debt free nation, Nigeria’s debt is back in full.
President Jonathan is lucky that Nigerians are too busy with more important things – fighting over Chelsea and Manchester United and Arsenal and the decision the coaches of each team make each Saturday and how the European league referees perform on the pitch. So far, Nigerians have abandoned their own team, their own coaches, their own referees, their own pitch and the matches that affect their lives the most.
The day Jonathan’s luck will run out is the day Nigerians will grab a calculator and add up these billions and trillions. Until then, it is mere exaggeration when I say; I come to bury Jonathan not to praise him.