Does it mean the sense of shame has been completely lost in this country by people holding positions of trust in and around government? How do you reconcile that some highly-placed individuals can come out to say there were no issues of contract awards raised by the Minister of State Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, in his leaked memo to President Muhammadu Buhari, who also doubles as the substantive Petroleum Minister? The broad day lies being dangled by the government and its agents to change the actual color and content of the leaked memo - is it not outright corruption in itself?
If the arrangements previously referred to as Offshore Crude Oil Processing Agreements (OPAs) and Crude-for-Products Exchange and now known as Direct Sale-Direct Purchase Agreements (DSDP), are not contracts for crude oil lifting in exchange for imported petrol and diesel, what are they - cha cha (gambling) abi?
What exactly is transparent in a deal where crony local companies obviously connected to politicians in the ruling party are paired with multinationals simply to collect rent and share with political elites in government?
Just see the fumbling of a mendacious bunch: Kachikwu, in his memo, alleged that Baru awarded contracts worth about $25 billion without recourse to the board, or Federal Executive Council (FEC).
Buhari ordered Baru to respond to Kachikwu’s allegations. The NNPC boss, in his original response, did not deny awarding the controversial oil contracts but rather insisted that he does not require Kachikwu’s nor the board’s approvals to enter into such contracts which are part of daily the running of the nation’s apex oil concern.
Spokesperson to the Vice President, Laolu Akande, either was pushed or willingly accepted to announce that his boss, Prof. Osinbajo actually approved two of the controversial oil contracts while the president was attending to his ill health in London. The Vice President came out few hours later to deny what his spokesperson said and disclosed he never approved any oil contract but loans for Joint Venture cash calls which is even an entirely different story and a discussion for another day.
The last scene thus far was that the Presidency last Sunday, totally dismissed reports that $25bn worth of oil contracts were awarded by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), saying, “a closer look at each of the said projects indicate clearly that these are not procurement contracts.”
Is this story not becoming increasingly interesting? First version, Buhari signed the contract while in London; second version, Osinbajo signed the contract; latest version, Presidency says there is no contract anywhere. Haba! How did we get to this point in the governance of this country?
Even Baru admitted awarding the controversial contracts, while Osinbajo clarified the role he played. So how come spin doctors are coming to tell us there were no issues of contract awards with the associated fraud and corruption thereof?
As my Warri people would say, Bros see explanation by the Presidency: “When you look diligently at the referenced projects/transactions one by one, you will see, as NNPC has shown, that none of them was actually a procurement contract. Take the Crude Term Contract and the Direct Sale, Direct Purchase (DSDP) agreements, for instance, these are not procurement contracts involving the expenditure of public funds. It is therefore wrong and misleading to refer to them as though they’re contracts involving the expenditure of NNPC funds, or public funds of any sort.” ‘Chai, who do Nigeria this’?
You see our country! So Kachikwu lied in his memo; Baru lied in his initial response that Buhari approved with dates the contracts while in bed in London; and the vice president through his spokesperson initially lied or made a mistake in saying he approved two of the contracts? Couldn’t it have been better if Nigerians were dished with one turn-key corporate lie rather than these pockets of unintelligent rations?
How could the presidency say there were no contracts procured by NNPC based on the leaked memo by the Minister of State for Petroleum? Saying that such impressions were maliciously created was an outright insult to our sensibility as a nation. Did Osinbajo not read Kachikwu’s letter with the itemized sub-headings under contracts? Was it maliciously created by the press or the opposition? Was it not Kachikwu who in his memo described these deals as contracts? So the minister does not know what a contract is? How can you then turn around to say it was maliciously created by the press and the opposition? The deals highlighted under that heading, if they are not contracts, what are they- cha-cha?
The fuel subsidy scam of the Jonathan era, were they not mostly crude oil lifting deals similar to these ones by Baru? And you are telling us these are not contracts. Any business transaction between entities more especially the government is a contract because there are contractual obligations to be fulfilled by the parties and profits/benefits to be derived from such arrangements.
Ibe Kachikwu listed concerns up to the tune of $25 billion and the only thing Baru and the Presidency could do is to paint a cover up. If Osinbajo agreed that he signed for Baru some loan deals for joint venture cash call obligation, how much exactly did he approved and what percentage is the approved money (loans) in the $25 billion sum total of the secret contracts? How much is the vice president’s approval covering for these scams? As the VP has agreed he approved N640 billion which is just about $2 billion for JV cash calls, who approved the balance of over $23 billion for Baru and his NNPC?
Saying that these contracts are not about public funds is outright rubbish. It is not about public funds, it is about deals that has remained the drain pipe of the massive corruption in the NNPC and the entire Nigerian oil sector. Does anybody get into a deal without expecting to make profit and it is in these “profits” that our oil monies have been stolen massively by those in and around government. So by telling us that these deals are not paid for in cash is simply insulting our intelligence.
A lot of these deals are paid for through crude oil liftings. You ask a contractor to come and lift the oil equivalent of his money in the deal, is the contractor going to discharge the oil in his recreational swimming pool? Is he not going to sell the oil to make money to cover his expenses and profits? Everything we call corruption in Nigeria come from deals like this where people in and around government build-in their criminal interests rather than our collect interests as a nation.
Meanwhile, the substantive minister of petroleum who should take responsibility and account to us what really transpired has remained dead silent on this matter.
It will shock Nigerians to know that what is involved in this racket is over 600,000 barrels of crude oil on daily basis being picked by international traders in exchange for imported petrol and diesel alone. This is the same NNPC that wants us to believe that the nation’s three and half refineries have been working at over 65 percent cumulative capacity utilization.
Now that the bubble is bursting in the ongoing fraud, the NNPC has come out to inform us that the Port Harcourt, Warri, and Kaduna refineries have been shut down for Turn-Around-Maintenance. Has it ever happened in this country that the three plants will be shut down at the same day for TAM and does it even make a sound engineering management sense? The truth is that the refineries were not working in the first instance. That a plant is flamed -up like what Kaduna does daily does not mean it is processing anything. Of course, how can our refineries process anything when it is more lucrative in Nigeria to do deals and collect rents. God help Nigeria!
Ifeanyi Izeze writes from Abuja. You can reach him at [email protected].