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EXCLUSIVE REPORT: Crude Oil Lifting Contracts As Yar’adua’s Cash Cow

October 19, 2008
SaharaReporters, New York
Umaru Yar’adua may have an innocent persona on the surface, but a long-time member of his inner circle told SaharaReporters that his mother has a very difficult perception of him. The source disclosed a recurrent story regarding the old woman’s reaction when Umaru Yar’adua told her about the death of Shehu Musa Yar’adua in Abakaliki prison.

“When Umaru told his mother about what happened, she insisted that Atiku Abubakar be brought in to confirm the truth, because she never trusted her eccentric son,” said the source.

In the course of this extensive investigation, we spoke to other sources who confirmed that Yar’adua has a legendary image problem within his family. Two of them indicated that, when the late Shehu Musa Yar’adua was routing opponents in several states of the federation in the 1992 primaries of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), his younger brother (now “President” Umaru Yar’adua), lost his gubernatorial elections in his home state of Katsina.

One associate of Shehu Yar’adua indicated that the former military officer never trusted his younger sibling, so he used his political clout to hand him a tactical defeat in Katsina. Umaru Yar’adua was only able to win an election several years after his brother’s death in Abacha’s jail in Abakaliki. In an attempt to hide this family rift, Umaru dishonestly claims that his differences with his late brother arose because he was a follower of the socialist Northern puritan, Aminu Kano.

Umaru Yar’adua’s fraudulent ascension to power and his use of financial inducement to the judiciary to enable him to keep a mandate secured under the most corrupt, if not bizarre, electoral circumstances, have given him away as a greedy and shameless scammer.

The taciturn and frail Umaru Yar’adua comes from what a political scientist at Ahmadu Bello University described to our correspondent as “a political dynasty.” He is a younger brother of Shehu Yar’adua, one of Nigeria’s shrewdest politicians. Their father was the first Minister of Lagos Affairs.

Umaru Musa Yar’adua has proven himself to be a liar and cheating manipulator of the Nigerian people.  “But corruption is not new to the Yar’adua dynasty,” argued the political scientist. The patriarch of the family, Mallam Musa Yar’adua, whose title Mutawalli of Katsina, Umaru inherited was reputed to have engaged in corrupt self-enrichment during his tenure as Minister of Lagos Affairs in the First Republic. He built the first petrol station in Ikoyi from the proceeds of corruption. That station is now the NNPC Mega Petrol Station near Ikoyi Hotels.
What is interesting is not that Umaru Yar’adua is deeply steeped in corruption, but the way he goes about his corrupt activities. As SaharaReporters has learnt in our most recent investigations regarding crude oil lifting contracts, Yar’adua’s methods of enriching himself closely resemble those of the late General Sani Abacha.
Like Abacha, Yar’adua relies on his close family members, spiritual advisers and a close-knit cabal from his home state, now known in Abuja as the “Katsina Mafia,” to undertake the dirty task of receiving kickbacks.

When in April 2008, Yar’adua announced that he had sacked “brief case companies” involved in lifting Nigeria’s sweet crude oil, this action, much like the declaration of his assets, was hailed by transparency watchdogs as a laudable and honest endeavor. Prior to the selection of the new companies, there were close to 50 companies lifting Nigeria crude under former President Olusegun Obasanjo. During Obasanjo’s tenure, the companies licensed to lift crude were mostly controlled by Emmanuel Nnamdi “Andy” Uba, Obasanjo’s senior special assistant on domestic affairs. Under Obasanjo’s direction, Mr. Andy Uba decided which companies to be allowed to lift crude. However, Obasanjo also let other top level government officials, including Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the Chief of Staff, General Abdullahi Mohammed, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Aliyu Gusau, PDP chairman Ahmadu Ali, a few party bigwigs, and some of his ministers to nominate or bring in “brief case companies” that won juicy oil lifting contracts. Those contracts had a lifespan of one year.

Sources knowledgeable about crude oil lifting contracts in Nigeria told SaharaReporters that it remains the biggest source of quick but questionable wealth for top-level Nigerian officials especially at the presidency as well as officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). The sources revealed that companies lifting crude oil have to pay bribes on a “per barrel” basis to the president and favored members of his cabinet.

Under Obasanjo, according to our sources, Andy Uba became amazingly wealthy. The sources disclosed that the extremely close personal relationship between Mr. Andy Uba and Obasanjo was largely because all the bribes paid to the former president were routed through Andy. In 1999, Uba was plucked from relative obscurity and near bankruptcy in Los Angeles, California, only to become one of Nigeria’s richest men alive today, according to financial experts in the know about his net worth.

During Obasanjo’s era as president, Uba initially received 8 cents per barrel of crude oil, but later demanded 15 cents per barrel as oil prices went up in the international market. The kickback applied to every single barrel of oil lifted from Nigeria for the eight years that Obasanjo was in power. At about two million barrels per day lifted from the various export terminals across Nigeria, it is not difficult to understand why Andy Uba owns a Gulfstream IV business jet he purchased for $40 million as well as other pricey pieces of property in Abuja and other parts of Nigeria. In addition, Uba holds large shares in several major banks, including the United Bank for Africa (UBA) owned by his pal, Tony Elumelu.

Yar’adua’s decision to prune the number of crude-lifting companies from 50 to 28 last April may seem like a prudent action, but our investigations reveal that the “president” under whose tenure Nigeria enjoyed the largest oil sales windfall in history had other designs and schemes up his sleeves.

First, Yar’adua decided to allow the contracts to last only 3 months, which gives him total control over rates at which kickbacks are remitted and also allows him to weed out non-performing companies in the “kickback scheme”. A cursory look at the 28 companies shows that the majority of them are well-established foreign-based companies that have engaged in lucrative crude lifting contracts with Nigeria for a long time.

Our sources disclosed that Yar’adua calculated that such companies as Addax Petroleum, Arcadia Petroleum Limited, Trafigura Petroleum company, Glencore Petroleum company would look authentic and make Yar’adua’s decision to weed out “briefcase companies” appear transparent. But they said that the major companies also engage in the delivery of kickbacks so as to remain in business. “These reputable companies switch loyalty each time there’s a new man at the head of the Nigerian state,” said one source. A group of other crude-lifting companies are controlled by the NNPC, even though they are mostly registered as offshore entities. These include Vitol, Carlson, Duke, Nigermed and NAP oil petroleum companies. NNPC officials use these NNPC-owned companies to enrich themselves.

During the Obasanjo era, the NNPC’s General Managing Directors, Funsho Kupolokun and Edmund Daukoru, were in charge of these concerns and they remitted kickbacks to Obasanjo through Andy Uba.

Other companies in the crude oil lifting business include CAMAC Petroleum, a company owned by the controversial Houston-based Nigerian-American, Kase Lawal, Sahara Energy, Oando, which belongs to former Governor Bola Tinubu’s cousin, Petro Energy, which belongs to Nigeria’s highly connected cross-border smuggler and Yar’adua’s front man, Alhaji Dahiru Barau Mangal, Isla Oil, said to represent the interests of the current GMD of the NNPC, Mr. Abubakar Yar’adua. The NNPC’s new GMD also controls Lanxing Refinery. Other crude-lifting companies include PMI refinery, Fujairah refinery, China-based SINOPEC petroleum, Indian Oil, MRS Oil which belongs to Sayyu Dantata and Aliko Dangote, Sun Refinery, and Taurus Petroleum which belong to current Kwara State governor, Bukola Saraki. Saraki represents the 36 Nigerian state governors as the chairman of the “Governors Forum”. The rest of the crude-lifting allocations go to nations in the good books of Nigeria. These nationally controlled allocations go to Tema Refinery in Ghana, Cote de Ivoire, and Republic of Senegal as well as the nation of Jamaica amongst others. Our sources reported that the allocation to various countries suffers from the same scam; the allocations are lifted by “recognized” companies involved in the bribe schemes.

For the moment, the allocation to Jamaica has reportedly stopped because Yar’adua wanted to stop the flow of crude that may benefit Obasanjo and his cronies in the country and also because Jamaica took the lifting contract away from Trafigura, a powerful company involved with the lucrative deals. Prior to the 2007/2008 oil allocation cycles, Trafigura was in charge of Jamaica’s oil lifting contracts, but the controversy over bribes paid by Trafigura to Jamaican party officials led to the selection of Glencore to lift Jamaica’s allocation. But our sources said the new designated lifter was yet to receive allocation cargoes on behalf of Jamaica.

Until recently, Yar’adua’s cut in the oil lifting deals was channeled through Abubakar Lawal Yar’adua, the group managing director of the NNPC. But a sharp disagreement occurred between “First Lady” Turai Yar’adua and the GMD of the NNPC over correct remittance of kickbacks. The GMD was accused of shortchanging the first family of $15 million from kickbacks received on their behalf. A source familiar with the quarrel revealed that the GMD’s job might be on the line in view of irreconcilable differences between him and “President” Yar’adua’s family. A presidency source told SaharaReporters that the GMD position would be wiped off as soon as Yar’adua 're-organizes' the NNPC – a move designed to take place soon.

Our sources said that Yar’adua, who has reaped huge kickbacks estimated at close to $300 million, has now directed that his kickbacks be sent to him through Shehu Inuwa Imam, a member of the House of Representatives representing Faskari/Kankara Sabu constituency. SaharaReporters had earlier reported that Shehu Imam was the closest person to Yar’adua “spiritually” and exerts considerable influence on the “president.” Most transactions are done via cash deposits of various foreign currencies.

A presidency source told SaharaReporters that it was amazing how Yar’adua diligently renews oil-lifting licenses, but has not been able to shuffle his cabinet since he began the process six months ago. Yar’adua’s desire to remain in power at all cost in spite of medical advise to the contrary, our sources said, is fuelled by the huge revenue generated by the “president”, his family and business friends.

The deals over oil lifting contracts have soured the relations between Yar’adua and his vice, Goodluck Jonathan. Sources told SaharaReporters that Jonathan has quietly complained to his closest confidantes about being “bypassed in the crude oil deals.” One source said that Jonathan actually linked his failure to negotiate successfully with the Niger Delta militants to the fact that the Niger Delta is conspicuously excluded from the new corporate interests profiting from oil contracts under Yar’adua.

Our investigations show that, of the 28 companies selected by Yar’adua and his “Katsina Mafia” inner circle, only Petrodel, which is owned by Warri-based Prince Michael Prest, is from the Niger Delta. Interestingly, the company has one of the lowest allocations.

A source close to the “vice president” said Jonathan had adopted an attitude of “watching in silence” instead of complaining. He directed us to take a look at the official website of the Presidency (, which did not have anything on the Vice President while a logo of the “First Lady’s” office is conspicuously posted on the site. A click on a small link tagged “The Vice President” doesn’t link to anything while the link  “The President” had Yar’adua’s bio and that of the “First Lady’s office” were rich with details.
Unlike Jonathan who is shut out from the oil deals, House of Reps Speaker is accommodated. The 39-year-old speaker, Dimeji Bankole, has found favor with Yar’adua largely due to his malleable nature. The Houston-based CAMAC Petroleum, which enjoys a daily allocation of 30,000 barrels, is saddled with “taking care of Bankole,” said one of our sources. Our sources said the Speaker ingratiated himself with Yar’adua by helping to gag the usually troublesome house, making it impossible for members to oppose Yar’adua’s policies or question his style.

Our sources also revealed that the oil deals have enabled Yar’adua to co-opt many members of the judiciary. “The president has used the Katsina-born president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Umaru Abdullahi, to reach judges and justices to accept huge cash allocations,” said our presidency source. He added that the gift of hard currency on a consistent basis has enabled Yar’adua to gain influence with some justices of the Supreme Court who are set to rule on the legitimacy of Yar’adua’s government in a matter of months from now.
The Yar’adua regime has other diverse areas of kickbacks that keep his wealth accumulation plans in high gear. Apart from oil allocation contracts, the “president” also receives kick backs from companies engaged in the import of finished petroleum products which are distributed and sold all over Nigeria. The companies enjoy massive concessions and import-duty waivers so as to keep petroleum products available in the Nigerian market for domestic consumption. These lucrative deals have kept the government from fixing Nigerian refineries or investing in the building of new ones.

Since coming to power, the Yar’adua regime claims it has spent close to N3 trillion to subsidize importation of petroleum products. But our sources within the oil industry said it was all a ruse as most of this so-called subsidy is merely shared between Yar’adua and his “Katsina Mafia” members. One source indicated that Yar’adua keeps 100% of the commission on imported petroleum products. “He alone determines who gets the license to import finished products. Just like his predecessor,” said a source in the oil industry.

Like Obasanjo before him, Yar’adua, despite his incompetence and slow pace, remains in charge of Nigeria’s lucrative ministry of Petroleum Resources.
Another source of slush funds for Yar’adua is the export of fuel produced in the Nigerian refineries. Yar’adua’s reversal of the privatization process was widely hailed as it seemed beneficial to Nigerians, but our sources indicated that the policy was a ploy to plant his family members and trusted cronies to manage the refineries.

A clear example if this was the appointment of Turai’s blood brother, Bashir Abdullahi, to the position of Managing Director of Port Harcourt Refinery Company (PHRC). Saharareporters’ investigations indicate that Bashir is presiding over the transfer of huge assets to his sister, Turai, and Yar’adua from the export of fuel oil.

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