For several years, Nigerians believed that the intractable fuel scarcity was not real. Now, we have the evidence and it comes from an impeccable source, Dr. Jackson Gaius-Obaseki, former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, GMD, of NNPC.
Mr. Gaius-Obaseki told a newspaper that: "The scarcity was not real. People (granted licences to import fuel) became millionaires overnight. It was either you protected the (cartel)'s interest or the interests of Nigerians". Mr. Gaius-Obaseki said he was protecting Nigerians against the cartel members, for who he signed contracts to import fuel, which our own refineries could have produced if they were not deliberately sabotaged.
The cartel according to him threatened him and forced him to change his suite in the hotel he lived throughout his tenure. The hotel suite cost the Federal Government about N400,000 daily and N144 million annually.
Mr. Gaius-Obaseki actually rented two of these presidential suites for which the rent alone was N288 million annually. His rent alone drained the treasury of N806 million in three years. Add food and drinks for the family, and entertainment of guests and the nation must have paid a whopping N1 billion to provide accommodation for him.
The GMD of NNPC has a supervising Minister, the President of Nigeria, who has promised to fight corruption to a stand still. Was the President aware of the rent of the presidential suites? Is the current GMD of NNPC still threatened by the cartel's vice grip on the nation's fuel supply? Did Mr. Gaius-Obaseki report the cartel to the President? Were any measures taken against the cartel for corrupt self-enrichment? Who are the members of this cartel? Given the revelations of the former GMD of NNPC can the President honestly expect Nigerians, who had been skeptical about the fight against corruption to discard the widely held belief that it is all too selective and a vendetta against perceived enemies? Can the President assure Nigerians that this cartel no longer has a strangle hold on our fuel supply? Unless the cartel had been caged, fuel scarcity will continue to be a recurrent problem.
Vanguard strongly believes that the revelations by the former NNPC boss constitute a major indictment of the Federal Government and the President as the supervising Minister of Petroleum. The NNPC and the Presidency should unmask the cartel for the war against corruption to make sense.