Premium Times (Abuja)

Nigeria: President Jonathan Sets New Record in Authority Stealing, Overtakes Babangida

If the allegation that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, under the President Goodluck Jonathan administration, illegally diverted about $50 billion oil money is eventually proven, the president would have succeeded in setting a new Nigerian record on authority stealing.

In the company of two of his ministers - Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Finance Minister, and Diezani Alison-Madueke, the Petroleum Minister - the Nigerian President may have quadrupled the previous record of alleged stealing of public funds hitherto held by Ibrahim Babangida, who was Head of State between 1985 - 1993.

A self-styled Military President, Mr. Babangida, 72, reportedly siphoned US$12.4 billion accruable from the Gulf War excess crude oil sales in 1991.

But a PREMIUM TIMES exclusive on Tuesday detailed how President Jonathan, who is currently in South Africa for the funeral of Nelson Mandela, oversaw a systematic diversion of US$50 billion, money from crude oil sales between January 2012 and July 2013.

In the report, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Nigeria's Central Bank governor, detailed how the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, paid only 24 percent proceeds, within the year under review, into the federation account, with the remaining 76 percent unaccounted for.

AN OIL WINDFALL

According to the CBN, the NNPC should have paid US$65.3 billion into the federation account, having sold at least 594 million barrels of crude within the period. Instead, the corporation only remitted US15.5 billion, the remaining US$49.8 billion disappearing into thin air.

Although Mr. Babangida's involvement in the vanished Gulf War crude oil windfall continues to elicit public anger across the nation, the scale of the recent heist under President Jonathan's watch makes the stolen US$12.4 billion pale into insignificance.

On 15th January 1994, the government of then dictator, the late General Sani Abacha, set up the Panel on the Reorganization and Reform of Central Bank of Nigeria to probe how the US$12.4 billion was spent by Mr. Babangida's government.

Ten months later, the panel, chaired by renowned economist, Pius Okigbo, submitted its findings detailing how Mr. Babangida's regime conspired with top CBN officials to squander the accrued billions on phantom projects, with US$12.2 billion out of the total US$12.4 billion spent through 'Dedicated Accounts' that were unavailable to government auditors.

"Disbursements were clandestinely undertaken while the country was openly reeling with crushing external debt overhead. These represent, no matter the initial justification for creating the account, a gross abuse of public trust," Mr. Okigbo's report had stated.

In his book, The Sink, American writer Jeffrey Robinson wrote: "Of the $120 billion siphoned out of the Nigerian treasury into offshore accounts by dishonest politicians, $20 billion is allegedly traceable to IBB (as Mr. Babangida is fondly called) directly as president from 1985 to 1993."

But even Mr. Babangida's alleged theft of US$20 billion in his eight years in power is dwarfed by this massive plunder of state treasury in just under 17 months.

"Your excellency, you will recall that as far back as late 2010, I had verbally expressed deep concern about what appeared to be huge shortfalls in remittances to the federation account in spite of the strong recovery in oil prices," Mr. Sanusi wrote in his letter to President Jonathan, expressing his frustration with the NNPC's secrecy with oil sales.

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