Daily Trust (Abuja)

21 December 2013

Nigeria: A New 'Cut-Off Point' for Corruption

Corruption and its frightening dimensions in our private and public life is one social phenomenon that has, over the past one decade, become a natural 'culture' with which Nigerians, at home and abroad, are identified, associated, labeled, or profiled.

Corruption is actually one vice in Nigeria that cut across faith, gender, ethnic groups, age, professions, trades, sectors; even though the oil industry seems to have no math in the scale of fraud that goes on there.

The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, in a letter to President Goodluck Jonathan date September 25, 2013 accused the NNPC of failing to repatriate to the Federation Account an amount in excess of $49.804 billion which is estimated to be over N8 trillion; an amount higher than Nigeria annual budget for two years. This amount, which represents 76% of the total value of oil lifted between January 2012 and July 2013, is for the proceeds of crude oil shipment; meaning that only 24% of the expected remittances were accounted for. The implication of NNPC's failure to repatriate these amounts, the CBN Governor wrote, "constitutes not only a violation of constitutional provisions but also of both the foreign exchange (monitoring and miscellanies provisions) Act No. 17 of 1995 and the Pre-shipment Inspection of Experts Act No. 10 of 1996. Although financial crimes more than any other form of indiscipline and corrupt practices appear to have dominated the space of governance in the past fourteen years of wicked leadership called "democracy" in Nigeria, the recently alleged N8 trillion scam unaccounted for by the NNPC is one fact (coming from the CBN Governor who is not known to be a public officer who winces words) or at least, an allegation that beats human imagination. In the history, recent and ancient, of corrupt practices in Nigeria, the non-remittance of N8 trillion by the NNPC into the Federation Account is the highest amount of public funds even declared missing, diverted, embezzled, misappropriated, or laundered. It is one scam stranger than fiction.

Fiction is the form of any work that deals, in part or in whole, with information or events that are not real, but rather, imaginary and theoretical. Fiction contrasts with non-fiction, which deals exclusively with factual (or at least, assumed factual) events, descriptions, observations, etc. Based on this concept, fiction is generally believed to be untrue, unreal, or imaginary, and therefore stranger in the world of facts and realities. When people are confronted with situations that are extra-ordinarily unusual refer to such situations, events or phenomenon even when they are actually factual as "stranger than fiction."

If anything, the NNPC has like the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) which from time to time raises the cut-off point for admission candidates to U..., has succeeded in raising the "cut-off" point of corruption level in Nigeria from the value of millions and billions of naira (that it used to be) to trillions. This means that, today, nobody will remember to raise any eyebrows at N500 million allegedly "missing" from SURE-P accounts, similarly, the aberrancy in the N255 Oduah may have become a scandal to be ignored when compared to the N8 trillion unaccounted for by the NNPC. The new standard set by NNPC may have predictably also set a new standard upon which some judges may discharged and acquit those who embezzle public funds in the sum that falls short of NNPC's "cut-off point."

The scandalous judgment and acquaintance by an Asaba High Court of the former Governor James Ibori of Delta State could be described as a "stranger fiction" especially when it is recalled that the same James Ibori pleaded guilty two years later in a London Court to all the money laundering charges upon which he was earlier discharged. Yet, the bizarre in the judgment of the Asaba High Court is not as unheard of as the non-remittance by the NNPC of N8 trillion.

There could be element of strangers in the "fiction" narrated at a public hearing held by the House of Representatives Committee on Capital Market during which sitting members were told that the Director General of the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) Ms. Arunma Oteh spent N850,000 on feeding in a day alone. Yet, the weird in this spree expenditure is not as unheard of as the non-remittance by the NNPC of N8 trillion.

It also sound funny when chairman of the committee under reference representative Herman Hembe suffered a "reprisal attack" as Ms Oteh accused him of demanding a bribe of N44 million from her to fund the public hearing. Yet, the waywardness in the counter accusation is equally not as unheard of as the non-remittance by the NNPC of N8 trillion

Although the subsidy probe carried out by the House of Representatives which exposed the fictions payment of N999 million 128 times within 24 hours by the Petroleum Products Regularly Agency (PPPRA) to unknown oil company qualified to be a "stranger than fiction" case. Yet, it is not as stranger as the N8 trillion unaccounted for by the NNPC.

Nigeria considered it another wonder when chairman of the Pensions probe panel Senator Aloysin Etok and his colleagues were told that N1 billion was spent in screening 29 pensioners. Yet, the wonder in this scam is today not as irregular as the indescribability in the non-remittance of a colossal sum of N8 trillion by the NNPC to Federation Account.

In any case, Malam Sanusu Lamido Sanusi's courage and sense of probity should be commended and encouraged, were it not for the alarm he raised through his letter to President Jonathan, Nigerians would never have heard of this very strange dis-service to Nigeria if they were to went for the figurative over-sight function of o0ur lawmakers or for the ineffective freedom of information.

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