N5tn Stolen Under Jonathan –Investigation

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Over N5tn in government funds have been stolen through fraud,
embezzlement and theft since President Goodluck Jonathan assumed office on May
6, 2010, a SUNDAY
PUNCH
 investigation
has found.
Our correspondents arrived at the stolen sum after
poring over the reports of the various committees set up by the President to
probe some sectors of the economy, particularly oil and gas. SUNDAY PUNCHalso relied on disclosures
by some senior government officials.
Five trillion naira is the summation of government
funds said to have been stolen, according to the Mallam Nuhu Ribadu-led
Petroleum Task Force report; the Minister of Trade and Investment’s report on
stolen crude; the House of Representatives fuel subsidy report and
investigations into the ecological fund, SIM card registration and frequency
band spectrum sale.

The Ribadu report on the oil and gas sector put
daily crude oil theft at a high 250,000 barrels daily at a cost of $6.3bn
(N1.2trn) a year. This puts the total amount lost through oil theft in the two
years of Jonathan’s government at over $12.6bn (N2trn).

Oil theft is common in the Nigerian oil and gas
sector. In June, a special naval team impounded a French ship, MT Vannessa, at
Brass Loading Terminal, Bayelsa State, for allegedly stealing 500,000 barrels
of crude oil per day from the country.
Our sister publication, SATURDAY PUNCH, had reported that the suspects, in
their confessional statements, indicted some political office holders, many
fuel marketers and some officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum
Corporation and Department of Petroleum Resources.
In October, Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr.
Olusegun Aganga, in a letter to the President, said 24 million barrels of oil
worth $1.6bn (N252bn) was stolen between July and September.
According to Aganga, his signature was forged on
the Export Clearance Permit that was used to export the crude oil from Nigeria.
Confirming that oil theft was depleting Nigeria’s
resources, the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in May, said the
government lost a fifth of its oil revenues to theft in April.
Apart from income lost through oil theft, the
Ribadu report also said ministers of Petroleum Resources between 2008 and 2011
handed out seven discretionary oil licences and that government lost $183m
(N29bn) in signature bonuses via these deals.
The Ribadu panel discovered that three of the oil
licences were awarded under the current petroleum minister, Mrs. Diezani
Alison-Madueke, who took up her position in 2010. Alison-Madueke, however,
denied knowledge of the discretionary awards.
Shortly before the Ribadu report, the House of
Representatives had raised the alarm that the N2.6trn the Federal Government
paid for oil subsidy in 2011 could not be properly accounted for.
The House said, “Fuel subsidy payments amounted to
N261.1bn in 2006, N278.8bn in 2007 and N346.7bn in 2008, but, even after the
subsidy on diesel had been removed, the ‘subsidy’ payments jumped to N2.58trn
in 2011 — more than 900 per cent of the sum appropriated for the year
(N245bn).”
A subsequent report by the Presidential Committee
on Verification and Reconciliation of Fuel Subsidy Payments, led by Mr. Aigboje
Aig-Imoukhuede, revealed that in 2011, 197 subsidy transactions worth N232bn
were illegitimate.
These frauds are not limited to the oil industry,
as similar probes have shown that almost all sectors are involved.
In July, the House of Representatives Committee on
Environment discovered a tree seedling fraud worth N2bn awarded by the
Ecological Fund office.
Chairman of the committee on environment, Mrs. Uche
Ekwunife, said this during an investigative hearing on the mismanagement of
ecological funds for the development of tree nurseries and seedlings in the 36
states.
According to her, out of the N3bn approved by the
Presidency in 2010, N2bn was released to the contractors and consultants
without government getting value.
Minister of Environment Hadiza Mailafia, however,
said the contract was awarded by her predecessor.
In the telecommunications sector, the House
instituted a probe into the sale of the frequency brand spectrum, which was
reportedly sold for less than its value.
The 450MHz frequency, which was valued at over
$50m, was allegedly sold for less than $6m (a difference of $44m or N6.9bn) by
the Nigeria Communications Commission.
In the same sector, the reps, earlier this year,
commenced investigations into the N6.1bn SIM card registration project embarked
upon by the NCC in 2011.
The investigation followed the delay in completing
the exercise and the request by NCC for additional N1bn for the project in its
2012 budget.
The lawmakers insisted that the NCC had no business
embarking on the project since various service providers were already
registering their subscribers.
Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Communications,
Mr. Usman Bawa, had said, “The NCC has no business with SIM card registration.
Apart from that, the service providers have done about 80 per cent of the
registration because they started before the NCC. To me, for the regulatory
body to be involved in the registration is a duplication of effort, a waste of
resources and time.
“Even, the manner with which the bill for the
N6.1bn was passed during the Sixth Assembly showed that there was more to it
than meets the eyes. From our investigations, from which our report was
compiled, our interactions with the NCC contractors for the SIM card registration
and the service providers, a lot has been exposed and this was part of the
reason why we removed the N1bn that was budgeted for the same SIM card
registration in the last budget.”
It would be recalled that the then Minister of
Information and Communication, Prof. Dora Akunyili, had, in August, 2010,
agreed that the amount budgeted for SIM card registration was exorbitant.
Reacting to the massive frauds that have greeted
Jonathan’s tenure, Transparency International, told one of our correspondents
that Nigeria would continue to slack in development as long as it keeps paying
lip service to the fight against corruption.
It said via electronic mail, “President Jonathan
should insist that those accused of corruption are properly investigated and
punished if found guilty, irrespective of their positions and connections. The
judiciary must be seen as impartial and fair.
“To signal a break with the past, the government
should set up an independent investigatory panel to review charges of
corruption within government and the private sector. President Jonathan should
endorse the panel and commit to ensure it has both the scope and the power to
investigate and prosecute.
“This is not just a matter of justice; fighting
corruption can affect the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. The
current culture of corruption hurts the majority of Nigerians while the
inequality gap widens.”
Also speaking to SUNDAY
PUNCH
, the Director, Centre for Applied Economics, Lagos Business
School, Prof. Pat Utomi, said the spate of corruption in the country was
unprecedented.
The political economist argued that prosecution and
jail terms for corrupt individuals would not be as effective as building a
societal institution that would prevent corruption.
A former Vice Chancellor, Crescent University,
Prof. Sheriffdeen Tella, also warned that corruption would spell doom for the
country if the trend continued.
He said, “It is unfortunate that the country will
not be able to meet the Millennium Development Goals. There is a need for the
masses to hold a three-day protest against corruption to force government to
prosecute those indicted for corruption.”
Similarly, Executive Chairman, Coalition Against
Corrupt Leaders, Mr. Debo Adeniran, said, “For Jonathan to fight corruption, he
must start with his cabinet. The way Jonathan is going about his campaign
against corruption is not the best way to go about it.”
A global audit and financial advisory firm, KPMG,
had on Thursday stated that Nigeria accounted for the highest number of fraud
cases in Africa in the first half of 2012.
The cost of fraud in the country during the period
was put at $1.5bn (N225bn).
Source: Punch

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