By Ifeanyi Izeze
How did Nigerians get to this point that subconsciously we portray ourselves as dubious by default? It beats my imagination how we actually treat ourselves in this country and it shows that despite what we want the public to believe, most times, Nigerians now hear more of what “body languages” say than actual words.
It is unexplainable that our popular Human Rights Activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Femi Falana could address his good-intentioned request to the Ministry of Petroleum Resources on the fuel import and subsidy scam to Ibe Kachikwu, the sidelined and inconsequential Minister of State rather than the substantive Petroleum Minister who also doubles as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?
Let’s even look at the issues as raised: In a letter addressed to the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachukwu, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, he asked the Petroleum Ministry to furnish him with or rather make public among other things, the cost of fuel subsidy and volumes of petrol imported into the country between December 2017 and March 2018.
It would be recalled that the NNPC had told us that the country’s consumption rate of Premium Motor Spirit 9PMS) popularly called petrol was 28 million litres per day in December 2017 just as the subsidy cost was N726 million per day and N261.4 billion per annum.
Curiously, three months later, precisely by March 5 2018, the NNPC Group Managing Director, Maikanti Baru again openly claimed that the figure of the nation’s daily consumption had metamorphosed to 50 million litres per day and that NNPC had spent $5.8 billion (N1.7 trillion) on fuel importation in January and February this year meaning N774 million is paid daily as subsidy on petrol.
And in less than a month, the Minister of State Petroleum at a public forum in Abuja openly said the nation’s consumption rate of petrol has skyrocketed to 60 million litres per day and that the cost of subsidy is now over N1.4 trillion per annum. This figure means about N3.76 billion is spent daily on subsidising petrol. That is a staggering 386 per cent higher than the earlier figure of N774 million daily given on March 5, 2018 by the NNPC Group Managing Director for the importation and distribution of petroleum products in the country.
Even if we concede to the story of smuggling as alleged by the NNPC group managing director, available statistics have it that the total volume of petrol consumed by Benin, Togo, Cameroon, Niger, Chad and Ghana is less than 250,000 litres per day. So does this explain the difference of 32 million litres per day between the consumption rate of imported fuel in December 2017 and March 2018?
Now this is where the crux of this matter lies: Between the NNPC Group Managing Director and the Petroleum Minister (President Mohammadu Buhari) on one hand and the Minister of State for Petroleum on the other, who should proffer explanation on the volume of petrol imports; monies doled out as subsidy; and Equalisation payments?
Is Kachikwu the Petroleum Minister? Does he run the NNPC? Does the NNPC Group Managing Director report to him or seek his advice/contribution on issues that borders on the day-to-day running of the corporation’s operations- upstream, midstream, and downstream? Why should anyone ask the Minister of State to provide information on NNPC’s N3.76 billion daily subsidy bill when the NNPC boss does not even report to him but to the real Minister and President of the Federal Republic?
When the NNPC boss and some aides of the president secretly sealed the $25 billion oil contracts, was Kachikwu there? When fuel import contractors were selected, did he even know? When the contractors for the 450, 000 barrels per day crude-for-products swap arrangement were selected, was it done by the office of the Minister of State Petroleum even as the president and substantive minister was attending to his health in London? Pathetically, we forget easily in this country. Kachikwu in that famous letter to the President highlighted his relegation by the NNPC GMD and some interests in the Presidency. So why are we not demanding explanations from the very officials that supervise this baseness? Abeg, make una go sit down for portor portor!
How can an inconsequential subordinate instead of the substantive Minister be dragged on such a serious issue that borders on the integrity and blurred transactions of the entire ministry and its parastatals? Where does it happen if not that those who say they speak for us over the times have failed to actually call a spade its real name and not a farm implement?
We should not be afraid to ask President Buhari, the minister of petroleum resources to tell Nigerians how the NNPC, a parastatal under his ministry, came up with the 60 million litres per day national daily consumption for petrol and payment of N3.76 billion as subsidy for just one day? If we must confront our leaders on issues of accountability, let’s fight real rather than shadow boxing otherwise there is no need of wasting our time “creating activity” as it would be said in Warri parlance.
We still remember vividly the content of Kachikwu’s protest letter to President Buhari on the NNPC boss’ gross insubordination and bypass of his office. Baru even said it by himself in his media exchanges with the Minister of state at the wake of the $25 billion secret oil contracts scandal that he has no obligation to report or seek clearance from the minister of state before going to the President who is the substantive Petroleum Minister.
It will be a gross disservice to this nation for any Nigerian to pretend not to know that the Nigerian Petroleum Minister is President Mohhammadu Buhari so this cogent inquest on the fuel imports and subsidy bills should be directed to the right office: The Office of The Minister of Petroleum Resources which also doubles as the Office of The President of The Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Walai it is not out of place as demanded that the substantive Minister of Petroleum should within the seven days stipulated by the FoI Act provide the information as highlighted by Chief Falana some of which include:
As demanded, we need to have some serious –minded Nigerians look into these blurred transactions by the nation’s apex oil concern because if NNPC paid N3.76 billion every day as subsidy by December, you can imagine what the subsidy bill will be reading.
NNPC should have the Bill of Laden and DPR certified Cargo Discharged Certificates of the imported subsidised Petroleum Products into the country from December 2017-March 2018 and it is not out of place to ask for it riding on the FoI Act.
Also as said by the human rights lawyer, we need also to look at these other documents: “Offshore Processing Agreements pertaining to the sale of the 445,000 barrels of crude oil per day plus any additional crude barrels approved for domestic consumption from December 2017 -March 2018.
“Volumes of domestic refined products by the nations’ local refineries against gross expenditure on refinery Turn Around Maintenance (TAM)/ Expended Budget in 2017.
“Gross amount of Forex differential or Forex subsidy (gap Between CBN rate and Special rate approved for fuel importation) from December 2017-March 2018.
“Amount expended by PEF on Project Aquila from inception aimed at tracking Petroleum Trucks nationwide to prevent smuggling of petroleum products.”
The documents which exist in the NNPC and with the Petroleum Minister would help Nigerians establish if the story the corporation is telling us is true or not. The only problem is that this effort by Chief Falana may just end up again as another graah graah! God bless Nigeria!
(IFEANYI IZEZE lives in Abuja: firstname.lastname@example.org; 234-8033043009)