O ye powers within my ten toes, let me not strut like an eagle only to receive a historic slap that resounds via social media round the globe. I have been reliably informed that the slap under reference was of the “common slap” variety, not a “cover slap” which, by definition, affects the ear, nose and throat (if you know, you know)!
I won’t dwell on the Bianca Vs Ebere distraction for a millisecond longer because it was just the swatting of an irritant fly. This is Nigeria where more serious calamities routinely happen and you can bet your last kobo that there will be no consequences.
Some time ago, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) announced that it had secured the final forfeiture of 24 landed properties valued at N10.9 billion belonging to a retired military officer. Justice N. E Maha of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja had ordered the publication of notices in national newspapers, inviting persons with interest in the property to show why the assets should not be finally forfeited to the Federal Government. Nobody showed up, but everyone knew the officer who had acquired the property through proxies. If you know your way around, no interdiction will come near your tent.
One Adenike Bintu, a former Deputy Commandant of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), preferred to forfeit 60 buildings and a 9.6 hectares parcel of land, at Sabon-Lugbe, Abuja rather than contest the charges brought against her by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC). To ensure that nothing happens when you’re interdicted by the authorities in such a situation, simply relocate. You may return to pick up the pieces when the heat dies down.
Few Nigerians were scandalised when a Lagos-Ibadan train stopped in the middle of the bush because it had run out of diesel. The official explanation was that the fuel gauge was faulty! Frustrated passengers unleashed their anger through social media. One Twitter user, King Isaiah Obadore, wrote: “Boarded Train from Ibadan to Lagos. We’re still stuck in the forest with unknown Chinese Men,”
Speaking for myself, it was the first time I would be hearing of a train stalling because of fuel. The authorities were not unduly bothered. As long as they were able to get the train moving again, all was well. Heads were not expected to roll. Just shrug and go on.
The new refrain in town is, “Nothing will happen”. When NNPC, or rather its licensees, imported smelly, sub-standard petrol which destroyed motorists’ cars, everyone knew that nothing would happen. The official lie before then was that NNPC was the sole importer of petrol. The disaster made us know that there were some privileged contractors doing the importation for opaque NNPC.
NNPC listed the vendors as MRS, Oando, Duke Oil and Emadeb/Hyde/AY Maikifi/Brittania-U Consortium. MRS denied responsibility, saying the fuel came from the Antwerp, Belgium terminal of Litasco, a subsidiary of the Russian company, Lukoil, The Emadeb/Hyde/AY Maikifi/Brittania-U Consortium said in a statement on Thursday that the fuel was imported by Britannia-U, a member of the group which, it alleged, had always operated as a lone ranger. That was where it ended. Nigerians knew that nothing would happen
We have mismanaged our refineries. So, we produce crude oil, ship it abroad and import the refined product so that Nigerians can serve maximum punishment for being citizens of such a clueless state.
Heraclitus postulated that you can’t step into the same river twice. Sorry, in Nigeria, you can step into the same river many times. We who have consistently stepped into the same river over the years know that our own unique body of water flows nowhere. It is a large, stagnant fluid mass with an illusory veneer of motion.
The annual festival of darkness is held between February and April. An official announcement usually accompanies the festival: “The national grid collapsed because the water level in Kanji Dam dropped and there is no gas to power the turbines …” That announcement is followed by a skit by Gencos, Discos and Whatever-Else-Cos. Amazingly, the cold season is when Nigerians get the most supply (which is anything from an average of two hours a week for high-density areas where the poor reside, to 20 hours a day in posh neighbourhoods). The hot period between harmattan and the rains is festival time to celebrate darkness. Same story annually.
Look at the petrol queues all over our major cities. Nobody will pay any price for this scandal. You run into stagnant waters if you joke that the president ought to query the Minister of Petroleum Resources. Many families now look back wistfully at the past decade when they complained that things were bad. Petrol was N87 but it is now N165 or N230, depending on whether you buy through the pump in Abuja or from the black market all over the country. A bag of rice was N8,000 but is now N32,000.
Diesel was N110 per litre, now it is N700. In 2015, the price of a 12.5 kg cylinder of cooking gas increased from N2,800 to N3,200. In 2022, it is now N8,500. You now require N355.80 to purchase a litre of kerosene. This is N158.17 more when compared to the N197.63 the product was sold for eight years ago. Aviation fuel is also at the mercy of NNPC’s incompetence. Local airlines almost went on strike recently, demanding to be given licences to import the product instead of being helpless in the face of the current opaque system. Even at that, the stress is passed on to Nigerians as airlines that charged as low as N12,000 for a one-hour flight (Economy Class) eight years ago, now charge a flat rate of N50,000.
The quest to address the housing deficit in the country is being dogged by the fact that cement which used to sell for N1,800 per bag, now goes for N4,500.
Isn’t this the same country where the NDDC claimed to have spent billions of Naira on travels, conferences and allowances during the COVID lockdown? What became of the ‘fainting’ skit at the National Assembly hearing? And, as a social media activist, Iliya, recently asked, “Didn’t the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development claim to have fed school children during COVID lockdown?”. If you expect all that to be audited, you may wait forever. Nothing will happen.
The United Arab Emirate provided a list of the sponsors of terrorism in Nigeria to the Nigerian government. We promptly classified the list as ‘top secret’ instead of naming and shaming the terror sponsors. Those already conversant with how the Nigerian establishment handles such matters already predicted that nothing would happen. Nothing did.
According to the latest data made available by the National Bureau for Statistics in 2018, there were a total of 11.8 million vehicles in Nigeria. If this figure is properly audited and factored into the total amount of petrol locally consumed in Nigeria and for which trillions of Naira are paid in subsidies, some of the current beneficiaries of the gravy train will have to really struggle to stay out of the penitentiary. But I forget, nothing will happen.
Up till now, the nation awaits the government’s statement on the query issued by the office of the Auditor-General for the Federation regarding the failure of the defunct NNPC (now NNPC Limited) to account for about 107,239,436.00 barrels of crude oil lifted for domestic consumption in 2019.
The AuGF’s report alleged that about 22,929.84 litres of PMS valued at N7.06 billion were pumped to the two depots (Ibadan-Ilorin and Aba-Enugu) between June and July 2019 were not received by the depots.
The report identified discrepancies between the amount reported by the NNPC as transfer to the federations account and what was reported by the AuGF. While NNPC’s records showed that N1,272,606,864,000.00 was transferred by the Corporation, the amount recorded by the Accountant General of the Federation was N608,710,292,773.44, showing a discrepancy of N663,896,567,227.58.
The report also said that the sum of N519,922,433,918.46 was transferred to the Federation Account by the NNPC based on transfer mandates while demanding that the company provides a “reconciliation statement for the difference of N88,787,862,853.96 between AGF’s figure of N608,710,296,772.42 and NNPC’s figure per transfer mandate of N519,922,433,918.46.”
Nigeria has a long history of running a very opaque system in accounting for proceeds from its petroleum sector. Remember the $2.8 billion saga of the late ’70s and the subsequent Irikefe Panel which led us nowhere. If our past is to inform our present with regard to these matters, nothing will happen.
(Wole Olaoye is a public relations consultant and veteran journalist. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @wole_olaoye; Instagram: woleola2021)