House Public Accounts Committee is investigating an allegation that state oil monopoly, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), has chartered a plane, Challenger 859, at the cost of N10 billion for the private use of its supervising minister, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, and her immediate household. It spends another 500,000 euros (N130 million) on monthly maintenance. The allegation was made by a House member, Rep Samuel Adejare, who said an investigation would reveal that the N10 billion was just a “tip of the iceberg”.
A very angry Adejare reasoned that “If government could be bankrolling this waste in the face of ever dwindling public resources,…it amounts to a misplacement of priority, impudence and breach of public trust, an action that offends the Fiscal Responsibility Act and all other laws on fiscal discipline in Nigeria.” His allegation came exactly after Sanusi blew the whistle on $20 billion oil revenue that the NNPC had been unable to account for. Instead of ordering a prompt inquiry, President Goodluck Jonathan suspended him as CBN governor, with just three months left of his tenure.
Diezani hasn’t officially reacted to Adejare’s allegation, but the NNPC management on Monday rushed to her defence. It agreed that indeed a chartered aircraft has been acquired but not for the minister’s private use and it didn’t dispute the scandalous cost of the plane either. A statement by acting Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Dr. Omar Farouk Ibrahim, said the law allows NNPC to “hold, manage and alienate moveable and immovable property…which will facilitate the discharge of (Its) duties…” Besides, “It is standard practice for large oil and gas corporations such as NNPC to make use of the most efficient means of transportation to ensure the effective and efficient coverage of critical oil and gas assets under its purview.”
Without knowing, the NNPC management has succeeded in indicting itself. If it uses the “most efficient means of transportation” and covers the ground “effectively and efficiently”, how come there is so much oil theft going on in this country? With 100, 000 barrels of crude believed to be stolen daily – a conservative estimate -, the loss in revenues this year is feared to amount to $3.5 billion. Secondly, there is a disturbing parallel between the purchases of bullet proof BMW vehicles by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) for immediate past aviation minister, Ms. Stella Oduah, a scandal that led to her sack in February. Diezani Alison-Madueke must be made to face the music too.
In the light of the public conduct of the people President Jonathan has put in charge of the oil industry, particularly the NNPC, his description of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi-led CBN as “a government within a government” was inappropriate. The government agency that fits that description smugly is the NNPC, overseen by Mrs. Alison-Madueke. Under her, the corporation has become, in the words of opposition leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a veritable ATM which is used to steal the nation’s oil money.
We welcome the House probe of this latest squander mania at the NNPC, hoping that this time the lawmakers will muster the will power to name names and clean up the cesspit of corruption that NNPC has become. But we wouldn’t be surprised if the investigation turned out to be another spectacle. Previously, Alison-Madueke had proved to be untouchable and she may surprise us once more.