So What? By Ayisha Osori



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“The President has said come to submit a report today, So What? If you are not ready, we are not ready.” Steve Orosanye

There is a country where anti corruption tsars weep, retired generals are murdered in their homes, children are tortured and burnt alive, information is never enough and/or accurate; irrationality is a religion and reports come to die. Welcome to Nigeria.

We have yet another report from the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force (PRSTF) about how Nigeria’s oil and gas sector is badly and senselessly managed.  (Cue to: yawn, roll eyeballs and sigh) It must be hard for many to muster interest; what’s new we might think as we trudge on with dreary lives, beaten by the vicissitudes of crumbling infrastructure, high insecurity and a will to cling to life despite the best efforts of government and its agents to ensure only the lowest quality.  Steve Orosanye, former Head of the Nigerian Civil Service, now director on the board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and also the deputy chairman of the PRSTF cuts through the 100+ paged report and even other reports and facts and figures on the oil sector in Nigerian to sum it up succinctly – “so what”?

Indeed. Even though Mr.Orosanye’s words were not specifically aimed at the content of the report…indirectly, they were. Before the PRSTF aka Ribadu Report was officially submitted to the President last week, we had gotten a sneak review from Reuters which highlighted what must have been considered jaw dropping findings such as: Nigeria has lost $29B on ‘cut-price gas deals’ and hundreds of millions dollars more in bonuses and royalties and oil ministers hand out discretionary oil licenses.

All nothing new – we’ve heard mind-boggling, truck stopping things about the sums of money which evaporate due to opaque and shady transactions – we heard them in the 80s when Fela sang  ‘oil money is still missing’, we heard them after the 1st Gulf War during the Babangida administration, we heard them in January during the protests around the alleged removal of fuel subsidy and we heard them in April after the House of Representatives adhoc committee on fuel subsidy probe released their report and now it seems like we are hearing the same thing again.

While some of what the Ribadu report reveals seems to merely buttress what we already know or suspect – now we have additional proof and corroboration and there are some new revelations. When compared with the Farouk Lawan Report, the Lawan Report was focused on the abuse of the fuel subsidy process, particularly what caused the rise in our fuel subsidy bill from the N240B provided in the budget to over N1Trillion; the Ribadu Report covers a wider range. The PRSTF focused on tracking revenue from the oil sector over a 10-year period (2002-2012) and the processes and mechanisms by which the revenue is earned, collected and disbursed.

There are findings which should prompt ‘what is wrong with us?’ type agonizing such as: Nigeria is the only major oil producer in the world that sells 100% of its crude to private commodities traders, rather than directly to refineries – resulting in lost margins to middlemen, manipulation of pricing, suboptimal returns and market fraud.

Or that since 2006, government has not allocated enough funds to cover cash calls (i.e., obligations under our various contracts with the international oil companies (IOCs) to contribute to investments) resulting in NNPC having to borrow (with interest) and that if this lack of investment in our biggest revenue earner continues, what Nigeria continues to receive from the IOCS as our share of production will steadily decrease.

Or that 67 licenses were awarded between 1 January 2005 and 31 Dec 2011, with an outstanding balance of $566 million unpaid in signature bonuses.

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“There are findings which should prompt ‘what is wrong with us?’ type agonizing such as: Nigeria is the only major oil producer in the world that sells 100% of its crude to private commodities traders, rather than directly to refineries – resulting in lost margins to middlemen, manipulation of pricing, suboptimal returns and market fraud.”

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But maybe these are some of the figures and ‘subjective statements’ Steve Orosanye, Bernard Otti and George Ikoli – the break away faction of the PRSTF – are unhappy about. So, like the Lawan Report, we have a situation where the contents of the report are in question because of ‘the process’ and now there are doubts about the accuracy of information and findings. Like with the Lawan report, Nigerians are being entertained by the circus organized by its political elite and their partners  – a tried, tested and efficient means of turning the serious business of governing into one distasteful joke after another.

At the spectacle on Friday November 2 2012 at the formal presentation of the PRSTF’s report to the President, there were three main actors. First was Orosanye who charged that the report was contaminated with figures which were ‘un-reconciled’ by the institutions (DPR and FIRS) who were in the best position to perfect them. But the Report mentions in more than one place that the figures and estimates from one government agency to another are different. In fact, there is little government data in the entire country which cannot be subjected to dispute as we have seen regarding our daily fuel consumption, our domestic refining capacity or even the amount of crude oil lost to theft. So what difference would the ‘reconciliation’ of DPR and FIRS make?

Irreconcilable data must be why one of the key recommendations made in the PRSTF Report is that we stop collecting data manually and streamline the data collecting process so that some are not collecting apples, while others collect oranges and everyone is puzzled by the hybrid mess we get.

Next, Ribadu exposed Orosanye and Otti as being conflicted by their appointments to the Board of the NNPC. His exact words with regards to Orosanye were that ‘he got himself  appointed’. No…President Jonathan and Mrs. Alison Madueke appointed Orosanye and Otti to the board in July with full knowledge that these individuals were on the PRSTF. Conflict is not something people in the Nigerian government recognize – everyone is conflicted – so what? These appointments are a non-issue because the Minister of Petroleum is conflicted, besides; there is no public record of Ribadu’s formal complaint about the appointments. Neither are we aware that Ribadu made an official complaint about Orosanye’s non-participation in the activities of the PRSTF for months until the discussions turned to debt reconciliation and recovery.

The last actor needs some historical background for context. Like others, I have been scathing about Ribadu’s acceptance to serve on the PRSTF and in Nuhu Ribadu & the Call to Serve

published 02/21/2012, I said, “It is hard to see that the goals of this present administration are aligned with the majority of Nigerians …in which case, the odds are against Ribadu that his good will outweigh the bad that he has chosen to become involved in.”

On accepting the Ribadu Report President Jonathan said with all sincerity, ‘government will surely make use of…eh, this report’. Time will tell.

 


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