NNPC And The Reign Of Briefcase Contractors

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Francis Abayomi
It is amusing how Nigerians forget so soon! Otherwise, the supposed leaked letter by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, in spite of the groundswell of debate it has elicited, only attest to the ills of Nigeria which is essentially about the struggle for the control of resources from the oil sector. Indeed, the much-touted non-negotiability of Nigeria’s unity partly boils down to attraction for the ever thriving oil-induced politics as may be enhanced or hindered by manipulation of state power. Indeed, there is an extent to which the struggle for the control of resources accruable from oil has come to clearly define the politics of corruption and impunity in Nigeria. We ought to have been guided by history when, President Buhari at inception of this administration, began to spew and spin his reform agenda in the oil sector which was marked by his undemocratically usurpation of constitutional requirements for appointing a minister for petroleum ministry. Nigerians were simply carried away by the charm of the change mantra. We forgot to ponder as to whether the frenzy about the NNPC was nationalistic and altruistic or merely a smokescreen for restoring the old order of hegemony over the country cash-cow which had been substantially dismantled beginning with the Obasanjo’s era.

To be sure, crave for the control of oil derives from the dynamics largely rooted in the character of a rental state which is essentially what Nigeria political economy thrives upon. When President Buhari refused to appoint a substantive Minister of Petroleum, we ought to have been bothered as to what exactly the Commander-in-Chief was probably out to achieve by such messianic complex. It is recalled that similar militaristic obduracy by former president Obasanjo who doubled as the Minister for Petroleum Resources in the course of his 8 years reign as President only opened a new chapter of rot in the petroleum sector as would later manifest in the high-wired scandals involving international stakeholders in the oil industry.

But what however portends huge puzzles is that it would appears Nigerians have forgotten President Buhari’s previous performances both as federal commissioner for petroleum and as the Chairman of Petroleum Trust Funds (PTF) were riddled with mindboggling malfeasance which till date remained unanswered. In spite of the hysteria generated by the much-publicised loots by late General Sani Abacha and the immediate past Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison Madueke, it is shocking while we are not demanding the lid be blown off the cesspit of corruption perpetrated under the PTF as well as the 8 years of former president Obasanjo when no audit was conducted on transactions by the NNPC and its subsidiaries. It is now evident that regardless of how much we pretend that corruption could be reduced to the era of former President Goodluck Jonathan, the letter by Kachikwu simply unmasked the return of the reign of briefcase contractors at the NNPC.

While it may be convenient to scream corruption in appraising issues raised by Kachikwu in his letter, most Nigerian probably do not appreciate how terribly our collective sensibilities have been taken for a ride when we were led to believe that an Acting President was indeed in charge; superintending the affairs of the country while the Commander-in-Chief was attending to his health. Apart from the illicit contacts put at a whopping costs of $25 billion and allegedly awarded without due process, there are a number of other issues which the letter has thrown up and which raises troubling posers as to how much infractions and illegality could be tolerated from the inner caucus of a president whose major plank of credibility relate to his anti-corruption stance. Therefore, arguments to the effect that the president is surrounded by individuals who appear more adept and daring in corrupt practices only end up mere sophistry aimed at diverting attention from the serious issue that borders on the danger of reducing governance to private business of privileged few.

Nevertheless, the concern should not just be about the cabalisation of the NNPC as Kachikwu’s letter seems to suggest. More challenging is the danger of surrendering the future of the country to a new order of reckless impunity ostensibly laced with corruptive motives that have become palpable irrespective of orchestrated denials to that effect. Nonetheless, those impressing it on us that corruption should not be imputed to the staggering accusation against the GMD of the NNPC, Maikanti Baru are at liberty to so indulge. But since it is beginning to look pretty like the forces behind the GMD are the same presidential cabal up in arms against embattled acting-Chairman of EFCC; Ibrahim Magu, it would be a long wait in the dark for citizens who genuinely invested faith in the war against corruption. In the days and weeks ahead, we would probably see anti-corruption politics assuming a new height with anti-corruption activists engaging in stupefying revisionism. But just as there are soft targets and friendly fire in conventional war, the best the EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies as well as activists could do is to probably wait till heavens knows when. There are no assurances that any concrete step would be taken as with the case involving suspended SGF Lawal Babachir and the Ikoyigate saga.

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