PERSPECTIVE – Ibori, Okowa, Obasanjo, Ribadu, Atiku, UK; Politricks as Empire Strikes Back (1)

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Chief James Ibori.

By Tony Eluemunor
Question: How serious is Nigeria’s anti-corruption fight?
Answer: That depends on the accused, the accuser and the amount of prejudice (bias, preconception, prejudgment, predisposition, partiality) and the “politricks” involved.

Item 1: Bureau of Public Enterprise (under Nasir el-Rufai) chose the management-contract option to improve NITEL before privatisation and advertised for OPERATORS ONLY, not CONSULTANTS and CONSORTIUMS. Yet, a consultancy, Pentascope International B.V Private Ltd of Belgium, emerged first, ahead of BNSL/TCIL of India, a CORE OPERATOR. BNSL/TCIL charged US$35 million over three years for its services, Pentascope charged US$45 million …and won.

On January 16, 2003, NITEL Board kicked against the deal and only signed the contract after the weight of Obasanjo’s administration was invoked against it. So, BPE, under el-Rufai, had its way.
A report had informed BPE and the government that Pentascope was a small consulting firm with a share capital of €5,000 (five thousand Euros) and an unsubstantiated annual turnover of €25,000 (twenty-five thousand Euros), and it was coming to manage an outfit worth over a $1bn. Most of all, while Pentascope claimed a turnover of €25, 000, the company that came second in the bidding had a verifiable year 2000 turnover of US$2.560bn.

Nigeria’s loss: NITEL’s N15 billion profit in 2002 turned into a loss of N19 billion in 2003, turnover dipped from N53 billion to N41 billion. Yet, Direct Costs and Overhead Costs increased from N21.3 billion to N26.3 and from N19.4 to N30 billion. NITEL collapsed. Nobody was punished for that misadventure and the man who headed BPE went on to become a Minister and state Governor later. The EFCC under Nuhu Ribadu, never looked into BPE and the self-decorated anti-corruption crusader, Obasanjo, hardly asked any questions, and so too, our journalists. Did some Nigerians float Pentascope, registered it on New Year day (a public holiday everywhere) just to defraud Nigeria? We will never know?

Item 2: 3pm Wednesday 29 March 2006, a top-secret business was at last nearing conclusion; and €107,500,000.00 (One hundred and seven million, five hundred thousand Euros only) was wired out of Nigeria from a bank in Abuja Central District; half of the total payment.
The contract demanded of an Israeli company to “design, develop, manufacture, install and prepare for operation three Aerostar Unmanned Aerial Vehicle intelligence systems (drones) and three Seastar systems for aerial and marine use”.

At the prevailing exchange rate, the €215m contract sum equaled $US260m. Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said: “As for the Aeronautics Ventures deal, experts estimate that, according to the value of the equipment, and even if Aeronautics profits from the deal reach 100 percent, the scope of the deal will not exceed $150 million”.

And that was when Nuhu Ribadu was EFCC Chairman. He was too busy chasing Obasanjo’s perceived enemies. And when Obasanjo’s National Security Adviser, Lt. Gen. Aliyu Gusau (rtd) denied knowledge of it, Obasanjo dropped him. When I reported the contract scandal in the Daily Independent, I was arrested.

Item 3: Obasanjo attempted to tar and destroy former Vice-President Atiku Abubaka using the hallucinated Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) sins. Obasanjo sent the EFCC’s stupid report on Atiku, to the Senate, after the Administrative Panel of Inquiry he had set up had used it to ban Atiku from contesting elections. A court threw out the panel’s decisions. The Senate Committee heard from Atiku that the PTDF funds was used to pay a lawyer that owns a higher institution N250 million in September 2006 for registering a company (Galaxy Backbone) with the Corporate Affairs Commission; paid up share capital – N1b (so it should not attract more than N23m CAC fee).

On 10 May, 2006, during the Third Term scheme, PTDF requested for N20b for its projects and got approval the same day, plus for N10b immediate release. By 2005 December PTDF outfit had N20b and $150m in fixed deposits, N533m and $6.3m in current accounts. Five months later only N12.9 remained of the N20b. The dollar account dwindled too. PTDF Management spent N60m to renovate its head office, N36m on a lift for the two story building. Even Aso Rock’s Media Office under the late Mrs. Remi Oyo got N100m for progress reports and photograph productions for the Villa Library. A bazaar was on.

Item 4: President Obasanjo himself doubled as Petroleum Minister. Yet, did Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s records become transparent from May 1999? The Department of Petroleum Resources record showed that between Jan. and Sept. 2000 NNPC was statutorily allocated 82,200,000 barrels of oil but NNPC told the House of Representatives that it only got 80, 848, 507 barrels; a discrepancy of 1,351,493 barrels. The House of Reps took the matter seriously and queried the NNPC; here is tip of the iceberg: “1; The value of the 53,076, 173 barrel of crude oil purchased by NNPC from FG for domestic processing, January to June 2000, at US $9.50 per barrel amounted to US $504,644 which converts to N42.86 billion. But NNPC claimed it totaled N42.19b. The exchange rate was N85/US$ then. Discrepancy; N670m” in just eight months.

To be fair to Obasanjo, his administration issued new guidelines for lifting Nigerian crude oil and other activities in July 1999. But over a year later, those guidelines were still being ignored. According to a House of Reps Ad-Hoc Committee report, “NNPC is known to be the only supplier in the world offering generous payment options known as advance payment and prompt options. By this practice, buyers are free to choose their buying price and this gives room for manipulations by the key buyers. The ramifications extend to the New York mercantile exchange and even legal suits. In a typical month, Nigeria losses approximately $300m”. Perhaps, this explains why our refineries are inoperative; to keep open a swindlers’ paradise.

How did NNPC choose companies that would import petrol and other things? NNPC told Dr. Christopher Kolade’s Panel on Review of Contracts that it was unaware of the existence of the Federal Ministry of Finance’s Operational Guidelines on tender’s board procedure and powers of spending in the Public Service; as well as guidelines on administrative procedures. Thus, the corporation never observed any of such. Now please note this: according to NNPC’s figures, it imported 1,933,929.88 quantity of refined petrol (no indication if it was calculated in barrels or litres) costing $452, 566,158.00 between May and December of 1999, but six months later between Jan 2000 and June, it had imported 3,357, 438.93, costing $1, 912,242,771.39 – an increase of 7346%. Why such a drastic increase? Did the number of motor vehicles increase so dramatically?

A Reps Committee report said: “Since no organ of government seems to keep record of what NNPC exports or imports, it is near impossible to verify NNPC’s figures as it concerns revenue accruable from sales of unutilized/export crude. It is equally difficult to ascertain allocation of such revenue for the same reason. For example, the DPR claims that the PPMC has consistently failed to obtain permits to import petroleum products, and when imported, no returns are made to DPR despite persistent reminders on the same – irrespective of laws/regulations governing the petroleum products imports into the country”. And Nigeria was in a democracy!

Item 5: Late President Umaru Yar’Adua received, 25 May 2009, “Halliburton Bribe Scandal Allegedly Involving High Government Officials” interim report. Soon after, his illness worsened and he died in office. Case closed! Was an ailing Yar’Adua poisoned, hastened to his grave, because of that case?

The bribery scandal’s timeline extended from 1995 to 2004/5, when Gen. Sani Abacha, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar and Obasanjo led the country. $178,575,675 in bribes (the highest ever in Nigeria) was paid out to highly-placed Nigerians for a Liquefied Natural Gas contract given to TSKJ Consortium for $1.8bn instead of BCSA whose bid was $100m more than TSKJ’s. So Nigeria lost $100m there. TSKJ won additional contracts for construction of subsequent trains, up to train 6 in 2004 for $6bn. Yes, in 2004. Till today, no Nigerian has been punished. On March 27, 2013, under President Goodluck Jonathan, the case was finally buried: six small fries were prosecuted for being conduits for the big fishes. Justice Abubakar Sadiq Umar of Abuja High Court, said the PROSECUTION HAD FAILED TO DILIGENTLY PROSECUTE THE CASE.

Now, hear Nuhu Ribadu’s excuse why he didn’t catch the bribe takers: “I put in a request letter but after a year of trying to get French authorities to help us, the investigation magistrate told me that they could not get anyone to translate my letter from English to French. I knew it was a hopeless case. But Nigeria has an Embassy in Paris that could have translated the letter or written a fresh letter in French for Ribadu. That Ribadu didn’t know that, shows the stuff he is made of. Or, was translating the letter just a lame excuse from someone whose heart and soul weren’t in the quest? No matter, Britain crowned him an anti-corruption crusader, Azu Ishiekwene, Segun Adeniyi and other journalists applauded.

Now the question: If Obasanjo, Ribadu, and supposedly crusading Nigerian journalists have been terribly opposed to corruption, why was the Halliburton scandal as well as 99.9 per cent of corruption cases, never investigated? Why did the kind of noise over the mere signing of an MOU between Nigeria and the United Kingdom, for the return of £4.2 million pounds to Nigeria, money seized from three female associates of Chief James Onanefe Ibori, never arose over the items listed above? Some, began to demonise Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa administration in Delta state, manufacturing reasons why the £4.2m should not revert to Delta, forgetting that Nigeria is a Federation. Politricks had crept in.

Answer: When the Obedient Servants of the British Empire were failing to stop Ibori, in stepped the UK to keep the Nigerian part of its empire in check. The Niger Delta region was getting restless, Chief James Onanefe Ibori was giving the “natives” ideas. His resource control agitation, sensitisation and mobilisation was a threat to UK’s interests. Two other South-South Governors had joined him; so he was getting “dangerous”. Then the Empire Struck Back; Ibori had to be decoupled from politics and leadership … like King Jaja of Opobo, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah and other Africanists who attempted to THINK INDEPENDENTLY.

The UK used DFID immensely. It sponsored Respect Nigeria, Save Nigeria and other groups either through EFCC or directly in London, groups that died once Ibori was jailed. It financed saharalreporters through stupid awards through third parties. Now, Ibori’s case is over and the online publication is struggling for breath. A death sentence was passed on Ibori – to be arrested DEAD OR ALIVE – April 22, 2010. Ibori should thank God that he is alive today. Jonathan, the Obedient Servant of the Empire who issued it was kicked out shabbily. He has finished his service and the Nigerian outpost is safe again for the Empire.
• Tony Eluemunor, an Abuja-based journalist, is an authority on the Presidency.

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