(BEING THE TEXT OF A WORLD PRESS CONFERENCE ADDRESSED BY THE END IMPUNITY NOW (EIN) CAMPAIGN IN ABUJA, NIGERIA, ON WEDNESDAY 31st OCTOBER 2012)
‘END IMPUNITY NOW’ is a nationwide campaign initiated & launched in May 2012, and endorsed by a growing number of patriotic Nigerian citizens’ organisations, appalled by the grandiose scale that systemic corruption has assumed in the country; alarmed at the increasingly detrimental and devastating impact of this unchecked systemic corruption on the conditions of existence of citizens, as well as on the state of the national economy; and convinced that the share scale and scope, as well as the catastrophic impact of this endemic systemic corruption is no longer sustainable, and is therefore categorically unacceptable.
You will recall that back in June, on the road to the second in a sequence of Anti-Corruption National Days of Action (the first of which was held on 23rd of April 2012, with the second being held on 28th of June 2012), we had addressed a press conference and had stated as follows among others;
That ‘We are worried and disturbed by the scale of the rot in the system, which continues to allow criminal acts to go unpunished, the brazen looting of the treasury to go on unabated, while the constitution of the Federal Republic is routinely violated and breached without consequence.
We are worried and concerned enough as patriotic citizens of our Country to reach the conclusion that something drastic, immediate, and far reaching must be urgently done to end all forms of impunity in the governance of our country, and begin the process of salvaging Nigeria.
We declare without fear or favour that IMPUNITY ENDS NOW; we insist that because of the endemic nature and systemic character of corruption in the country that this process of ending impunity begins immediately with the tackling of corruption’.
And we had gone on to make some key demands including: sacking of the boards and management of the institutions of government implicated in the mind boggling monumental fraud in the management of the fuel subsidy regime for 2011, a fraud which as at the time of the various probes amounted to over 1.7 trillion naira, and just about 45% of the 2011 federal budget. We had been clear about the fact that the Federal Ministry of petroleum resources and its minister, as well as the NNPC, DPR, PPMC, PPPRA, bore direct and greatest responsibility in the monumental fraud.
We had also stated clearly that given that manifestation of the complete lack of coordination in the economy and among relevant agencies and institutions with respect to the management of the subsidy fund, combined with the fact that monies were signed and paid out from the federation account without the knowledge or authorization of the minister of finance, who is also the coordinating minister of the economy, that her office bore indirect responsibility for the fraud and barefaced looting of the economy. We had thus demanded the sacking of all officials so implicated, and the trial of those with cases to answer. Additionally we had demanded that all subsidy thieves and those who aided and abetted them should be speedily brought to trial and looted funds recovered.
You will also recall that the mass protest we had called to press for these demands on the 28th of June was met with a show of force by the regime, with the deployment of over 400 armed riot police, with several dozen undercover agents as well as two surveillance helicopters! This by a regime that professes to be serious about fighting corruption is worrisome.
THE PRESENT SITUATION
However and lamentably since that June outing, and 9 months after the January Uprising, which was triggered by the rot in the petroleum sector that had made the regime to hike petrol prices; no significant trials have been conducted to any reasonable extent, nor has any significant convictions been gotten. We do not even know what the true extent and scale of the fraud was, and how much of the looted funds, if any has been recovered and from whom! And if funds have been recovered, why have those from whom it was recovered not been tried or convicted?
Instead, the pursuit of the subsidy fraud has been undertaken hesitantly, and as if without conviction! A few cases have been taken to court, with charges dropped and refilled, bails granted etc, all amounting to motion without movement. There has been an evident absence of sincerity on the part of the regime to take this to its logical conclusion.
The clearest evidence of this is that no significant cases have been taken to court yet, the regime had also entered into a ‘no prosecution, no refund’ deal with some indicted marketers before a Federal High Court, only the board of NNPC has been sent on early retirement, with the retention of the chair of the board, the minister, and no investigation of filing of charges against those retired; fundamentally, no single official has been indicted, investigated or taken to court. Yet it is inconceivable that such a scale of fraud would have occurred, with marketers already indicted and implicated, and with all of these happening without the active knowledge and collaboration of some officials.
What can be deduced from all of these is that this regime lacks the gut and courage to tackle the menace of corruption, and this baffling situation, leaves room for several speculations, the most realistic of which is the assumption that perhaps the regime is both unwilling and incapable of fighting corruption with vigor because as a regime, it is itself entangled and enmeshed in the web of the corruption that is undermining the very foundation of nationhood.
The most glaring indication that this deduction is true, is the release in the last few days of the report of the Ribadu committee, and government’s lackadaisical and unserious, even disdainful response to it: which is to set up another committee that will review the report of the committee? We have had enough of committees, what is conspicuous by its absence, is any real and concrete action towards implementation of the reports of committees in which huge, but undisclosed amounts of money have been invested! This “committocracy”, seems to us another means of oiling the wheels of corruption, while enabling exposed thieves to cover their tracks!
DIMENSIONS OF CORRUPTION AND ITS IMPACT
We remain convinced that the endemic and systemic nature that corruption has now assumed is a major driver of poverty, gross unemployment, particularly of youth, and the associated unprecedented level and dimension of insecurity in the country.
A nation that budgets no more than 30% of its resources for capital expenditure, and that never exceeds 60% performance and budget implication, and for which the level of corruption reaches on the average 40 to 45% of its annual federal budget, is incapable of laying the foundations for sustainable infrastructural development let alone meeting the basic needs of the citizenry, and providing basic services. It is why there are littered across this country close to 12,000 abandoned infrastructural projects, costing 7.7 trillion naira, with over 2.2 trillion naira already paid in mobilisation fees. It is little wonder that the cost of doing business is unsustainably high, capacity utilisation remains perennially low [under 40%], and poverty rate continues to hover above 69% of the population. Take the current flood disaster for example; not only was the flood foretold, the scale of the disaster was also foreseen, yet governments at all levels were caught unprepared! This state of unpreparedness can be directly linked to the misappropriation and fraudulent practices implicated in the management of over 400 billion naira in ecological funds over the previous decade.
Furthermore, it is our conviction that there is a direct reciprocal relationship between the spike in subsidy fraud and the spike in crude oil theft!
THE BASIS OF THE SUBSIDY FRAUD
The subsidy fraud has its basis in the following, and unless these are addressed, the country will continue to remain captive to the cabal looting our treasury. These are; the fact that we import refined products; the fact that the naira is floated and declines against the dollar; the fact that there has been no scientific mechanism put in place to determine actual daily consumption rate of PMS; and the fact that our refineries are working at below average capacity, and the actual daily production rate for PMS for each refinery is shrouded in misery.
If we knew the combined daily PMS production rate from our refineries, and also determine the precise daily consumption rate for PMS, we would be able to determine precisely the quantity to be imported and over what period of time. Besides as we improve and increase domestic production capacity, the quantity imported daily would also be declining.
The major driver of the corruption however is the impunity that ensures that no one gets caught, and if unfortunately you get caught, no one gets punished.
THE RIBADU COMMITTEE REPORT
One of the committees set up in the wake of the January Uprising, as part of the response of the regime, in the wave of the avalanche of committees, was the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force, under the chairmanship of Nuhu Ribadu to investigate revenue inflows in the petroleum sector.
The committee, it is now known, has concluded its assignment and handed over its report to relevant authorities.
In its findings the committee has further substantiated the claims of massive, unprecedented, endemic, systemic and historic levels of fraud, corruption and impunity in the petroleum sector!
According to the Ribadu committee, this nation has lost over the last 10 years, approximately $29bn to price fixing and contract scams involving oil and gas corporations. Additionally, Nigeria is owed over $3bn in royalty arrears by oil and gas corporations; while she loses $6bn per annum, at a theft rate of 250,000 barrels of crude oil per day to crude oil theft! This means that over the last 10 years, Nigeria would have lost a minimum of $60bn to crude oil theft alone!
The implication of the extent of the fraud and corruption that has been exposed in the petroleum sector by the various committees is that in the last 10 years alone, and in just the petroleum sector, Nigeria has lost the total sum of a minimum of $8bn (the oil subsidy fraud for 2011 alone) + $3bn + $29bn + $60bn, amounting to $100bn or over N16.8tn; the equivalent of 4 annual Federal Budgets!
This means that an amount equal to the total budget for 4 years has been stolen over a 10 year period! We can only imagine what the total sum of these grand thefts would have been if we add to this extra-budgetary theft, funds embezzled from the actual appropriation acts over that period!
We can only imagine what our country has lost in provisioning of adequate basic services and infrastructures; in employment generation, and poverty reduction, if these sums had been available and used for these purposes instead of being stolen!
In view of the foregoing we make and reiterate the following demands:
1. Sacking, investigation and prosecution of the boards and managements of all implicated agencies; NNPC, DPR, PPMC, PPPRA in particular.
2. Sacking and sanction of the Petroleum Minister, because she bears direct oversight responsibility for the mess.
3. Accelerated prosecution and conviction of indicted marketers and the officials that collaborated with them. The first thing to do is to produce and disseminate publicly a list of all indicted marketers and officials and the amount involved for each.
4. Determination within one month maximum, and through verifiable means, of the actual Daily Consumption Rate (DCR) for PMS for the country; as well as the Combined Daily Production Rate (DPR) for PMS from domestic refineries. In this regard we note that while the country paid for an average of 59 million liters per day of PMS in imports in 2011, it is speculated that it has been paying for an average of 40 million liters per day of PMS in imports in the course of 2012. Not only were these figures arrived at without any scientific basis and at the whims of marketers; they raise the question of an embedded ‘legitimate’ fraud involving an average of 19 million liters per day in imported PMS throughout 2011.
5. As we continue to hold the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the economy responsible because of her indirect oversight functions, we continue to also demand for her resignation and for appropriate sanctions.
Finally, remaining convinced of the detrimental, deleterious, devastating and potentially catastrophic impact of this now endemic and systemic corruption on our country, its economic development and the well being of our citizens; we shall continue to organise and mobilise popular resistance to corruption, as well as popular action to compel that corruption is frontally tackled.