President Goodluck Jonathan’s demonstration of government’s apparent helplessness in checking rampaging economic terrorists eating up 60 percent of fuel subsidies meant to assist the poor, does not inspire hope of ending the nation’s financial hemorrhage that denied the citizenry of improved socioeconomic welfare. The President had August 28 failed woefully to address satisfactorily the age long
pilferage of fuel subsidies which had in the past triggered massive demonstrations when government resorts to easy solutions of increasing prices of petroleum products, instead of checking subsidy thefts. The public that expected profound solutions and what government has done must have been disappointed by Jonathan’s apparent timidity is in the apprehension of thieves milking to death the economy and strangulating job opportunities, making provision of electricity and socioeconomic infrastructure remediation impossible in the past 15 years of the PDP central administration.
Jonathan had August 28 lamented abuse of fuel subsidies at the launching of the national identity card scheme in Abuja; claiming that some unnamed rich Nigerians were stealing and exporting 60 percent of the estimated N1.2 trillion (N720 billion) federal government spends yearly on fuel subsidies. This is excluding the other about two trillion naira that is lost every year through theft of crude oil and pilferage of oil revenues which all have remained unchecked despite several government probe reports un-acted upon by government that pretends to fight oil industry graft.
Said Jonathan, “If you take the issue of subsidy of transport, what we do is subsidizing hydrocarbon (fuel), it does not go to the ordinary people. Government spends huge sums of money, hundreds of billions of naira every year in the budget, ask the National Assembly. Sometimes it is controversial subsidizing kerosene; yet it is not, it is going very high in the market, subsidizing the PMS (petrol) and so on. And those who make the money (read steal the subsidies) will come and use that money to induce the people suffering to riot against government”.
However, President Jonathan gave no clue on what has happened to several government reports, why it has remained impossible to identify and prosecute big time subsidy thieves over the years and what government is doing now to arrest the monumental thefts which have left the economy prostrate, with factory shutdowns and massive jobs losses.
Left unanswered too was the one poser repeatedly asked for years. Why does diesel in an officially deregulated market sell for N150-N160 per litre while kerosene in a regulated market allegedly subsidized by government sells for N140-N220 depending on the distance of supplies?
By Jonathan’s admission it is now indisputable that Nigerians were and are still paying for official corruption in unchecked subsidy thefts by a few. What would Nigerians lose if government deregulates prices of kerosene, removes dubious subsidies that benefit only a few politically exposed thieves, removes NNPC’s anti-investment monopoly to allows marketers to import whatever shortfalls in domestic kerosene production triggered by deliberate official crippling of refineries to promote unnecessary importation and payment of trillions of Naira dubious subsidies?
The President has now added a new insight that the beneficiaries of the subsidy theft were the ones who turned round to provoke demonstrations, especially during unjustified fuel price hike when the corruption in subsidies management had not been resolved.
The truth over the years for instance is that NNPC pretends to sell kerosene to marketers at N40.90 per litre, but reports say its officials demand extra N25 per litre before getting allocation, which in effect means that kerosene can never sell at N50 when marketers add their profit margin and supply and logistics costs.
We had in the past suggested putting an end to this subsidy racket and the current grave oil industry accountability deficit by the President Jonathan deploying the Economic, Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), ICPC and the Police to go after these big corporate rogue criminals. If not, it would be difficult in this electioneering period to convince the public that government is not shielding oil
revenue thieves in order to mobilize funds for electioneering. What is the outcome of the forensic audit which the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala promised several months ago to unravel the mystery behind the missing oil revenues as alleged by the CBN? Has the Jonathan administration been cowed again by the subsidy rogue cabal?
Government is yet give a public report on the NNPC and Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) that were indicted for believably collaborating with unscrupulous petroleum marketers to defraud government of trillions of naira via paid-for but unsupplied fuel; in fraudulently obtaining foreign exchange for bogus imports; claiming subsidies for unsupplied products and for round-tripping and money laundering: all criminal offences against the state.
The Petroleum Ministry, Budget Office in Presidency, Central Bank, NNPC, PPPRA, DPR, were all indicted in subsidy theft by Reps report and Presidency report. The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is yet to be passed by NASS 14 years after being introduced, thereby allowing multinational oil corporations and government officials to continue revenue thefts.
More than two years after Reps’ fuel rogue subsidy expose, what quantity of fuel is Nigeria consuming and paying subsidies on: 59 or 35 million litres per day? Have leakages been plugged? What is the basis of computing and paying subsidies, which government admits now that 60 percent value is exported by thieves it cannot identify or apprehend?
We must diligently keep government on its toes, monitor it to deliver on its promises and make sure that the current National Assembly investigation into the jumbo fuel subsidies and NNPC racket is brought to beneficial end by jailing culprits.