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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

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NNPC: An Ugly, Dirty Story!

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is a Bad Story. Today, right thinking members of the Nigerian society are asking just one question: What is wrong with NNPC?

In the past few years and running, the NNPC has been in the news for all the wrong reasons- from frequent sacking of its group managing directors, which gives a picture of instability and incompetence, to endless allegations of insolvency and rampant fraud.

The Insolvency Story

Way back in 2010, Mr. Remi Babalola, then Minister of State for Finance was reprimanded and downgraded to the position of Minister of Special Duties for daring to state that the NNPC was insolvent. The Babalola admission on the financial health of NNPC was shocking to millions of Nigerians who naturally see the NNPC as the nation’s cash cow.

That our cash cow was insolvent meant nothing but hardship in the offing for the people of Nigeria. As expected, questions were asked: what happened to the billions of dollars accruing to Nigeria from the export of crude oil through NNPC?

What made the Babalola bombshell more convincing was the position of the messenger himself: Babalola was the Minister of State for Finance and as such, was in a premium position to know. Secondly, he came to the job from First Bank where he functioned as Executive Director-meaning he was not a novice in financial matters.

As usual in the Naija fashion, he was shoved aside for allegedly stating what many saw as the obvious.

House of Musical Chairs

A time there was when the Office of Group Managing Director of NNPC was as stable as the rock. Indeed, many envied the occupant, not only in monetary terms but also in respect of the weight of the office. Those were those days.

Unfortunately, under the Jonathan administration, that position became a sort of Musical Chairs. The GMDs were hired and fired overnight. It became the most unstable job in the federal hierarchy.

Indeed, the long list includes Shehu Ladan, Austen Oniwon, Yakubu Andrew, Joseph Dawha etc. It became known in the oil sector for a new occupant not to celebrate his ascension until Further Notice!

In that light, the public image and reputation of NNPC became less valuable than a Banana Republic.

And the Missing Billions

The NNPC was already crawling on its knees in metaphorical terms when Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, then CBN Governor sounded the alarm on alleged missing $20 billion, later $10 billion, depending on the figure you decide to believe from the coffers of NNPC. NNPC again?-somebody muttered in anguish.

First, there was utter disbelief, then surprise, and then, clamour for forensic audit to unravel whether the Sanusi allegation was real or witch-hunt. And what did the forensic audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers reveal?-that indeed, the management of NNPC withheld the sum of $1.48 billion from the coffers of the Federation Account.

That was a damning report! And then came the curious questions:

• Who authorised the management of NNPC to withhold the money?
• Was the Minister of Petroleum and The Presidency aware or not aware of the actions of NNPC?
• Was it the first time such act was committed by NNPC?
• If not the first, what became of such withheld funds later?
• If not the first, when did the practice begin?

The Buhari Broom

And when we thought we’ve had enough of the NNPC Nollywood script, the iron broom of President Muhammadu Buhari descended like thunder on the troubled petroleum giant, sweeping away the Board of NNPC to the admiration of many stakeholders in the polity.

In essence, we are waiting earnestly to see how far the Buhari Regime will go to cleanse the NNPC of its Light Fingers and safeguard our collective resources from the naked greed of unscrupulous few.

The Last Word

For NNPC, these are troubled times. When will the troubles end? For me, NNPC of today, is a Bad and Ugly Story not worth telling!

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