Transparency International in Nigeria Calls for Action on Malabu Oil Following Global Witness Audio on the Deal
Mallam Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, the Head of Transparency International in Nigeria says the government should demonstrate that all avenues for a repeat of looting of Nigeria on the scale of the Malabu oil deal have been blocked. He is also calling on the government of the day to assure Nigerians that whoever is involved in that deal will be brought to book to serve as deterrence. Speaking to Intervention in the aftermath of a slightly less than two minutes audio now viral on social media by Global Witness, the international anti-corruption NGO, Rafsanjani said that unless the government of the day demonstrated such firmness in this case, impunity and looting would continue and the beneficiaries would even re-invest the resources to capture power in future.
Told that some of the issues involved are still in court, the transparency activist said Shell’s admission of the payment had closed the case, adding that it is only in Nigeria people go and obtain perpetual injunction over such serious allegations. Describing the scandal as a big evidence of how embarrassingly unpatriotic some Nigerian elite could be, the TI chief also said it proved how people entrusted with leadership had mortgaged the country for personal interest. He argued how the Malabu oil deal had shown denials of suspicion or allegations of corruption to be untrue, pointing out how Shell had been exposed to be an active agent in the institutionalisation of looting and corruption in Nigeria.
He maintained that the alleged non-remittance of $20bn into the Federation Account by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation by former CBN Governor must contain fundamental nuggets of truth in the light of the Malabu deal, descending on the immediate past regime in Nigeria “for consciously and deliberately looting Nigeria into recession if they could make so much in one deal”.
On whether the government of the day is still sufficiently rooted to make his suggested actions against all those involved in the Malabu oil deal happen, Rafsanjani said the regime had manifested lapses in that regard and should resist the temptation of availing suspected corrupt persons soft landing. For him, it is because the executive arm has done so, the legislature and the judiciary have also cleared suspects from their own branches of government. He advised the Buhari regime to make the anti-corruption war inclusive: from the executive branch to the judiciary, the legislature, the media, business, religion and the ordinary people. Otherwise, he says, it would be exclusionary and those who are not involved could hide under ethnic, religious and party covers to fight back.
For most Nigerians, the audio by Global Witness is the most dramatic turn in the story so far. Most people woke up to it yesterday. But, in truth, the Malabu oil deal has been in the news. The most elaborate must be the one carried by The Observer in the UK. In the March 5th, 2017 story captioned “The Oil Deal, the Disgraced Former Minister, and $800m Paid Via a UK Bank”, the paper traced a complete history of the deal from 1998 to 2011, presenting a classic oil deal story involving global, corporate and national powers: the West, the CIA, the British Foreign Office acting to block Russia and China, two international oil companies – Shell and Eni, the Italian counterpart; global banks in the UK and Switzerland, Italian prosecutors, two global finance NGOs, two ex-British intelligence officers who served in Nigeria but had joined the services of Shell and the presidency in Nigeria. Referring to it “one of the most corrupt deals in the history of the oil industry”, The Observer estimated the choice oil well called OPL 245 to contain 9.3bn barrels, so big it is “enough to serve the continent for seven years”. By that, the paper must be referring to the African continent.
It is still a flowing story. While activists such as Rafsanjani are canvassing deterrent treatment, there are other voices who speak to the Murtala Mohammed model. That is the General Murtala Mohammed, the former Head of State’s example which asks everyone to give his or her loot back to the state so as for everyone to start afresh. That strategy would mean everyone coming up with his or her own share of unexplained wealth and submitting it to the government.
Before his demise, Dr Ibrahim Tahir equally offered his own suggestion on what to do with corruption. As his argument is part of a long interview, the relevant portion is reproduced here. “My solution would have been that we have some kind of decided action in 2007. That is that a resolution of the National Assembly would absolve everyone of guilt in all events in our history since January 15, 1966. But this must be conditional on the implementation of a parallel but integral national restitution action. That would require replacement of something like the EFCC with a National Restitution Council with power to work with EFCC as its Secretariat and investigation agency to lay all materials with respect to allegedly hidden or stolen funds and somehow negotiate with those allegedly holding them and agree on a move of returning them, allowing a certain percentage to be retained by the accounts holder, whether foreign or local. The point would be to initiate various legal measures and all kinds of indemnity in association with all actors-from foreign governments, Banks and business houses. After this exercise, then an Act of absolution in the National Assembly which would mean closing all files including of coup makers but excepting that of rapists, murderers and arsonists”
The logic of his argument is that: What is clear to me about the situation is that Nigerians, from 1979 to date, have been driving themselves progressively to a cul de sac. There is tremendous pressure in the tunnel and there is no escape route. The ordinary person is getting angrier and angrier. So much so that the primary reaction to any disagreement is violence” Archbishop John Onaiyekan has equally suggested something of this nature in a lecture titled “Repositioning Nigeria to Greatness: The Moral Challenges of Resource Management in the 21st Century” delivered in 2006 at NIPSS in Jos. Which of the Rafsanjani, Murtala model, Tahir/Onaiyekan approach or the current hot pursuit approach would carry the day is a matter of power.
Oil is an exceptional commodity, most so for Nigeria, with particular reference to corruption. In 2014, Oladayo Nathaniel Awojobi published an academic paper in the International Journal of Economics, Commerce and Management. It was titled “Corruption and Under-Development in Africa: A Discourse Approach” There he disclosed that a total of $400bn has been stolen from crude oil sales since independence in Nigeria. Subsequently, former Prime Minister of the UK, David Cameroun said that if that had been stolen from his country, the British State would have crashed out of existence. It might not be an exaggeration.
Daniel Yergin, the American author of the massive book called The Prize and its sequel, The Quest, alerted the world conclusively that almost no insurgency, war, coup, dictatorship, subversion, rebellion, grave political intrigue, peacekeeping operation or market volatility anytime, anywhere could be explained without reference to oil since the rise of the black gold in the mid 19th century. Before the first of Yergin’s books in 1990, Terisa Turner, the Canadian political economist who taught at the University of Portharcourt for quite some time showed in her paper, “Multinational Corporations and the Instability of the Nigerian State” the immensely graphic details of the struggle over control of oil that led to the 1975 coup. In 1985, she updated the paper to show again how oil led to the 1983 coup. She concluded with an ‘oil and instability’ thesis about Nigerian politics that has still not been contested.
Nigeria is still grappling with the paradox of oil. Nigeria, like the rest of the world, cannot do without oil partly because there is nothing oil doesn’t touch, be it religion, development, culture, war, peace, politics, geopolitics, business, medicine and, in fact, living and dying. On the other hand, it is the source of the siege mentality that makes an elite consensus impossible arising from the necessity for self-help approach in making it to the circles that decide access to share of the petrodollar. So far, all have seemed to be fair in war, including alleged manipulation of ethnic, religious and regional differences to get the people to fight each other to enhance the bargaining position of some looters. without majority of Nigerians suspecting that they might be fighting somebody’s ethnic, religious or regional wars. Properly put, it is not corruption that has to be killed before it kills Nigeria but petrodollar.