Nigeria – oil probe findings offer glimmer of hope over corruption

Mail and Guardian

For weary Nigerians, the damning parliamentary probe into Africa’s largest oil sector has offered a glimmer of progress against entrenched corruption.

But as the man behind the report has turned from accuser to accused, a mushrooming and convoluted scandal has threatened to derail a tentative opportunity for change.

Faced with the biggest protests in Nigeria’s history after an abrupt attempt to pull a decades-old state fuel subsidy programme backfired, President Goodluck Jonathan backtracked and commissioned several probes into the shadowy subsidy programme in January.

Three months later, lawmaker Farouk Lawan’s inquiry unveiled staggering graft: in the past three years alone fuel importers illegally drained $6.8-billion in subsidies from the nation’s coffers. In one case, payments of $6.4-million flowed from the state treasury 128 times within 24 hours to “unknown entities”.

But questions have also emerged about the political will of an administration which swept into power on a promise to “transform” the corruption-riddled two-million-barrel-per-day oil industry.

“People feel tired, frustrated and helpless.

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There’s such a separation between people and the government because – as happens a lot in resource-rich countries – the government doesn’t depend on people for taxes,” said Folarin Gbadebo-Smith of Lagos-based Centre for Public Policy Alternatives. “It’s like once they get into power, the people become a nuisance, and the longer they are in power, the worse it becomes.”
Many had lauded the Lawan report for not being an “unnamed soldier” job – a term popularised by Afrobeat legend and government agitator Fela Kuti to dismiss routine inquiries which whitewash official-linked corruption. Seventy-two fuel importers, numerous with allegedly close links to senior government officials, were singled out. Chief among them was the shadowy Nigerian National Petroleum Company, ranked the world’s least transparent national oil firm and single-handedly responsible for almost half the siphoned funds , the report said. Read more…

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