The Real Armed Robbers of Nigeria By Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo

Dec. 17, 2013

Before the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Lamorde, announced two weeks ago that an estimated $129 billion (N20.6 trillion) has been illegally transferred out of Nigeria in the last 10 years, I had been cranking some numbers about Nigeria’s economy. The EFCC estimated that just between 2009 and 2013, over $25.4 billion was siphoned out of Nigeria via the borders by way of physical movement of cash and financial instruments.

The actual robbery is more profane.

Before the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria sent a letter to President Goodluck Jonathan accusing the Petroleum and Finance Ministers of diverting or outright stealing about N8 trillion from crude oil sales proceeds between January 2012 and July 2013, I had been crunching figures about Nigeria’s oil industry. The figures I saw left me dumbfounded and frightened for Nigeria.

In this piece, we will try to follow the money, the Nigerian money. It’s an extraordinary journey into the fuzzy math the people who collect Nigerian revenue use to fleece Nigeria. The greatest tragedy, however, is that the people charged with managing Nigeria’s economy, from the Central Bank of Nigeria to the Ministry of Finance up to the Presidency either have no clue what is happening or are complicit.

The real armed robbers of Nigeria are not those in prison. They are not those storming banks to cart away cash. They are not those dispossessing luxurious bus passengers of their possessions. The real armed robbers are not those stealing cell phones and pepper in Oshodi market. The real armed robbers of Nigeria are those who carry titles like Honorable, Excellency and Chief. They have robbed the nation blind.

Nigeria is the 13th largest oil producer in the world.  OPEC allocated a daily production of 2.5 million barrels of oil to Nigeria. At an average price of $100 dollars a barrel, Nigeria could be raking in $250 million dollars a day. In a year, it will be about $90 billion. In Naira, that will be about N40 billion a day and N14.6 trillion a year.

In the 2013 budget, Nigeria set the benchmark price for crude oil at $79 a barrel. At that rate, 2.5 million barrel of oil a day will give Nigeria $229.1 million dollars a day. In a year, it will be about $80 billion. In Naira, that will be about N25 billion a day and N13.1 trillion a year.

Nigeria also produces gas. According to the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Nigeria produces 8.0 billion cubic feet per day of gas per day(BCFD). 5.2  BCFD is for Associated Gas (AG), that is gas produced along with crude oil while 2.8 BCFD is for Non-Associated Gas(NAG), that is gas produced independent of oil production.

Of this amount 6.6 billion cubic feet of gas per day is utilized while 1.4 billion cubic feet of gas per day is flared. At a market rate of $3.5 per 1000 standard cubic feet per day of gas (SCF), Nigeria makes $23.1 million a day and loses $4.9 million dollars a day to gas flaring. $23.1 dollars a day adds up to $8.43 billion a year. In Naira that is a revenue of N3.6 billion a day and N1.32 trillion a year. Irrespective of how the calculation is done or revenue collection enforced (equity crude; Petroleum Profit Tax, royalty, third party financing and the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company), at the crude oil benchmark of $79 a barrel, Nigeria makes about $80bn a year. Add $8.4 billion revenue from gas, Nigeria makes a cool $90 billion or N14 trillion a year. That is a lot of money in any currency.

Revenues from oil and gas give Nigeria 80% of its income. Another 20 % comes from sources as diverse as mineral exploration and agriculture. In all, Nigeria makes over $100 billion each year from exports. So Nigeria is awash with money. The billions in internally generated monies from fees and taxes are stolen with ease as they trickle in. But it is petrol dollars that are the most attractive and the most easily embezzled.

Since 2009 crude oil thieves have been increasing the amount of Nigeria’s oil that they steal. According to the 2012 Ribadu Report, crude oil thieves now steal over 100,000 barrels a day. That is over $3.6 billion dollars a year. Some foreign sources put the figure of oil theft at 250,000 barrels a day. Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala recently told the Vanguard newspaper that the loss to oil theft could be up to $12 billion this year.….

These thieves are made up of a cabal of top security officials, retired and current military officers, top government officials, civil servants whose job it is to monitor foreign oil companies and report how much oil they pump out each day, militants who are charged with protecting oil pipelines, etc.

There are several other forms of theft going on in the refineries themselves. In 1997 a major contract valued at $215 million was awarded to Total International for the maintenance of the Kaduna refinery.  During Sani Abacha’s dictatorship, Mr. Emeka Offor got $100 million dollars to maintain the Port Harcourt refinery for which he did nothing. When brought before a senate committee to answer questions, he told them off.( This is the same Emeka Offor who got an $8 billion NEPA contract to build the Yola/Bauchi transmission line as part of the $16 billion that Obasanjo’s government wasted on power. The original sum for the contract was said to be $6 billion.)  In 2000, Nigeria awarded Italian company Comerint SPA a $7.6 million contract for turnaround maintenance for its 125,000 b/d refinery at Warri. In 2008, the Federal Government spent $57.9m for the turnaround maintenance (TAM) of the Kaduna refinery.

If the full amount spent in turnaround maintenance of Nigeria’s refineries in the last 20 years is made public, Nigerians will run amok and free all the armed robbers in Nigerian prisons. In October 2012, the Federal Government announced a plan to spend $1.6 billion on the turnaround maintenance (TAM) of the existing three refineries in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna. Work is expected to end in January 2014 and that is when importation of petroleum products is supposed to end, if you believe the government’s argument during the oil subsidy debate. That is also when much of the subsidy is supposed to vanish. It is one month away. Now the government is busy planning to sell off the refineries.  When the selling price is announced, don’t be surprised if it is less than the $1.6 billion dollars used in the turnaround maintenance.

During the oil subsidy debate, the Minister of Petroleum and the Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala calculated that Nigeria was spending N1.134 trillion naira on oil subsidy. On January 1, 2012, the government increased the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise called petrol, from N65.00 to N141.00. With subsidies removed, the government said it would realize N1.134 trillion. The protests that followed forced the government to adjust the PMS price to N97. That increase would have cut in half the projected N1.134 trillion subsidy, meaning nothing less than N600 billion must have gone into the coffers of the government. That money is now entangled in the SURE-P program that is short on accountability.

On September 24, 2013 the Sun Newspaper published a story in which Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is said to be suggesting that Jonathan’s administration should be given credit because the federal government has saved N1.2 trillion from oil subsidy.… The story also says that the oil subsidy was N2.2 trillion in 2012 but has so far been reduced to N971 bn this year. All through the oil subsidy debate, the figure was N1.3 trillion. How did it jump to N2.2 trillion in 2012 after the subsidy has partially been removed? And with gains from improving capacities of Nigeria’s refineries won’t the current subsidy on its own be less than half of what it was in January 2012?

A ministry of finance committee led by Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede looked at the subsidy claims of 2011 and discovered that the Federal Government had overpaid importers and marketers of petrol by a whopping N430 billion naira. Last December, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala proudly announced that Jonathan’s government has recovered N29 billion naira from oil marketers out of N234 billion certified as stolen. A presidential panel was set up at the same time to look into what was really happening at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). The Ribadu-led panel came out with a report that suggested that Nigeria had lost about N4.64 trillion in the last 10 years from deals Nigerian government officials signed with foreign oil multinationals. The Ribadu report also revealed that the NNPC had failed to report N86.6 billion to the government in 10 years by simple manipulation of exchange rates by officials of the corporation.

In January this year, a presidential committee on public service reform discovered that top government officials in Nigeria take home N1.126 trillion a year in salaries and allowances – out of a national budget of N4.9 trillion. These public officers constitute just 0.013 per cent of Nigeria’s population. They include 108 senators who each make over $1.7m a year. That alone is $183.4 million (N28 billion). Then the 360 members of the House of Representatives each takes home over $1.2 million, which amounts to $432 million (N65bn). Again, each state governor collects an average of N200 million naira a month just as security vote. In a year, they each get N2.4 billion naira. So our 36 governors take home N87 billion naira on security votes alone every year. Add our 38 ministers and ministers of state, 100 plus heads of federal and state agencies, over 432 state commissioners,  774 local government area chairmen or caretakers, almost 10,000 councilors and you will understand where the N1.126 trillion goes.

While receiving an honorary doctorate degree from Oduduwa University last month, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala asked striking university lecturers to return to work because the government has set aside N220 billion naira for the development of tertiary institutions in the country. Dr. Doyin Okupe, the Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, showed proof last week that the money has been deposited at the Central Bank of Nigeria. Over the weekend, I asked him during a SaharaTV interview where the government got the money when six months ago the same Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said that the government could not find N90 billion for ASUU. Okupe said it was not important where the government got the money, after all, the government could not have stolen it.

Well, governments steal- especially this government. During an appearance before a senate committee in September, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was asked to explain why there was no subsidy figure in the 2013 budget for kerosene. In 2010, Nigeria spent N110 billion on kerosene subsidy. This figure jumped to N324 billion in 2011 and N200 billion in 2012. Suddenly, in 2013, there was nothing budgeted. Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala told the committee that NNPC should answer the question about kerosene subsidy.…

I asked Okupe how could the Coordinating Minister of the Economy know nothing about an over N200 billion naira subsidy on kerosene? Okupe said that he investigated the matter and spoke to relevant government agencies. At the end of his investigation, he said he found out that NNPC has been scraping for funds to make subsidy payment on kerosene. Okupe did not see any problem with that arrangement instead he felt we should commend the NNPC for finding the money to pay for kerosene subsidy. If NNPC could find N200 billion lying around somewhere this year, what did it do with similar money lying around last year and the year before when the government remembered to budget for kerosene subsidy?

To complicate matter, the trillion naira revenue from customs has been facing shortfalls. The Comptroller-General, Nigerian Customs Service, Mr. Abdulahi Dikko, recently said that the service incurred a revenue loss of N603.2 billion between January and September this year. He made the statement during an appearance before the Senate Joint Committee on Finance and Appropriation. Dikko blamed the shortfall in revenue collection to various factors. N86.48bn was lost due to waivers, like the one that brought in the Aviation Minister Stella Oduah’s N220 million armored cars. He said another N59.5bn was conceded to the Niger Delta Development Commission. The customs also lost N96.94bn due to a ban on rice importation and another N76.1bn due to revenue loss to local manufacturers and assemblers.

Nigeria’s economy is 30th in the world with a GDP of $451 billion dollars. According to the Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics, agriculture makes up 40% of the economy; services: 30%; manufacturing: 15%; and oil: 14%. Many of us do not know but Nigeria makes an average of $90 billion dollars in oil and gas revenue a year and another $10 billion from exports of other natural resources. Nigeria also makes N5 trillion from Federal taxes. From Customs duties, Nigeria makes another one trillion. That is a total of N22 trillion a year.

In the last 50 years, Nigeria has made over $500 billion from crude oil. Some of that money showed up in fraud cases that gave us headlines like these: Iyabo, Bello, Obasanjo in N300 Million Scandal, Igbinedion Embezzled Edo’s N19bn — EFCC, Money Laundering: Group Sues EFCC Over First Lady Patience Jonathan’s $13 Million Fraud; EFCC Arrests Bode George, Dabo, Accuses Them of N100 Billion Dirty Contracts; Former Governor of Taraba State, Reverend Jolly Nyame, Must Face Criminal Trial Over Alleged Stealing Of N2.4 billion while In Office; EFCC Files N700m Fraud Charges Against Dariye, Others; N100 Million Scam – Court Grants Boni Haruna’s Aide Bail; EFCC Declares Ibori Wanted Over N44bn Fresh Corruption Charges; Jigawa State’s Ex-Gov Turaki’s N30b Used To Finance Third Term Project; $16B Power Scam: IBB’s Allies Call For OBJ’s Arrest; N5.6bn Pension Scam: Court Denies Former Oyo State Head of Service, Others Bail; N19.2bn Scam: EFCC Re-arraigns Timipre Sylva; N1.8bn Subsidy Scam: EFCC RE-ARRAIGNS ABDULLAHI ALAO, THREE OTHERS.

A Google search of fraud and EFCC and any of the former governors of Nigeria’s 36 states in the last 15 years will show you indictments in billions – from Bola Tinubu to Orji Uzo Kalu to Ahmed Yerima to David Duke to Peter Odili. Add members of the National Assembly and ministers from Deji Bankole to Patricia Etteh to Farouk Lawal to Chuba Okadigbo to SundayAfolabi. Do not forget the portion of our commonwealth that went to bankers like Mrs. Cecelia Ibru, Erastus Akingbola, Bartholomew Ebong, Okey Nwosu, Sebastine Adigwe etc. If you add up the billions, you will be able to account for the money Nigeria has made over the years.

According to the NNPC, Nigeria’s crude oil reserve is at 28.2 billion barrels. At today’s price that is $2.8 trillion.  If no new oil is discovered in Nigeria and we continue to produce at 2.5 million barrels a day, our oil reserve will last for another 11,280 days. That is 30 years more.

From the DPR report, Nigeria’s total gas reserve is 182.8 trillion standard cubic feet (SCF). At today’s rate of $3.5 per 1000 standard cubic feet per day of gas Nigeria is on track to make $638.05 trillion dollars from gas. (Sorry, my calculator could not figure out the Naira equivalent).

In 1999, the average price of a barrel of crude oil was $16.56. In today’s dollar that is $23.08. The price stayed under $30 until 2004 when it jumped to $37.66 a barrel. In 2005 it went up again to $50.04. In 2007 it was $64.20. In 2008 it jumped to $91.48 and fell back to $53.48 in 2009. From 2011 till today it has remained above $86 a barrel. If the price of crude oil falls back to below $50 a barrel, Nigeria’s bloated government will not be able to sustain itself.

Only those benefiting from this insane structure that rips off a commonwealth of 160 million people will want it to continue. The other group of people who are not outraged enough to do something about it are the millions hoping to have the chance to soon be in a position to steal their own.

The real armed robbers of Nigeria are not those in prison. They are not those storming banks to cart away cash. They are not those dispossessing luxurious bus passengers of their possessions. The real armed robbers are not those stealing cell phones and pepper in Oshodi market. The real armed robbers of Nigeria are those who add before their names, bloated titles like Honorable, Excellency and Chief. They have robbed the nation blind.