A South African online media outfit, Mailand Guardian Africa, came after Nigeria on Tuesday, saying, “The money ‘eaten’ there is bigger than the Gross Domestic Product of 38 African nations.”
If the stolen fund it estimated at $50bn were a country, the online medium reported, it would be Africa’s 11th biggest economy.
“Some estimates put the ‘lost’ funds at $50bn. If it were a country, it would be Africa’s 11th biggest economy, at par with Tunisia’s entire GDP and larger than the economic output of Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Ivory Coast or the Democratic Republic of Congo,” the online report said.
It quoted a Nigeria’s transparency watchdog as saying that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation diverted more than $30bn oil revenue since 2009. This figure, it said, was bigger than the annual production output of “half of the nations in Africa.”
For Nigeria’s investment in the NNPC, the report said, the country had gained nothing but terrible disclosure records and absence of accountability.
“For all its importance to Nigeria, the NNPC is largely inscrutable. It had the worst disclosure record among 44 energy companies analysed in a 2011 report by anti-corruption non-profit organisations, the Transparency International and the Revenue Watch Institute.
“The NNPC consistently denies any wrongdoing. Allegations of missing funds go back as far as when President Muhammadu Buhari was a petroleum minister,” the post recalled.
While it admitted that the country’s oil sector needed an urgent reform, the online news organisation said history was not on the side of Buhari’s push to split the corporation.
It described the NNPC as the largest government-owned company, saying Buhari may not succeed in his plan to unbundle it. Arguing that the establishment was synonymous to corruption, it recalled that it had faced allegations bordering on financial frauds since 1978.
“A Lagos-based newspaper reported in 1978, a year after the NNPC took its current name, that the company failed to remit an equivalent of about $3.5bn it owed the treasury. In the 1990s, a military-sanctioned investigation discovered that $12bn oil revenue was unaccounted for under the regime of Gen Ibrahim Babangida (retd.).
“The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative said, at least, $23.2bn due to the government was not deposited into the federation account from 2009 to 2011. Recently, the then-Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, alleged that the corporation retained as much several billions of dollars that was due to the government,” the report said.
Back home, there is so much to read on digital media about corruption, the pains it has inflicted on the masses and how it could be tackled. Recent media reports on government’s plans to probe key past public projects and investments merely fuelled the online discussion.
The government revealed that it was scrutinising bank accounts where the stolen funds had been kept. Following the statement, bloggers and social media users have been urging government to also look into highbrow mansions in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and other major cities.
In recent times, several hashtags drawing government’s attention to such houses have been trending. The stolen money, according to social media posts, could be hidden in houses belonging to relatives, wives and concubines of former public office holders.
Blogging on this on Tuesday, one Chukwudi Enekwechi said, “Recently, a huge sum of money was being frittered away by relations, concubines and wife of a politician. Even more interesting is that locations where such money is hidden are listed online. For example, Lekki Phase 1, Ikoyi and Victoria Island, Port Harcourt, Maitama and Asokoro were mentioned.”