The amount of falsehood based on either ignorance or outright mischief that is peddled in the Nigerian public space by highly placed persons is alarming and sickening. It is even worse when a top government functionary who is expected to know the facts goes public with information that is half-truth.
That was exactly what the Governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, did last week with the report credited to him alleging that the shortfall in revenues to states was as result of corruption at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC).
Gov Amaechi’s argument, according to the reports, is that the monthly revenue accruing to his state from the Federation Account has dwindled from N25bn to N12bn (about 108.3 per cent decrease) and that such an astronomical reduction in the revenue accruing to the state from the Federation Account could only have been caused by massive corruption at the NNPC.
He ruled out the state’s loss of some oil wells to neighbouring states and crude oil theft as possible factors responsible for the dwindling revenues accruing to the state as he argued that these two factors are not enough to cause such a huge gap in revenue.
While making the allegation, Gov. Amaechi failed to realize that monthly allocations to the three tiers of government by the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) are now public information that everybody can access. By FAAC records, Rivers State got a total of N99.67bn from the Federation Account within the first half of the year (January to June, 2014). What this means is that the state got an average of N16.62bn per month and not N12bn as stated by Gov. Amaechi. This is lie number one!
For a man who is currently on his seventh year as governor, and who had served as the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly for eight years, he betrayed his ignorance of the workings of the oil industry which is the mainstay of the economy of his state and that of the Nigerian nation at large limiting the possible causes of revenue losses as far as his state is concerned to two factors – loss of oil wells to other states and oil theft.
What he failed to realize is that shut-ins and shut downs of oil wells, pipelines, and terminals (which are usually captured in the industry under force majeure) are actually major factors responsible for shortfalls in projected revenues from crude oil sales. If an oil terminal is shut-in because of a breach on the pipeline supplying crude oil to it by crude oil thieves, all the barrels of oil that were supposed to be evacuated through that terminal for sale for the period it is shut would not be evacuated for sale. That is automatically a loss of revenue for that month, it does not matter whether the crude oil is actually stolen or not!
Fortunately, for any month that the mineral revenue component of the consolidated federal revenue is low, FAAC always comes up with an explanation.
For instance, in April 2014 when the mineral revenue for the month fell down to N474.88bn, FAAC had this to say: “The mineral revenue collected for April was N474.88 billion, a sum less than the N519.99 billion realized in March. The drop in revenue from the sector was N45.11 billion. The decline in the oil revenue collection was as a result of production shut-in at Qua Iboe and Yoho Terminals; shut down of Forcados and Bonny Terminals and repair works on Bonny and Brass Terminals due to oil theft pipeline leaks”.
Gov. Amaechi’s failure to acknowledge this and many other causes of revenue shortfalls from the oil sector and pinning it down to corruption at the NNPC constitutes his lie number two.
Another issue that needs to be pointed out is that the take home allocation by states that have external debts is usually affected as deductions are made from whatever accrues to them from FAAC to service such debts.
If Gov. Amaechi’s assertion that the take-home allocation of his state has plummeted to N12 billion per month instead of N16.62 billion as FAAC’s records suggest, then he needs to come clean to the Nigerian public on whether his state has some external debts hanging on it that could be responsible for the decline in the state’s allocation rather than blame it on corruption in NNPC that he could not substantiate.
It would be recalled that it was a similar display of crass ignorance of how oil revenues are remitted into the Federation Account by the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, that got him into levying the false allegation of missing $49.8bn against the same NNPC.
Without prejudice to the report of the forensic audit by PriceWaterhouseCooper which is billed to be released any moment from now, the Senate has given NNPC a clean bill of health over that allegation. Another unsubstantiated allegation of corruption against NNPC by the Governor of Rivers State who ought why oil revenues are dwindling does not serve any public good and appears to be a calculated attempt to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it. The Nigerian public can no longer be deceived by spurious figures!
Leton is an Port-Harcourt-based human rights activist and public affairs commentator. He can be reached at [email protected]