Musa: Government aiding illicit financial flows

Auwal Ibrahim Musa


Delay Of Needed Reforms Aiding Illicit Financial Flows In Oil Sector

Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Chair/National Contact of Transparency International (Nigeria), and former acting General Secretary of West Africa Civil Society Forum (WACSOF), Auwal Ibrahim Musa, told KINGSLEY JEREMIAH that the Federal Government is aiding Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) in the oil and gas sector by not displaying the needed political to stop the sector from serving as a cash cow.

What is your take on the growing cases of illicit financial flows in the country?
Illicit Financial Flows in Nigeria is an offspring of corruption that its existence is denied by a government that said that its biggest mandate is fighting corruption. Its existence is obviously in every productive sector and in the public service, but is grossly denied. It is said that Africa looses $50b yearly (which is also a conservative figure) and Nigeria accounts for 70 per cent out of the 38 per cent, which is the West Africa’s share of the entire figure.

The oil and gas sector is said to be responsible for over 92 per cent of the flow. Why is it so, and how is the crime perpetrated?
This is not supposed to surprise anyone. A state of no law is nothing but and ungovernable location. The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) has been there for over a decade and ‘when there is no law, the people cast off restraints.’ There is no stability in the legal framework in the sector. The administrators and players alike operate in an opaque, non-transparent and discretionary pattern in most cases. Any right-thinking person will not expect IFF not to be top of the roof in such a sector.

This menace must have dire implications on the country’s economy and by extension the masses?
The implications are obviously negative because the communities feel aggrieved seeing their resources going away and there is nothing to show for these resources that are being removed. That is why some of them take to any form of vice to get even with either the operator, or the government. This, of course leads to insecurity. Again, we keep borrowing in perpetuity to fund any form of development in the country while losing our legitimate income. Poverty and hunger become the order of the day, and ultimately instability of the entire society as we see it today.

There are indications that some highly placed Nigerians charged with the responsibility of protecting oil facilities may be aiding illicit financial flow through oil bunkering and smuggling of petroleum products. How worrisome can this be if it is happening?
Well, if that is happening, which is most likely, in a sector where there are no strategic measures for accountability, you don’t blame them. The blame is on the government that does not care to put mechanisms in place to check these corruption risk soft spots. The NEITI’s yearly report and Civil Society Organisations like ours have been talking about metering of our oil facilities and finger printing, they keep telling us that it is impossible in Nigeria, while we see it done in other countries that are even less opportune economically than we are.

If we can measure and record what comes out of the ground and have a fingerprint on our oil, we don’t even have to give someone a contract to do pipeline surveillance. The situation will self-correct as there won’t be market to sell the stolen crude, and the companies pay tax and royalties based on what is measured, they will do all they can to stop bunkering as the loss will be borne by them.

With all these illicit transactions happening at a time that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is fighting corruption. Would you say the fight is achieving desired objectives in the oil sector?
The first result expected to see is a sustained reform process in the sector, but that is worse now. We fought subsidy regime, but the amount the country has lost to NNPC’s under-recovery is alarmingly unbelievable, but the government is playing a nonchalant role in this situation, as if it does not know what is happening.

As simple as signing the bill into law, which would have strengthened the governance processes in the sector was seen to be impossible with this government. So many indictments on the entire NNPC dealings, but not a word from the Presidency to even ask the outfit to explain, even if it will tell us a lie as we know they would. NNPC should be made to be accountable, or the government should take steps and let there be an indication that they are being checked in order not to give the impression that they are operating as a ‘republic’ in this republic, having all the rights to hire and fire as long as the oil and gas sector is concerned. We know that everything cannot be achieved at once, but we have watched this sector remain a baby for over 40 years.

What do you make of the recent task force formed by the NNPC, Nigeria Customs Service and the DPR to address the issue of smuggling of petroleum products?
That’s so childish and another means of wasting taxpayers money. In this civilised era, you can’t be chasing people with guns. This I say because we have not seen strategy put in place other than the traditional way of chasing the so-called smugglers. Things have evolved, you only need software to track and not another task force to deal with smuggling. As earlier said metering and fingerprinting of our oil would be the most lasting solution and you wouldn’t need another task force who they would use as a medium of siphoning the resources in the name of one special duty or intervention.

Insincerity of the duty bearers is the major problem. The thing to do to fix our oil is not even a technology that is unreachable. We just lack the will to stop the sector from being the cash cow of politically exposed persons.Let the government be sincere; sign the laws; put necessary facilities in place to curb the lapses and loopholes that fuel illicit financial flows in the country.

We need to put pressure on the NNPC to be productive or face the music. You can’t have a venture that keeps being at a loss in perpetuity and still run flamboyant welfare packages for itself, rather than contributing to the economy.

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