Chuks Isiwu 27 October 2015, Sweetcrude, Lagos – The travails of Diezani Alison-Madueke, Nigeria’s immediate-past Minister of Petroleum Resources in the United Kingdom; ongoing investigations bordering on bribery; money laundering allegations; the volume of information in the public domain regarding her stewardship and her refusal to face investigative panels set up by the Nigerian National Assembly are all indicative she went rogue a long time ago.
In the weeks past, she has been arrested, released, passport seized, cash confiscated, and banned from leaving the United Kingdom.
In Nigeria, her bag-man, Jide Omokore, was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC; and the UK authorities have requested the extradition from Switzerland of Kola Aluko, another of her ally.
Strangely, the Group Public Affairs Department, GPAD, of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, which was often quick to put out statements in defence of Alison-Madueke’s perfidious leadership of Nigeria’s petroleum industry, has become deafeningly silent in the face of her travails.
Several efforts to reach Ohi Alegbe, Group General Manager of the NNPC, GPAD, for a reaction to Diezani’s travails in the UK proved abortive at the time of filing this report.
Ohi Alegbe had signed off on several press statements in defence of the former Petroleum Minister and her parroted accomplishments.
The United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency, NCA, arrested Mrs. Alison-Madueke and four others on Friday, October 2, on corruption allegation, specifically bribery and money laundering.
Legal experts say her prosecution was imminent on the strength of evidence so far gathered against her and as provided by her business associate, Mr. Omokore.
While being quizzed at the EFCC, Omokore reportedly revealed damaging account of his relationship with the ex-Petroleum Minister and details of shady business transactions on her behalf. This has been allegedly handed over to the UK crime agency.
Under Alison-Madueke’s watch, oil-related scandals involving billions of dollars became commonplace, ranging from contract manipulation, fuel subsidy fraud to missing crude oil revenues.
Industry stakeholders also accuse her of having run the oil and gas sector aground in the five years she superintended the sector through alleged incompetence, cronyism and abuse of office.
A former director of the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, SPDC, Mrs. Alison-Madueke joined the Nigerian federal cabinet in 2007 as Minister of Transport, and was redeployed as Minister of Mines and Steel the following year.
She became Nigeria’s first female Petroleum Minister two years later, in April 2010, after then former Vice President Goodluck Jonathan became president.
During Alison-Madueke’s tenure, transparency and accountability was completely jettisoned. The fuel import regime became shrouded in mystery. The volume of national fuel consumption became grossly inflated, allowing for all sorts of shady dealings in the process. Shylock petroleum products marketers stole billions of dollars in the name of subsidy which she approved for payment.
For daring to speak up, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, was sacked after he raised the alarm over tens of billions of dollars of oil revenues that had been unaccounted for by the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, between January 2012 and July 2013.
Probes carried out by external audit firms hinted of missing oil funds, including $20 billion established for 2014.
SweetcrudeReports, Nigeria’s foremost energy publication, has since February 2013 severally reported details of corruption under the former Petroleum Minister and her maladministration in the oil and gas sector.
$3.5bn Egina FPSO project
Acting together with former group managing director of the NNPC, Mr. Andrew Yakubu and erstwhile group executive director of the corporation in charge of exploration and production, Mr. Abiye Membere, Mrs. Alison-Madueke subverted due process in the award of contract for the $3.5 billion Floating Production Storage and Offloading, FPSO, for the Egina project.
SweetcrudeReports, in its February 2013 edition had reported the recommendation of Hyundai Heavy Industries for the project by the team of Total Nigeria; NNPC subsidiary, NAPIMS; and the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board, NCDMB, which together oversaw the tendering process.
Against this recommendation, the NNPC Group Executive Council, GEC, allegedly acting for the minister, decided that the project be awarded to Samsung Heavy Industries, and so it was.
An allegation of $150 million bribe continues to trail this contract award and the minister is being fingered pointedly for subverting the process.
N10bn private jet scandal
One of the major scandals to hit Alison-Madueke and the Petroleum Ministry was that of the N10 billion private jet. Sometime in 2014 federal lawmakers in the House of Representative revealed they had uncovered a whopping expenditure in excess of N10 billion spent by the NNPC paying for the lease of two jet planes for the use of the minister.
Lawmakers identified two aircrafts, a Challenger 850 and a Global Express XRS, used by the minister. However, reports have it that the owners of the Challenger 850 fled the country when lawmakers embarked on an investigation. When confronted, the NNPC denied any wrong doing, noting that in the course of its operations, the corporation could own or charter aircrafts.
On her part, when invited to appear before the lawmakers to explain the circumstances surrounding her use of private jets, the minister obtained a court order restraining the lawmakers. The judge ruled that even though the lawmakers had the powers to invite the minister, they did not follow due process.
When asked during a regular question-and-answer session with title editors, erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan made light of the enormity of the malfeasance, noting that even federal lawmakers use private jets.
Manipulation of Bonga SW/Aparo development
Allegedly acting on behalf of the Petroleum Minister, NAPIMS, the investment arm of the NNPC, manipulated the Bonga SouthWest/Aparo Unit Field Development Project contract.
SweetcrudeReports edition of May 2015 reported how excesses has permeated the very fabric of decency that once ruled the operations of the NNPC as shown in a letter written and signed by Jonathan Okehs, the Group General Manager of NAPIMS under Diezani.
The letter titled: Bonga SouthWest/Aparo Unit Field Development Project, EPC 2-Pipelines, Flowlines, Risers & Offshore Installation Services (Approval of Technical Evaluation Result), was addressed to the Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company, SNEPCo.
By the letter, NNPC/NAPIMS imposed nine companies that were not originally part of the project at the bid level to execute particular aspects of the project. How and why those companies could become part of the project at that point was unfathomable to industry players.
“It is inconceivable that NAPIMS would seek to impose companies which did not participate in the technical evaluation on a process as a basis for progressing successful bidders to the commercial stage,” an operator volunteered.
“Okeh does not have the balls to write such a letter to SNEPCo without the active approval of the minister of petroleum resources,” a ranking NNPC official had told SweetcrudeReports.
Oil industry in reverse gear
In May 2013, SweetcrudeReports quoted Shell’s erstwhile regional Executive Vice-President, Exploration and Production, Ms Ann Pickard, as having warned of the declining state of the Nigerian oil industry.
“Investment in the industry has been stalled. Final Investment Decisions are not being taken in the deepwater; and unlike Australia, no new LNG projects have been approved onshore. As a result, other countries are catching up with Nigeria fast,” she had said.
In that edition of the newspaper aptly titled, ‘Oil Industry in reverse gear’, industry experts spoken to by our correspondents blamed this state of the industry “on poor leadership at the topmost level of the nation’s petroleum industry and lack of policy clarity, especially in the last three years, which incidentally coincides with the administration of the Petroleum Resources Minister at the time, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke.”
Until Deziani left in May 2015, the situation remained the same. No effort was made to address any of the fears Pickard raised. So, the industry remained in reverse gear.
A catalogue of stalled projects
By May 2014, according to SweetcrudeReports, total value of stalled upstream oil and gas industry projects in Nigeria was $60.15 billion with its attendant impact on the country’s job market and oil output.
All the IOCs operating in the country were affected.
Industry stakeholders alleged at that time that despite the situation and its implication for the industry, both the Ministry of Petroleum and the Federal Government was obviously not concerned. “The greatest problem is access to the Petroleum Minister to even discuss the problem,” a concerned industry stakeholder had said.
National Gas Master Plan
In March 2011, the government of Goodluck Jonathan launched its famous Gas Revolution project with plenty of buzz and hype. At that launch, an excited Petroleum Minister Alison-Madueke and jubilant Goodluck Jonathan had painted a picture of Eldorado for Nigeria on account of the gas master plan.
Promises were aplenty: Nigeria would become the undisputed regional hub for gas-related industries within three years; the plan would mark the beginning of the end of gas flaring in the country, the master plan will result in about $25 billion worth of investments in gas processing, transmission and downstream utilization projects. It will make available increased volume of gas to power stations, in the process ensuring stable power supply and creating the undertone for even more widespread development, it will result in widespread availability of LPG and significant reduction in LPG prices.
In the January 2014 edition, SweetcrudeReports reported that “nothing on ground shows anything has happened that will lead to the realisation of these targets that year. In place of visible progress, the entire process has stymied, mired in controversy, inconsistencies and poor implementation”.
So it remained until Jonathan and his petroleum minister left office on May 29, 2015, despite the billions of naira that went into the implementation of the master plan.
Pipeline surveillance contracts
Under the watch of Alison-Madueke, the NNPC paid hundreds of millions of dollars to ex-militant warlords for the protection of crude oil pipelines and facilities. Yet, the country also recorded the highest volume of crude oil shut-ins and corresponding theft within the same period.
5 NNPC GMDs in 5 years
SweetcrudeReports investigation published earlier in May this year revealed that at the time Diezani Alison-Madueke was appointed Nigeria’s petroleum minister in the second quarter of 2010, the NNPC was neck deep in transition in line with the recommendations of its consultants. But this was brought to an abrupt halt; she quickly fired Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo, the Group Managing Director and brought in Shehu Ladan, who was replaced one month later by Austen Oniwon.
A little after one year, Austen Oniwon was replaced by Andrew Yakubu, who was later replaced by Joseph T. Dawha. Industry operators say these changes engendered an air of deep uncertainty in an industry buffeted left, right and centre by all manner of negatives both local and international.
Mandatory periodic board meetings of the NNPC which had to ratify decisions on projects were reduced to a rarity. An NNPC official who spoke on condition of anonymity disclosed that the function of the Board was totally usurped by the minister who handed down instructions on what she wanted done.
This was the situation until the end of the Jonathan government.