Monday, March 26, 2012

Patrice Muamba, Samuel Okwaraji and Nigeria

Below is an edited version of a passionate conversation between some of my friends (Prof, Mr O and Mr A) on the miraculous recovery of Patrice Muamba. For those who do not know Samuel Okawaraji, he is a Nigerian footballer that collapsed  on the field of play but eventually died just the same way that Patrice collapsed on the field but has survived. The conversation below raises several interesting issues about Nigeria, hence I am sharing it. Enjoy the conversation.

Oyinbo chop winch! You mean that Fabrice Mulumba boy survived? You know when I called you as soon as it happened, I told you he is gone, I have seen such a thing happen before. Imagine how Okwaraji died on the pitch in Lagos? What was the difference? I will tell you, he was in Africa and the other guy was in Oyinbo man's land.

Yet, I wondered why it took them so long to take him to the hospital. To imagine that his heart stopped pumping for 2 hours and they were still able to pluck him back from the wind, tells a lot. Imagine the Nigerian medical team. The doctor don tire, no NEPA for house, his wife still stuck in traffic on her way to market.
 The medical room in the stadium nko, no drugs, if there are, the emergency oxygen supply is not working, no spares to effect repairs...the defibrators abi wetindem de call am again? They are not working well because no one ever tested them ever since one links man of a Nigerian who had been hanging out in Europe for years hanging on to contacts in Abuja arranged for the transaction of some made in Hungary ones, paid for in Vienna and shipped from Lisbon to be bought by the Football Association.  I tell you, we never start for that country.

Mr A
I still wonder. It was a surreal moment. 2 hours of no heart and he is now talking and moving his limbs within with 48 hours. Why it took them so long? A Spurs fan jumped out of the East Stand to coordinate the whole process. He is a consultant cardiologist at the London Chest Hospital in East London and he insisted they took him there and he is one of the people treating Muamba now.

He is the sort of person who is easily a hooligan over the weekend – drinking and fighting – and then lifesaver another time. Why they took so long on the pitch? They had to try and restart his heart and when it was taking long, they decided to take him to the hospital whilst doing it on the way. The Spurs and Bolton doctors knew what they were doing, but there is always someone who knows a little bit better – in the form of this cardiologist – and these fine margins are crucial. The fans were amazing. They were trying to “wake him up” with their chants. You know how they say you need to talk to a person who is passing out or dying to try and get them out of that unconsciousness. But Prof, you can’t compare Okwariji’s death in the 80s to this case. First of all, medicine has advanced. Secondly, procedures have changed.

Mr O
 I am so moved to tears as I read Muamba’s story. You see this is what we are saying. How easily can you find a specialist of that calibre in our stadia during live matches between two local league teams? Followers of good football prefer to watch EPL Saturdays and Sundays in the comfort of their sitting rooms. The old practice of going to sports bars has gradually died down as these places have become safe haven for all manners of people who would prefer to bring all sort of cigarettes (both banned and unbanned) into the air conditioned tightly packed rooms.

 I disagree with this excuse that Okwaraji's misfortune happened in the 80s. I tell you most solemnly that the state of medical preparedness, the number of qualified experts and the level of patriotism in the 80s is higher than what we have today. Presently, as a nation we are down on all indices of human assessment. Whereas I agree that if Okwaraji had gotten to LUTH alive he could have survived. Now a very healthy person can develop a heart attack and die inside a teaching hospital in Nigeria.

Prof again
In certain ways, you are right. But I hold on to one of your statements here that is "conditions have changed". Truly, they have, inversely, in my country, vis-a-vis, what I saw human beings do in that stadium on Saturday. Let me tell you this, and make no bone about it. If that match was played in any stadium in Nigeria, including the sports facility in Aso Rock, even if Muamba's name was Goodluck Jonathan, we would be reading his ode by now. As sure as the sun will shine tomorrow, Muamba's body would be in a mortuary vault by now, assuming there's electric power in that mortuary facility, otherwise, as my wise Islamic brothers do, his body would have been committed to mother earth by now.

Let's get this straight and let's get this right, development has little to do with the passage of time, nor the availability of technology. It has got everything to do with what Kwame Nkrumah once said - "the ability to judge conditions in your environment right, and to proffer appropriate and effective solutions to specific challenge” What we saw on Saturday was the entire stadium, rising as one man, reading a situation appropriately, proffering effective solutions and acting with reason, discipline and resolve.

Thus, a departed soul was plucked from the wind. Who says Oyinbo man no fit make somebody, sooner or later? Let us look at a typical response of my people to such an experience. First, the witch catchers go enter, then prayer warriors go step in, burning and casting out the demons that want to take the man's soul away. The little oxygen going down his pipeline go kuku seize. Then someone go see the hand of Boko Haram inside, in no time, katakata go follow. Then read the papers the following day, you go hear Pastor Joshua and Primate Olubayo own for inside, and you will be shocked to discover that the Cardiologist you talk about de plan to go for some miracle session for G.O Church that evening, in which case, he would have half-heartedly been involved in efforts to revive the departing soul. Hospital, let's not even come to that.
We know little of the modern age, we do not even believe in science and technology. Give us all the modern innovations and know how in medical field, that footballer would still have died.

Mr A again
Agreed Prof. Even if we have all the equipment and do not have the mentality to apply it, then, what’s the point? My mum used to complain – before she retired – that quite a few people died at the hospital she used to work and they got the blame for a lot of them. The anger was, the sick people were usually in the priest’s house for prayers till it get too late and then they bring them to the hospital for their inevitable death. I have never understood that.

I cannot help but think that – just like you were suggesting – that if this had happened in Africa, prayers would have been the first thing instead of medication. It also depends of your luck, in terms of the mentality of those around when this happens. And if the person had survived through the quick thinking of someone around, trust that some priests would have claimed credit for their prayers. This will then lead to people thinking that’s the only way forward. When Muamba fell, the players straight away called for medical assistance, before Van Der Vaart, Gallas, and Tuncay started praying on the field. The sought medical help first. Combine both, but seek medication first. Like I always say here, it’s our upbringing.

Prof again
In fact, given all the dangers around, I wonder why people still play football at all in Nigeria. Whenever I visit Nigeria these days, I find it difficult to rouse myself - to go out. I have seen accidents happen in streets. Those who should know better about first aid, just drive away, not wanting unforeseen problems in trying to be a Good Samaritan. The first people in an accident scene in that country are often the uneducated and bad mouthed area boys, who when not scheming how to make away with the victim's possession, know next to nothing about first aid, they nevertheless go ahead to administer.

 I have seen an accident victim losing blood and furiously asking for water, given a satchet of pure water to drink, when even a teenager in his first "first aid training day" knows the last thing to do to anyone losing blood is give him water to drink. You would imagine the police should know better whenever they arrive the scene.
 My brother, pray nothing should happen to you or anyone you know in Nigeria. The police will first of all try to secure the place, from who, ask me, when a man is on the ground dying. Then, they will run helter skelter, with loaded AK 47s dangling on their shoulder, trying to commandeer a vehicle. And when one is somehow manoeuvred through the traffic of busy body well-wishers who will do next to nothing other than well wish, the victim will be bundled, double over into it, not minding if there was some spinal injury waiting for a bad handler to worsen it. To cut short a long story, that country hosts a failed society. It's a nut house....a crank pot. And to imagine they have a minister of tourism, one of health, and another of international commerce, lol.

Join the conversation.  What do you think? Are things as bad as it is being painted here or even worse? Share your views in the comment box below.  

Monday, March 19, 2012

KONY 2012-Africa should not wait for Garvin to grow up

“The next 27 minutes are an experiment but in order for it to work, you have to pay attention”

These are the words of the narrator one minute thirty six seconds into the new record breaking You Tube documentary video titled KONY 2012. The first few seconds have been devoted to telling the viewer how the world has changed with the advent of instant communication and feedback by the web. The video lets you know that “The rules of the game have changed”

I am not sure what the final aim of the KONY 2012 video makers is about? If the aim was to get people to view the video, then it has been more than successful. Over 100 million viewers have so far seen the KONY 2012. I just checked this morning on You Tube and it has been viewed by over 82 million people on You Tube alone so far. This makes it the most watched video ever on planet earth.

The fact that this record was achieved in so short a time only confirms KONY 2012 producers’ statement  that the world has changed. As the narrator says  “There are more people on Facebook today than they were on planet earth 200 years ago” Most significantly, the population of the earth on Facebook are connectable and connected with a click. Definitely “The rules of the game have changed” and you better understand those rules.

For the fact that KONY 2012 has been such a successful online product in so short a time may just be the proof that the makers of the KONY 2012 understand the new rules of the game. I have looked around the web and have seen more touching videos on KONY made by other organisations like this  .  As you can see, this video to date has had just 1,134 views compared to KONY 2012 over a 100 million views, yet it was uploaded on the web almost a year ago. 

KONY 2012 has also been successful as a commercial product for its makers. As part of the video, the makers of KONY 2012 have also produced souvenirs branded the KONY 2012 KIT.  

 I checked producers’ website this morning (here) the KONY 2012 KIT which cost US$30 per kit were already sold out.  The kit contains a T-shirt, KONY bracelet, Action guide, Stickers, Button and Posters. The bracelet alone goes for US$10.

For me, this looks like one of the most successful fund raising ever done. I am not sure how many packs of the kits were made but imagine if just five per cent of the people who watched the KONY video were persuaded to buy the kits for $30 each, which could be a potential windfall of $150 million. And it could be the fastest money raised in so short a time with so little effort further emphasizing the fact that “The rules of the game have changed”

But while the video has been a run-away success, it seems to have turned a PR disaster for its makers. It has drawn critical attention to the video makers” Invisible Children” so much attention that the founder of Invisible Children is reported to have been arrested which has resulted in several funny videos including this.  

The organisations finances has come under critical scrutiny showing that only about 31% of the funds raised by it is spent in Uganda where it carries out its charity work. In fact a look at the finances shows that Invisible Children spends almost every penny it raises on itself except funds that are specifically raised and tied to causes in Uganda. See the organisations finances here

Also the video says that the rules of the game have changed, but the portrayal of Africa as the begging continent did not change in the movie.

“I am gonna be like you dad, when I grow up. I am gonna come with you to Africa”

These are the final words in the KONY Video from the video maker’s son Garvin who is also the central character in the video. Obviously, he wants to be a “hero” like his dad working in the "dark" continent of Africa to save children from monsters like KONY.

Thus Africa remains the land where those who want to feel good about saving the world come. However, the movie is not really about Africa. It is about Uganda, just one of the 56 countries in Africa. Yet, often in the narration of the movie, Uganda is used interchangeably with Africa as if Uganda is Africa and Africa is Uganda.

Yet “Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most-populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² (11.7 million sq mi) including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area.[2] With 1.0 billion people (as of 2009, see table), it accounts for about 14.72% of the world's human population” taking a direct quote from Wikipedia

Here is Uganda on map of Africa 

KONY is  in Africa, but he is in Uganda and a small part of Uganda for that matter not roaming the African continent as if the Africa is a small Island. Actually, he is even said to have left Uganda six years ago, possibly dead or hiding in the bushes between Uganda and its neighbouring countries. He is no longer a factor in the life of Ugandans.

KONY 2012 also seems to have turned KONY into a hero rather than a villain. This is a man accused of the most heinous crimes against humanity yet Bracelets and T-Shirts are being branded in his name. It is difficult to reconcile beautifully branded T-Shirts and bracelets with the evil that KONY represents. Imagine wearing a T-Shirt or bracelet with “Hitler” written on it.

But maybe KONY 2012 is also a wakeup call to Africans generally. There is no doubt that there has been a significant improvement on the continent. We have more democratic and more responsible governments than we have ever had. Our economies are growing faster than we have ever had. Poverty is reducing faster on the continent than we have ever had. There is plenty of good news about Africa that the world is not hearing about. Imagine, if KONY 2012 was a video about the many good things happening in different countries in Africa and not about some monster who vanished six years ago?

So perhaps, before Garvin grows up and starts packing his bags to Africa, we should mobilize and tell the world that people like KONY are in our past.  We must tell our story and let the world know that our Invisible Children are no longer invisible. They are also visibly online and they are conquering global challenges just like any kid in the world.

Africa should  not wait for Garvin to grow up before we start sharing the good news about Africa. Yes, we have our challenges like any other part of the continent, but we are making significant progress. The cup is not half empty, it is half full. 

What do you think? Share your thoughts with a comment below. Also please share the article either on Facebook or twitter or any of the social any networks you are on. Do not be Invisible. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Nigeria Oil licence bid round-How Emeka Offor made $35 million

Global Witness, a UK based NGO which campaigns for transparency in the global oil industry has revealed in its latest report how Emeka Offor’s owned Starcrest Nigeria Energy Limited acquired an oil license in the May 2006 oil licence bid round and sold a part of it a few months later for $35 million to Canadian Swiss firm Addax Petroleum. Interestingly Addax also paid for the signature bonus fee of $55 million. In essence, Starcrest pocketed $35 million with little or no investment. 

As Nigeria prepares another bid round this year, this story provides an insight into the behind the scene deals that goes on in Nigeria oil license bid rounds..  The report also shows how a company owned by Lee Maeba, who was at the time chairman of the House Committee on Petroleum Resources also got an oil licence in partnership with Conoil. The story as written in the Global witness report is reproduced below. The full report can be found here.

Easiest $35 million ever made ?
Diezani Allison-Madueke, Nigeria's Minister of Petroleum Resources 

The  Nigeria oil license bid round which took place  in May 2006, known as the “mini-round”, raises  questions about the role of indigenous companies and the transparency of bidding processes. This bid round was much smaller than its predecessor and the bidders were mostly companies from China, India and other foreign countries which had pledged investments in Nigeria’s infrastructure in return for being granted oil licences. One case that later attracted controversy in the media was the case of Starcrest Energy Limited.
Starcrest Energy Limited is an international offshore company registered in the Republic of Seychelles and controlled by Emeka Offor, a Nigerian businessman who was described by the Office of the Attorney General of Sao Tome and Principe, a country which neighbours Nigeria, as a “known confidante and campaign supporter of President Obasanjo” and by Chatham House as “a key financier of the ruling party [in Nigeria].”

 In 2006, it appears that a local subsidiary of Starcrest Energy Limited, Starcrest Nigeria Energy acquired oil block OPL 291 by swapping it with another block (OPL 294) that it had won during an earlier bidding process. Soon after, it entered into a Production Sharing Agreement in relation to OPL 291 and was paid US$35 million by a foreign investor while retaining a large minority stake in the licence.

Questions over Starcrest’s acquisition of OPL 291 were first raised in October 2006 by the Financial Times, which noted that “Starcrest [is] a company … which industry sources say has strong political connections.” The situation led to three government investigations, two of which ultimately absolved Starcrest of any wrongdoing and one of which was discontinued.

However, the facts presented below suggest a need for clarity as to how an obscure company, reported to have strong political connections, was able to win an oil licence after the initial bidding process and realise a substantial profit on it within a matter of months.

One of the oil blocks on offer in the mini-round of May 2006 was OPL 291. According to a letter to the Nigerian EITI from the Ministry of Petroleum Resources (hereafter the MPR Letter), Starcrest took part in the auction on 19th May 2006 and bid for and won oil blocks 226 and 294 after paying the requisite fees and taking part in the public bidding process.

An Indian consortium had a right of first refusal on OPL 291, but did not exercise it and their right of refusal duly lapsed.At a reconvened session at the MPR, Starcrest and another company, Transnational Corporation (Transcorp) appealed to be allowed to swap the blocks that they had won for OPL 291. Transcorp was given the initial opportunity by MPR officials to swap an oil block for OPL 291.

The MPR’s letter says that there were “numerous meetings” with Transcorp’s representatives between May and August 2006 “to meet the terms of the award of the OPL 291, including the identification of a suitable deep-water operator and payment of Signature Bonus.”

Ultimately, Transcorp failed to pay the signature bonus and did not acquire the licence. After the bidding rounds, Transcorp became a subject of controversy due to media reports that former President Obasanjo himself owned shares in it. According to an Associated Press article from September 2006, Obasanjo confirmed that his private company owned 200 million shares in Transcorp.

However, the trustees of the company reported that there was no conflict of interest because the President would have had no knowledge of the company’s shares in Transcorp or other investments because they were held in a blind trust. Global Witness wrote to Obasanjo and Transcorp and asked them to comment on these reports. We did not receive a response from either party.

Once Transcorp did not acquire OPL 291, the relevant Nigerian oil and gas regulatory authorities gave permission to Starcrest to swap its previously obtained oil block OPL 294 for oil block OPL 291.
Due to the withdrawal of its initial technical partner, Starcrest sought and obtained the approval of the MPR to partner with Addax Oil and Gas Limited, a Canadian Swiss Oil firm. Starcrest entered into a Production Sharing Agreement with Addax in respect of OPL 291. Addax paid the US$55 million signature bonus to the Nigerian Government.

The Addax deal was highly favourable to Starcrest. Not only did Addax pay the signature bonus owed to the government, but it agreed to pay Starcrest a farm-in fee of US$35 million to acquire an interest in OPL 291. In reply to our letter regarding OPL 291, Addax stated that they paid a farm-in fee as “there was no other manner for Addax Petroleum to obtain an interest in OPL 291” since “they were not eligible to participate in the bidding round as the prevailing government policy of the time required indigenous Nigerian companies to bid.”

In response to question regarding the farm-in fee, Addax state that the “farm-in was fully transparent, disclosed publicly at the time, and represented a good commercial opportunity for Addax Petroleum and its shareholders. The payment of a farm-in fee is standard practice in the industry.”

According to the MPR Letter: “there is nothing irregular about the transactions between Addax Petroleum/Starcrest as reassignments of oil licences are normal industry practice. It is also pertinent to note that farm-out payments between third parties are not normally brought to the attention of government, as government is not privy to such transactions and does not benefit from the same.”

 This may have been an accurate account of oil industry practices. Nevertheless, from the MPR letter it appears likely that, with the full agreement of the Nigerian government, Starcrest  did not obtain OPL 291 in the bidding round which took place on 19th May 2006 but through a series of negotiations and correspondence with the MPR and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources.

This process seems to have taken place over several months and involved Transcorp but does not appear to have involved the other companies that had taken part in the bidding round in May 2006. It also appears, based on a Global Witness survey of media reports between May 2006 and October 2007, that the award of OPL 291 to Starcrest and Addax only became public knowledge in October 2006, when Addax reported that it had farmed into the licence.  Starcrest, however, denies this account.

Following petitions from a competitor, three investigations into the circumstances of the allocation of OPL 291 were launched by the Inspector General of the Nigerian Police, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) respectively. After a petition from Starcrest to President Yar’Adua, the President asked the Minister of State for Energy (Petroleum) to provide him with a report on the matter.

In 2008, the ministry stated that there was no wrongdoing or breach of procedure in the processes leading to the award of OPL 291. The President then issued a directive, on the basis of which the Ministry of Justice instructed the EFCC to stop the investigation, “as any further action to the contrary would amount to a violation of the directives of Mr. President as well as disregard for the Hon. Minister of State for Energy (Petroleum) who investigated the matter.”

In March 2008, a letter from a staff officer of the Inspector-General of Police to Starcrest informed them of the outcome of the investigation carried out by the MPR, which had found that Starcrest and Addax had “validly acquired the partnership interest apportioned to them in the production sharing contract on OPL 291.” Consequently the Inspector-General of Police’s investigation was closed. We understand that the EFCC investigation was later discontinued.

Legal representatives of Emeka Offor told Global Witness that all investigations, including by the EFCC had “absolved Starcrest of any wrongdoing” and given “Starcrest a clean bill of health.” In response to Global Witness’ questions regarding the relationship between Obasanjo and Offor, the representatives clarified that “President Obasanjo, though a good friend of our client, never influenced (nor did any Nigerian government official), the award of OPL291 to Starcrest.” They also stated that none of the fees paid to Starcrest Nigeria Energy were diverted to political recipients.

None of the above facts amount to evidence of illegality in the obtaining of OPL 291. However, it has not been fully explained why the government, which was committed to a policy of transparency and open bidding, authorised particular companies to swap the licences in negotiations that lasted several months after the date of the bidding itself.

It is also hard to see what services Starcrest Nigeria Energy could have performed to justify making sucha large profit on OPL 291 in a matter of months. If the licence was worth an extra US$35 million in farm-in fees, this begs the question as to why the government did not give this licence a higher value estimate in the first place. Starcrest responded to our questions about the value they added by stating that they “made significant investment in exploring or developing the licence” and that it is “most unreasonable” to suspect that they had no intention of developing the licence in their own right.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ten shocking inefficiencies in NNPC as revealed by the KPMG report

As the  Ribadu led Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force gets down to business on unveiling the mystery of the Nigeria petroleum industry, here are ten shocking revelations contained in the yet to be published KPMG report on NNPC that will help make their job easier.
Diezani Alison-Madueke, Minister of Petroleum Resources 

1.       The Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has no centralized means of storing electronic copies historical production and allocation data. Individual staff store these files on their computers which means that when a staff computer crashes or alternatively he or she leaves NNPC, the data may not be recoverable. It also means if you need historical production and allocation data from NNPC, you may have to talk to as many staff as possible that have it on their computer to get the information

Nuhu Ribadu, Chair Petroleum  Revenue Special Task Force 

2.       NNPC buys crude oil for domestic consumption in dollars from the Federal Government but pays in Naira. KPMG however found out that the exchange rate at which the NNPC pay for domestic Crude Oil in Naira was lower than what the CBN published on the same date. This resulted in NNPC underpaying the Federal Government by N86.2 billion in three years from 2007 to 2009. Shockingly, the NNPC says it got the exchange rate on which it made its payments by phone from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). However, it does not have records of such phone calls. Interesting. Right?

 Austen Oniwon Group Managing Director, NNPC 

3.       There is no stated criteria on how NNPC selects companies that lift Nigeria’s crude oil despite the fact the NNPC reviews the contract for lifting crude on an annual basis. KPMG states that NNPC claims the renewal of lifting contracts for Nigeria’s crude oil on a yearly basis is based on performance of the lifters yet NNPC was not able to define the basis and criteria for determining performance. KPMG was able to observe instances where NNPC allocated crude oil lifting contracts to off takers even when they were not on the approved list.  Ovals trading, for example lifted almost four million barrels of crude in 2007 and 2008 without being on the approved list. Other companies that lifted crude without being on the approved list include Petrojam (2.8 million barrels in 2007), Oil fields (950,166 barrels in 2007) Zenon (906,000 barrels in 2008)

4.       Shocking instances where the KPMG discovered the invoiced amount of crude oil lifted was lower than the value of crude oil actually lifted. There was the case where KPMG discovered an invoice that stated that the amount of oil lifted was $85,000,000 whereas the actual value of crude oil cargo lifted was $95,396,587 representing a significant difference of $10,396,587 or N1.63 billion at current exchange rate.

5.       Crude oil and sales and collection are not captured in NNPC accounting system until two months after the deal is done. Payment for domestic crude by NPPC to the Federation account takes an average of 110 to 120 days (three months)

6.       Process of selecting suppliers of imported products is done at Management discretion. Documented procedures are ignored by management. Instances of petroleum product import contracts awarded to companies not on approved pre-qualification list. In the fourth quarter of 2008, three companies not on the approved prequalification list were allowed to bring in imported petroleum products. The companies are Astana Oil Corporate Limited, Natural Energy and Oando.

7.       NNPC incurred demurrage cost of $198 million (N31 billion) from January 2008 to June 2010 due to delays in discharge of imported petroleum products at the Ports.

8.       Capacity utilization of Nigeria’s refineries ranged from a low of 11.2% to a high of 25.3% in the review period from 2008 to 2009. Also, the processing fees paid by NNPC to local refineries for refining crude is not enough to cover the operating cost of the refineries.  The last time the processing fees were reviewed was in 2005. This is why the refineries are operating at loss and also contributing significantly to their inefficiency. They are set up to fail.

9.       Fuel subsidy payments are based on products imported into the country rather than products actually sold in the country leading to possibility of subsidy being paid on products not sold in the country. KPMG found out the shocking fact that DPK tanks with total storage capacity of 18,000 cubic metres at PPMC depots were not utilized for storing DPK in the last three years despite the fact they were in good condition. Instead, third party facilities were being hired for the same purpose.

10.   NNPC shockingly has no proper system of filing. KPMG found instances where documents were stacked in bags instead of being properly filed. Add to this the fact that other electronic data are not also centrally stored in an electronic data base and you get a nightmare situation of trying to find out what really goes on at NNPC. It is therefore not surprising that the corporations operation has always remained a mystery to the uninitiated. 

Watch You Tube video here on Nigeria's House of Representatives probe of management of fuel subsidy. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

MEND in Nigeria’s Niger Delta-Is this the resurrection of Jomo Gbomo?

 The last time the Nigerian media got an e-mail from Jomo Gbomo, the  spokesperson of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) was in October 2010.  This was after bombs exploded at the independence day celebrations in Abuja (here). Jomo Gbomo had as usual issued a statement saying MEND was responsible.

This was at a time most known militants of MEND were laying down their arms after a popular amnesty offer from the Nigerian government. Soon after the Independence Day bombs, Charles Okah, brother to Henry Okah, the alleged leader of MEND, was picked up. He was said to be Jomo Gbomo. After being picked up, a few more mails came from Jomo Gbomo, until the mail trail went dry as the amnesty programme and the emergence of  Goodluck Jonathan, an indigene of the Niger Delta as the Nigerian president seemed to have finally calmed nerves in the Niger Delta.

Thursday last week however saw the killing of the highest ranking military officer in the Niger Delta by militants and it also seem to have finally confirmed the resurrection of Jomo Gbomo (read here for reasons why militants say they struck).

 Once more the Jomo Gbomo e-mail trail is active just as the guns and bombs have started exploding in the Niger Delta. Jomo Gbomo has resurrected despite the fact that Henry Okah remains in a South African jail and Charles Okah remains in jail in Nigeria.

Is this the ghost of Jomo Gbomo, is he an impersonator or is he real? If he is real, where has he and MEND been all the while and why are they suddenly resurrecting at this time when an indigene of the Niger Delta still remains the president.

The attacks by MEND are  coming at a time of allegations that the Niger Delta region is getting an unfair share of national revenues and development projects under a Niger Delta president. Thousands of youths who embraced the amnesty programme of the Federal government are now in various countries around the world undergoing different training programmes.  A good number of ex-militants are still getting monthly allowance from the Federal Government. So what would make MEND pick up the guns again?

The rift between President Jonathan and Timipre Sylva the former governor of the President’s Home State of Bayelsa is the first reason that those familiar with the region are putting their hands on for the resurrection of MEND. The former governor has been politically outmanoeuvred by the President to ensure he does not get a second term as a governor of the state. It was in the heat of the political battle between the President and his governor, that the bombs started exploding again in the Niger Delta (here). The governor lost the political battle and is rumoured to have fled to country even as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission slammed corruption charges against him.

It is not yet clear if the resurrection of MEND is direct fall out of this political battle. There is the other view that the current hostilities is being carried out by disgruntled militants left out of the monthly payments from the Federal government and who want to be recognised. This is the John Togo faction that feels aggrieved over the spoils of the amnesty programme.

(Watch here ex-militants allegedly protesting over non payment of amnesty allowance) 

However, the resurrected Jomo Gbomo claims that they used the period of silence to rearm MEND. It is early days yet to be exactly clear if the latest hostility from MEND is flash in the pan or a return to the old bad days of kidnappings, pipeline sabotages and  explosions.

What is clear is that the new MEND seems to be deadlier than the former MEND. The first MEND was a bit reluctant to kill. This MEND seems to have no qualms about killing.

The current MEND also seems to have a taste for piracy which has been on the rise in Nigerian waters (here). 

Jomo Gbomo is quoted to have warned ships that try manoeuvres to prevent their ships from being boarded by MEND will have rockets launched at their ships and set on fire when boarded. Already a ship captain has been killed in one of the suspected MEND piracy attacks (here).

Piracy seems to be increasing with the advent of this new MEND. They are yet to state their demands. Unlike the former MEND that wanted increased resource allocation, it is not clear what this MEND want since the country already has a Niger Delta President and increased allocation.

The current threat from MEND is  coming at a bad time. The Nigerian security forces are already tackling Boko Haram activities in the North; No doubt the security forces will be stretched if they have to start tackling another major insurgence in the South South of Nigeria. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

UK has not dropped corruption charges against Ibori says Prosecution Council

This blog can confirm that the corruption charges against James Ibori, former governor of delta state has not been dropped and there was no plea bargain in Ibori’s decision to plead guilty to money laundering charges in a UK court.
Sasha Wass QC-Prosecution Council in the Ibori case 

A mail sent by this blogger to the prosecution council, Sasha Wass to confirm the true situation of things with the Ibori case in UK court received the following reply.

“Thank you very much for your enquiry. The answers to all of your questions were given in open court on the 27th February during the morning. From the notes of the hearing, you will see that the corruptions charges were not dropped and no plea bargain or agreement was involved. You may find it helpful to obtain a transcript of the proceedings”
James Ibori 

Some Nigerian Newspapers quoting Ibori’s spokesperson have claimed this morning that there was a plea bargain reached by Ibori and its UK prosecutors which resulted in Ibori pleading guilty to the money laundering charges against him. 

Reuters had earlier reported that the charges to which Ibori did not plead guilty had not been dropped but would remain on file. 

Ibori pleaded guilty to 10 counts of money laundering, fraud and related offences. He pleaded not guilty to a further 13 similar charges. He is expected to be sentenced to jail on April 16, 2012. He remains in custody until then and his traceable stolen assets is  to be confiscated. 

UK police estimates that Ibori may have stolen as much as $250 million from public coffers in his eight years as governor. 

A report published early this year by Global Financial Integrity estimate that Nigeria lost $182 billion to corruption between 1999 and 2009.