Ordinary Nigerians bear the burden of PDP gang wars, viciously fought over the sharing of our common patrimony among its members through their ingenious creation – privatisation and commercialisation of public utilities built by Nigerian taxpayers. As it was during Obasanjo and his group including those who masterminded the failed third term agenda, and Atiku Abubakar’s group of loyal governors one of who is today serving jail terms, so it is today as President Jonathan, Tukur and their 16 governors that resorted to self-help after losing a governorship forum election and the self-proclaiming new-PDP’s gang of seven dig in for final battle. Having concluded that we all suffer from collective amnesia, both groups have continued to assault Nigerians by proclaiming their love for a nation they have jointly ravaged for 14 years.
Following last week’s showdown of the two PDP’s on the floor of the National Assembly, the new PDP has donned a new cloak of a messiah, set to liberate the people from 14 years of PDP economic exploitation and impoverisation of our people. As if a part can be holier than the whole, chairman of new PDP Alhaji Baraje has ‘unequivocally condemned’ the rape of the country’s economy by Goodluck Jonathan administration insisting that with “the massive scale of officially-induced oil theft, the dwindling returns from oil and massive looting going on at the federal level, Nigeria is surely on the brink of economic collapse despite claim to the contrary by the administration, in futile bid to deceive Nigerians”.
But our new liberators that today swear by their love for the poor have been active participants in the ravaging of our land since 1999. They were there when poor Nigerians were visited with a callous taxation following monumental stealing of about N1.7 trillion by some of the 140 oil importers appointed by Ahmadu Alli, then chairman of PDP as well as chairman of PPPRA and Diezani Alison-Maduekwe, Minister for Petroleum Resources. We did not hear a moan as the people groaned under the weight of taxation of over 200 percent in the guise of removing phantom fuel subsidy. They joined government apologists, Sanusi Lamido, the CBN governor and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Minister for Finance who falsely claimed it was only the middle class car owners that would be affected by the callous taxation.
There has not been a murmur from our new lovers about the ongoing efforts of government to force vehicle owners cough out about N30,000 on an already registered vehicle. As our university students roam the street, there has been no condemnation of the insensitive declaration by the National Assembly members that N190bn which they dismissed as only three percent of the national budget is not too much for the lawmakers even when government says the economy cannot support the payment of N88bn, representing four years cumulative indebtedness, made up of miserable allowances ranging between N8, 000 and N15, 000 for university lecturers supervising Masters and PhD candidates.
In the same vein, President Jonathan who has been accused by his PDP family members of imposing hardship on nation while protecting those he once personally identified as saboteurs of the economy, last week chose United Nations headquarters in New York to proclaim himself as the lover of the people. Hitting back with use of innuendos, he had told the world that “in the country’s past privatization, we know what happened there and yet those who sat over the exercise are the same people who are opening their mouth wide to attack this administration”. And awarding himself a pass mark in the ongoing privatization of public utilities including the energy sector which he said is very transparent, he claimed the nation has made a bounteous harvest of $3bn.
But the president was silent on what it cost the taxpayers to build up those public utilities in the first place. What we have are conflicting figures from PDP leading lights. For instance, Umaru Yar’Adua, on assumption of office claimed $10b was spent on the power sector by President Obasanjo, with little to show for it. The then Speaker of the House Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, claimed the sum was over $16 billion, while the House power probe committee chairman, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, gave a figure of $13 billion. But Suswan, on behalf of the Presidential Review Panel on the NIPP set up by National Economic Council, NEC, said the panel found “that as at 2007, total project allocations/ estimates to NIPP was $10.231 billion inclusive of the $2 billion Federal Government counterpart funding for Mambilla Hydro Power project”. With the different figures being bandied around, the president’s celebration of a harvest of $3bn will appear too hasty.
Of course the president on whose table the buck stops, more than anyone else is better placed to tell us all the under hand dealings that accompanied the privatization programme during the Obasanjo presidency, vice president Atiku Abubakar as chairman of the National Council on Privatisation and Nasir El Rufai as BPE boss. The reports of some of the sordid deals about the privatization as revealed by his PDP warring family members are on his table.
It was through aggrieved PDP members that Nigerians learnt that NITEL, a successful outfit that posted a profit of N53bn in 2002 before PDP government embarked on its fraudulent privatization recorded a loss of N19bn in 2003 when BPE sold it to unqualified Pentascope, an alleged proxy company hurriedly registered only three months earlier with staff strength of six. It was from them we learnt BPE could not find a buyer after trying both Investors International (London) Limited (IILL) and a more renowned TELNET to buy 51% of NITEL at $1.317b.
It was also from the PDP warring members and their fronts we learnt Folio Communications, buyer of the Daily Times had to sell Daily Times asset including NSE House on Customs Street and some properties in London before it could pay BPE N1.2bn. It was from them we learnt that the entire Trade Fair Complex was sold to a company for as low as N10bn. There were more revelations. ALSCON, built with $3.2b dollars was sold to a Russian firm for $250m out of which it paid only $130m. NICON and Nigerian Reinsurance were alleged to have been bought through questionable deals by Global Fleet Oils and Gas Limited.
From Christopher Anyawu, a former boss of Bureau for Public Enterprises, BPE, we learnt that sales proceeds were first kept in commercial banks before transfer to the CBN. Former deputy director of BPE, Charles Osuji who claimed OBJ and Atiku killed the privatization dream’, admitted collecting a thank you bribe of $100,000 from the successful bidder for the National Oil for El Rufai who in turn claimed Osuji was directed to return the money. Ms Onagoruwa, former DG of BPE alleged Obasanjo concessioned the Ajaokuta Steel Company to Global Infrastructure without recourse to BPE.
Musa Mohammed Sada, appointed minister of Mines and Steel Development in April 2010 by the then acting President Jonathan accused the firm which also acquired Delta Steel Company of asset stripping in Ajaokuta by moving out equipment from Ajaokuta to Delta, and cannibalising them as spares. For this reason, Sada says ‘the steel sector is in a sorry state, we have not been able to move forward’.
Instead of escaping to New York to point accusing fingers at some of his troubled PDP family members who had engaged in bare- faced stealing and sharing of our common patrimony, what Nigerians expected of President Jonathan who has sworn to an oath to protect the interest of the nation is to act on the above documented report of PDP’s handling of privatization programme up till 2010.
And finally, I think it will be hard for President Jonathan to persuade cynical Nigerians that his privatization programme is more transparent. Some of the names behind the newly licensed independent operators have featured prominently in the past efforts of government. The segment of PDP that claimed Professor Barth Nnaji who was pushed out as a minister because he stepped on power toes and not because of divided interest as claimed by government, seem to have been vindicated when no eyebrows were raised with Professor Jerry Gana, a PDP stalwart, leading a delegation of registered Independent Power Producers (IPPs), to plead with government for import waivers and government participation in their private companies.