Editorial | N216bn NNPC’s extra-legislative expenditure on fuel subsidy treasonably corrupt

Nigeria’s state oil company, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) paid N216 billion ($707.4 million) in fuel subsidies in 2017 illegally, according to a Senate probe report released on Thursday.

The country’s upper legislative house confirmed in the probe report that NNPC made the payment without proper authorization and didn’t seek their approval. They therefore ordered a halt with immediate effect to further expenditure of any sort on fuel subsidies.

Fuel subsidies have been a source of huge fraud and official corruption in Nigeria for many years. Outraged by NNPC’s arbitrariness and the quantum of funds that get siphoned in the process, the Jonathan administration decided to end the bogus fuel subsidy programme in 2012.

It was however met by a vehement resistance in the form of #OccupyNigeria. The initial message of the resistance was noble. It called on government to retain but sanitize the programme; including, prosecute all those who have abused it.

Sadly, the campaign, many analysts believe was swiftly hijacked by opposition politicians and replaced by fully sponsored flamboyant rallies calling for regime change. They would later ride on the back of that to power in 2015.

Consequently, the fuel subsidy programme became retained.

However, government subsidy on fuel has become the single biggest threat to public expenditure in Africa’s largest economy, going by this new Senate probe revelation. And something has to be done about it.

Excitingly, the Buhari administration on ascension to power in 2015 promised to reform the subsidy programme and end official corruption in Nigeria. But all that seem like a mirage now, with promises gone with the winds.

Instead, what we saw shortly afterwards was an astronomic increment in the pump price of petroleum products; in addition to this humongous extra-legislative expenditures by a state owned oil company under the direct supervision of President Muhammadu Buhari who doubles as Petroleum minister.

This is nothing short of treason against the state and people of Nigeria, at least in a sense of corruption.

It still baffles industry watchers why the expression of discontent among the people of Nigeria have remained snippets of rumours in the closet and social media pages rather than on the streets of Nigeria.

Reasonably, some see it as the failure of opposition. The current political opposition in Nigeria have for reasons best known to them refused to galvanize the people together to challenge the obvious collapse of governance. Or, even to resist the execution of harsh policies that have made a lot of businesses to shutdown; sent millions of Nigerians out of their jobs, further impoverished and back to the already saturated labour market.

Finally, there are still many who believe and are waiting for the Nigerian political opposition to wake up from slumber and rise up to its historical democratic obligation to the country and people. This should be done before it gets too late with one more step in the dark before midnight.