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Noviekuwrites Blog of Saturday, 10 September 2022

Source: Novieku Babatunde Adeola

Dan Etete, Alison-Madueke: Why President Buhari is Nigeria’s petroleum minister

President Muhammadu Buhari's victory in the 2015 presidential election was one most Nigerians cherished and hoped for. This was evident in the voter turnout and the result which kicked out an incumbent president, for the first time in the history of the country.

Prior to the elections, Nigeria was in a state of chaos. Insecurity was rife, there were pockets of killings and abductions nationwide until the evasion and abduction of more than 276 students of the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, on April 14, 2014. The incidents broke the camel's back, making Nigerians act.

Several political pundits have attributed the defeat of former President Goodluck Jonathan to his inability to retrieve the girls who to date are still in captivity.

In spite of the challenges faced with insecurity, a World Bank report states that Nigeria's short-term economic outlook improved in 2014 and prospects for continued growth and macroeconomic stability are good in light of increased revenues to the federation, stable foreign reserves and an augmented fiscal reserve fund.

The Nigeria Economic Report (NER) also highlights two remaining risks to the country’s positive economic outlook; uncertainty in oil prices and output, and short-term capital flows.

Nigeria's oil sector had always faced huge challenges. The International Association for Energy Economics highlights some which include resource ownership and the exclusive rights of the national government to grant permission to explore and develop petroleum resources in Nigeria. While this is obvious, another reason why Nigerians have not entirely benefitted from the spoils of oil is due to corruption of a huge proportion that was a canker in the sector.

In order to curb this, the President after he was sworn-in in September 2015 told select reporters in New York, USA: “I will remain Minister of Petroleum. I will appoint a minister of State for Petroleum.”

And true to his words, two months when he allotted portfolios to his cabinet members, he named himself Petroleum Minister.

Buhari said he was taking the step as part of efforts to sanitize the oil industry, notoriously characterized by opacity and corruption in monumental proportions, icirnigeria reported at the time.

In this article, we take a look at past petroleum ministers who have been in the middle of the storm in the sector

Diezani K. Alison-Madueke

Born December 6, 1960, Alison-Madueke was the first woman to hold the position of Minister of Petroleum Resources in Nigeria, and in October 2010 she became the first woman to head a country delegation at the semi-annual OPEC conference.

She was also the first female president of OPEC. A PBS News Hours documentary quoted American and British officials saying that former Petroleum Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke might personally have organized a diversion of $28 billion from the Nigerian treasury.

While she was declared wanted by the state, the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, has said $153 million and over 80 properties have been recovered from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.

Mr. Bawa in an update on her case in April 2021 told EFCC alert that the agency had recovered 80 properties recovered from Mrs. Alison-Madueke were worth about $80 million.

The publication was part of excerpts from the interview Mr Bawa had during One-on-One program of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).

Mrs Alison-Madueke, who is believed to have escaped to the United Kingdom and remained there after her exit from public office, ran the petroleum ministry which superintends over the opaque Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) between 2010 and 2015 under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Premium Times said.

Her name has featured either as the main defendant or an accomplice in numerous corruption cases filed in court by the EFCC since her exit from office.

Bringing her back to Nigeria to face pending charges against her has proved to be a hard nut to crack for the EFCC.

Dan Etete

The inability of Nigeria to win the $1.7 billion court case against JP Morgan Chase & Co for the bank's role in the transfer of millions of dollars to the former Minister of Petroleum convicted of corruption re-echoed how much Nigeria has lost to the corrupt practice of public officials.

In the six-week trial, Nigeria sought to argue that the US investment bank acted carelessly when it transferred $875 million in payments from government accounts to Etete, who had been convicted of money laundering between 2011 and 2013.

Born in 1945, Etete was the former Nigerian Minister of Petroleum between 1995 and 1998 under the regime of General Sani Abacha.

According to reports, in 2011, as a former Minister of Petroleum under military dictator General Sani Abacha, he facilitated the transfer of payment of $1.1 billion to Malabu Oil and Gas. Malabu was set up in 1998 by Dan Etete using a false identity so as to award himself a lucrative oil block, OPL 245 for which he paid only $2 million of the $20 million legally required by the state.

Questions have been raised about the actions of President Buhari appointing himself as the Minister of Petroleum. Lawyers have questioned the constitutionality of his appointment.

Legal Expert

At the time, Olisa Agbakoba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), filed an application urging the court to remove Buhari as Minister of Petroleum, saying his double portfolio is illegal.

In the suit he filed before the Federal High Court in Lagos, Agbakoba insisted that it was unconstitutional for Buhari to hold two executive offices at the same time.

“I looked at Section 138 of the 1999 Constitution and I verily believe that it disqualifies the President from holding executive office, including that of the Minister of Petroleum, during his tenure of office as President,” he said.

“I also know that the President did not go through nomination process and confirmation by the Senate, before holding the office of Minister of Petroleum Resources.

“I again looked at Section 147(2) of the 1999 Constitution and I verily believe that it prohibits anybody from holding the office of a minister of the federation without confirmation by the Senate.”

Similarly, Ikechukwu Ikeji, a practicing lawyer, agreed with Agbakoba that the constitution does not permit Buhari to hold another executive office while still a serving President, icirnigeria said.

For Ikeji, Buhari’s non-appearance at the Senate for confirmation as Petroleum Minister is secondary, because he is not qualified to be Minister in the first place.

Quoting section 138 of the constitution, Ikeji said it was clear that Buhari is not qualified to hold a ministerial position.

What is the Constitutional provision?

Section 138 of the 1999 constitution (as amended) states: “The President shall NOT, during his tenure of office, hold any other executive office or paid employment in any capacity whatsoever.”

The office of a minister is surely an executive one, since the Federal Executive Council (FEC) comprises all ministers and other key appointees of the President.

Also, Section 147 (1 and 2) of the constitution states: “There shall be such offices of Ministers of the Government of the Federation as may be established by the President. Any appointment to the office of Minister of the Government of the Federation shall, if the nomination of any person to such office is confirmed by the Senate, be made by the President.”

Buhari did not undergo any senate confirmation before announcing himself as Petroleum Minister.

Opposition clamour

Meanwhile, the largest opposition party PDP in February called for the president to quit his position as the minister of petroleum resources.

The opposition party also demanded the “immediate sack” of Timipre Sylva, minister of state for petroleum resources.

The PDP said Buhari has failed “woefully” in his duties as the minister of petroleum resources following the importation of off-spec petroleum into the country.

Last week, the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) confirmed that petrol, with methanol quantities above Nigeria’s specification, was discovered in the supply chain.