Nigeria lost billions of dollars in oil and gas revenue over a two-year period as the nation suffered from crumbling infrastructure, polluted lakes and rivers, joblessness and a growing insurgency now operating nationwide. A damning auditor’s report of fraud, mismanagement and corruption comes as neighbor countries Uganda and Ghana are becoming oil giants themselves.
The amount of potential oil revenues lost to oil theft from 2009-2011 is estimated at approximately $10.9 billion, according to the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI).
“Over 136 million barrels were lost to crude oil theft and sabotage,” said Ledum Mitee, a former activist with the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People. Mitee heads the National Stakeholders Working Group for the NEITI, an appointment approved by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.
In addition to oil theft and pipeline vandalism, the audit blamed a poorly defined pricing methodology, a dilapidated refining sector and excessive fuel subsidy for significantly reducing government revenue from the oil sector.
While the country pumped more oil, noted the report, there was no measurable improvement in the standard of living of the people, particularly the ever-expanding population of the poor.
Anthony Ebipade, a former fighter in the Niger Delta, observed: “Since our people’s livelihoods have been destroyed through oil spillage and gas flaring, coupled with the poor quality of human potential owing to poor education, the easiest option is illegal business such as oil bunkering.”
Nnimmo Bassey of the Mother Earth Foundation added: “As we see clearly, neither farming nor fishing thrives in polluted and severely degraded places like the Niger Delta. This entrenches unemployment, poverty and disease.”
Writing from Uganda, journalist Byaruhanga Chris of New Vision asked when Uganda would take similar measures with its new oil income.
“So what’s the delay? Why has Uganda been slow to prioritize an already tried and tested transparency tool, especially now that the country is facing some of the biggest corruption scandals of its time? Why can’t we, the citizens, be told how money is exchanging hands in the oil and gas sector?”
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