roubling revelation about the sharing of oil blocks among a few in Nigeria came to public notice recently. It is not that the news item is not already in the public place, but the issue is that no one has ever openly identified all the people involved, the oil blocks they got, some of the revenues being generated, and spread of the ownership among the geographical regions of the nation the way Senator Ita Enang did. The people's oil blocks are in the hands of the following:
- Umaru Yar'Ardua, late former president
- Atiku Abubakar, former vice president
- Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, former Minister of Defence
- Ado Bayero, Emir of Kano
- Rilwan Lukman, former Petroleum Minister
- Alhaji Aminu Dantata
- Col Sani Bello
- Alhaji Indimi
- Alhaji Mai Deribe
- Mallam Sanusi Lamido
- Alhaji Saleh Gambo, former Inspector General of Police
- Mr. Emeka Offor
- Mr. Mike Adenuga
- Mr. Yinka Folawiyo
Unfortunately, Senator Enang and his co-travelers from the South are more concerned about the tilting of ownership in favour of the North than about far more troubling and pertinent issues such as the process of allocation and how these few men got what belonged to the people and the nation. How did these few people who have the oil blocks got them? Did they bid for the oil blocks? Was there an open tender? How is it possible for individuals to get an oil block belong to the people of Nigeria, resources that are held in trust on their behalf by the government without due process, without ensuring that the interests of the people are well protected and that it is the people who rip the benefits of the resources? The Land Use Decree (LUD)vested the ownership of lands rich in mineral and natural resources in the federal government and the government control and manage these resources on behalf of the people, in trust. Since LUD allows the federal government to take away any land where natural resources are found and exploit it for the total and full benefits of the nation and its people, it becomes a criminal offence, a failure in fiduciary duties for anyone in government to give out the resource-rich land to any individual without due process, such as an open bid. The government then has a duty to ensure that the state secure the maximum benefits possible from the bid and protect the interests of the state and the people.
This is where the concept and law of trust comes into play. The Online Free Dictionary defines trust as, "A relationship created at the direction of an individual, in which one or more persons hold the individual's property subject to certain duties to use and protect it for the benefit of others." A trust is created by a settlor. The party who holds the property (in this case, an oil block) is a trustee and the people who benefits from the trust are the beneficiaries, at least that is how a trust is expected to operate since the assets and resources, including oil blocks, belongs to the state. With the certainty that all oil blocks are owned by the state and the people, it is clear that no individual in government has the right to give out an oil block to anyone without ensuring that the interests of the people and the state are protected and that the state derive full benefits from the trust, and that the trustee is only paid his fees or paid for the services rendered.
In essence, oil blocks cannot be allocated to individuals in the way it was and still being done in Nigeria today. The story of how Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, former Minister of Defence, got his oil block is well known to Nigerians. Danjuma himself told the world that General Sani Abacha dashed him the oil block with the intent of keeping him quiet and buying his support during the June 12 logjam. Abacha failed in his duty as a settlor and Danjuma took what did not belong to him, essentially a stolen property; what he did not work for or sweat for. Three other people who got oil blocks practically abused their positions to secure the blocks: Umaru Yar'Ardua was president when he stole an oil block from the people, Atiku Abubakar was vice president when he snatched an oil block for himself, and Rilwan Lukman also committed a crime when he stole an oil block from the state while he was petroleum minister. Former petroleum minister Mr. Dan Etete also committed a crime when he stole an oil block from the state - it does not matter what these people paid for the oil blocks, if they paid anything at all. The other people on the list used their connections to the corridor of power and/or willingness to front for people in power to steal oil blocks from the people.
I was not surprised when a friend and commentator pointed out that what happened in relation to oil blocks in Nigeria was a "criminal appropriation of public wealth" by a few fraudulent individuals. He noted that Nigeria is the only oil nation where the citizenry benefits nothing from the state's oil wealth and resources - no free education, no basic medical care, no social services, nothing. He pointed out that the likelihood that Animal Rights Campaigners in the West will protest and demand a better housing and treatment if cats and dogs are made to reside in a place like Makoko or Ajegunle, but that in Nigeria nobody sees anything wrong in the horrible living conditions of the majority of our people. He observed that nothing is accruing to the people despite our huge oil resources, rather a few are benefitting from what is rightfully the wealth of the majority.
One question needs to be addressed here: What power has a cabinet, a president, or oil minister to award an oil block to anyone? The Nigerian people are the beneficial owners of all oil blocks and the oil blocks can only be managed on their behalf by the trustee - the government in this case, while the beneficial owners must gain absolute and complete benefits from their oil blocks. The trustee should not and must not be allowed to profit beyond the legal arrangement agreed to in the trust. Oil blocks ought to be managed solely by an arrangement reached following a due process of allocation such as the arrangements Nigeria has with Shell, Mobil, Chevron, Texaco, Agip and a few others, which are Joint Ventures (JVs) with the government and people of Nigeria. A joint venture agreement was reached between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the Royal Dutch/Shell, EPNL and Agip with a 55%-30%-10%-5% ownership structure while Shell operates and manages the joint venture. The joint venture between NNPC and Mobil is a 60%-40% arrangement that is managed by Mobil on behalf of the venture. The joint venture between NNPC and Chevron is also a 60%-40% arrangement. These joint ventures protect the interests of the people and the parties concerned contribute to the funds used in managing the venture based on the ownership structure. Each joint venture operates under a Joint Operating Agreement (JOA) with the NNPC and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Federal Government of Nigeria. The JOA set out all obligations, plans and expenditure, management, accounting procedures, scheduling and oil lifting procedures, and necessary guidelines. The JOA and MOU are specific to joint development of jointly held oil prospecting licences or oil mining leases (OMLs).
JOAs and MOUs are extremely complex but they ensure that the interests of the state and its people as beneficiaries of the oil wealth are fully protected. In so doing, the people are expected to rip maximum benefit from the arrangement. But when individuals in government began to abuse their position and failed in their duty to the state and the people, then you find oil blocks being criminally stolen from the state and dashed to individuals. The president, vice president, or petroleum minister is a trustee and he/she should never profit from the property and/or assets of the state. The conflict of interest laws are to protect the assets and resources of the state from any abuse, but Nigeria being a criminal enterprise with hugely corrupt national executive and legislature makes this very impossible. Even the president did not declare his assets before taking office despite the law requiring asset declaration of all office holders!
The oil blocks in the hands of these individuals should revert to the state and the people. The same joint venture process should be a standard and enhanced process for managing the oil blocks and oil wealth of the nation, and indigenous oil companies should be free to bid for oil blocks like any other multinational oil companies. The oil blocks in the hands of T.Y Danjuma, Umaru YAr'Ardua, Alhaji Indimi, Rilwan Lukman, Emeka Offor, Mike Adenuga and others should be taken away from them. They should all be prosecuted and be made to make restitution for what they have already taken out of the oil blocks. Everyone of them should be prosecuted and appropriate charges should be brought against each one of them. Those of them who obtained oil blocks while holding public offices should be punished accordingly for offences relating to conflict of interest, abuse of office, misuse of authority, failure to follow due process, inappropriate and criminal behavior to the detriment of the interests of the nation and the people.
Until that time when those who hold positions of trust are held accountable for their failure to adhere to and observe fiduciary duties required of them, there is the certainty that the abuse exhibited in stealing oil blocks will continue and a nation as a criminal enterprise will persist. Everyone involved in the criminal appropriation of oil blocks deserves severe punishment and jail term.