President Yar’adua, Reverse The Sales Of African Petroleum In National Interest


Barrister Rafindadi Mohammed


It is now clear that President Umaru Musa Yar’adua has started taking bold steps to return Nigeria to the path of progress and development and preserving its corporate entity. As at today, President Yar’adua has proved to the whole world that he is not just a stooge of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He has reversed a number of policies, actions like the privatization of the refineries, projects and appointments undertaken at the last hour by the OBJ administration among others. Most of them are found to be anti people, inimical to their interests and a rip off of their national pride and assets.

Some of the most interesting actions of the President include the reversal of the sale of former Vice President Atiku’s official guest house which he declined to buy and in a memorandum asked his former boss, Obasanjo to leave it for the use of the incoming Vice President. But because of sheer ego that was not to be. El Rufai, as the chairman of the committee on the disposal/sales of government houses in the FCT under its monetization programme, went ahead and sold the house to himself at a give away. Also on this same vein, house sales to former President Obasanjo’s aides were cancelled.

Another landmark decision by Yar’adua is the cancellation of the 419 sales of the Kaduna and Port Harcourt refineries also at give away prices to Obasanjo’s economic friends, Aliko Dangote and Femi Otedola. In fact one of the major issues that necessitated the last labour strike in the country was the case of asking government to reverse the sale of the refineries among others as they saw it as the biggest rip off of Nigerians ever in the history of privatization. 

A number of Nigerians have spoken vehemently and in the strongest terms ever about that the dashing out of public assets to OBJ’s friends under the guise of privatization. Thank God for Yar’adua to have acted rightly and in national interest.

However, in his usual patronage of his business and political associates, Obasanjo also sold African Petroleum, AP to his number one business stooge, Femi Otedola’s Zenon Oil at a give away. According to experts and other interested Nigerians, the controversial sale of AP by the NNPC and not even Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE have questioned the hurried transaction like a phoenix from the ashes and thus throwing up more questions and condemnation from all Nigerians and stakeholders.

Even the Chairman of the Shareholders Trustees Association, Muhktar Muhktar has condemned the sale in its entirety insisting that he sold it to himself, describing it as ‘one of the greatest corrupt acts Obasanjo has done in eight years as President’. More so, Muhktar had alleged that Zenon Oil and Femi Otedola have been executing deals at the NNPC on behalf Obasanjo. One now begins to see the wisdom of Obasanjo being the country’s Oil Minister through out his eight years tenure as President. I am confident that more of Obasanjo’s deals will be exposed should Yaradua commence full investigations into the activities since 1999.

For the avoidance of doubt, AP was first sold to Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim’s Global Fleet Group through a near due process at the cost of N17.5billion. But in his usual dictatorial style, Obasanjo overruled the transaction and single handedly offered the prime shares for N17billion. The sold 28.7% shares of the federal government in AP sold to Global Fleet at the first instance are according to experts far below its current value. The NNPC had earlier on in 2005 acquired AP in a N10 billion debt swap.

There is no gainsaying in the fact that the sale of AP has been in serious controversy for a long time now. The government earlier in 2001 sold its 30% stake to Peter Okocha’s Sadiq Petroleum but Sadiq Petroleum decided to sell its stake to a unit of Afribank Plc, Assets management company limited, ASSEMAL after accusing the BPE of concealing debts worth N26billion. Also, the Chairman of the Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria, Boniface Okezie described the transaction as fraudulent explaining that it would send the wrong signals to the international community as Nigerians would be seen as dubious. Okezie even went as far as advising the new investor, Zenon to keep off all AP property or else all shareholders of the company will rest any attempt to take over the company. It was understood that Peter Okocha was relieved from the ownership of AP simply because Obasanjo had suddenly realized that he is his Vice President’s friend.

  I have no doubt in my mind that former President Obasanjo, NNPC and other agencies of government are not alone in the mess called the sale of AP. The Nigeria Stock Exchange, NSE will also be partly responsible because it has from all indications derailed from transparency by not allowing the shares to go to existing shareholders.

  It is again a fact that the fortunes of AP began to decline shortly after the 30% government equity was sold to Sadiq Petroleum, the country’s fuel market was dominated by a handful of multinational and local retailers including AP. This was an indication that AP was prior to that period a very viable government owned enterprise. All it needed was competent management and board teams to push it through. No more, no less. In 1999 the company paid a dividend, a bonus share in 2004 and the directors of the company recommended a dividend of N1 per share for 2006.

It is also a statement of fact that the present Managing Director/ Chief Executive of AP, Zira Maigadi has certainly turned the fortunes of the company for good. As a proven astute administrator and manager, Maigadi has proved his worth as an asset to the company for the few years he has been on the saddle of its leadership.. Under his stewardship, AP recorded a turn over of N8193billion last year showing an increase of more than 86% against its record in 2005. The company under Maigadi, a chatered accountant of repute who rose from a senior manager to a General Manager and later an Executive Director before becoming an MD also showed it recording a profit of N2.44billion in 2006 as against a loss of N3.37billion in 2005.  If these figures are truly correct, is not then possible that the company can do better under government control with Nigerians like Maigadi putting in their expertise to work? 

The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association, IPMAN President, Engineer Tunde Runsewe, as an interested party in the AP sales had also cried foul about the sale of the company and called for cancellation of the sales to Zenon Oil. According to IPMAN, AP can be better under government control with the present crop of management at the helm of affairs.

Even the Managing Director of AP, Maigadi has said that the present performance of his company is a testimony to a new level of professionalism, purposefulness, transparency and value driven vision that is the hallmark of the repositioned AP.

It is my candid opinion that Nigerians have been stripped of valuable assets by Obasanjo, and that it is high time for President Yar’adua to once and for all reverse these un -patriotic and self centred actions. Therefore, Yar’adua must cancel the sale of AP to Obasanjo in the spirit of national interest like he did in the cases of the refineries and other government enterprises among others.

Nigerians are not in doubt that President Yar’adua has done it and he will do it again. The shame on this failed Refineries sales is on Obasanjo, Dangote and Otedola. It has further exposed them as swindlers of public properties.