Red Alert! Security beefed up around Goodluck Jonathan

Security agencies including the State Security Services (SSS) and the Nigerian Police may have increased the security alert threshold of the acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
“As it is with matters relating to security, the security agencies have beefed up security around the acting president because of the increased threat level to the person of the acting president,” an official said.
Though the state’s official would not give a reason for the increase in the threat level to the acting President, there are indications that events since the dramatic return of ailing President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua may have heightened security tension in the land.
“You know that there is a silent probe of strategic security officers of the presidential villa like the chief security officer to the president, Yusuf Mohammed Tilde and Yar’Adua’s aide-de-camp Mustapha Onoyveta and some other security details, this coupled with some other controversies still going on in the country, it is generally believed in security circles that the situation remains quite tempting for ambitious or aggrieved characters to want to take it out on the acting president. So, for me, I think these are some of the reasons the security alert around the acting president must have been increased.

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Rilwanu Lukman: The Controversial Mr. Fuel Scarcity

“Time will tell!” This is one of the elder’s saying when there is a major controversy over a particular issue or a person, what they are saying in essence is that there is no offence in waiting for the person to come up with proof and true picture that will provide the basis either for rejection or acceptance of the good or bad allegations against him/her.
This is the case of Nigeria’s longest serving Petroleum Minister, Hon. Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dr.Rilwan Lukman, who was appointed by the present ailing President of Nigeria, Umaru Yar’Adua in the late 2008 after a cabinet shake-up in which 20 ministers were relieved of their positions.
He has a very rich academic background that will earn him accolades anywhere in the world. In Nigeria, his visibility in the corridors of power with one appointment or the other provides support and breakthrough for successive presidents to put him in a sensitive position of higher responsibility.
However, in reality and in practice, the opposite is always the case when it comes to assessment of his performance in office. And that is why most analysts have described him and former governor, Dr. Sam Egwu as the worst ministers in President Umaru Yar’Adua’s cabinet.
Lukman has severally been criticized by eminent Nigerians for accepting to serve as Minister of Petroleum when his name was submitted to the Senate in 2008 because of his long stay in the corridors of power and his health condition which Nigerians don’t know. On his health condition, a petroleum industry insider submitted that “Dr.Lukman must have been really touched by the national embarrassment caused by the fuel scarcity, but I can tell you that nothing will happen to the management of the NNPC even if the scarcity lasts for another 12 months. His ties with the NNPC Managing Director, Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo can be traced years back, and besides, the old man is not exactly in good health shape to take the fuel crisis head on.” He has his excuses, though, of travelling abroad for one international conference or most often for medical check up.
His power acquisition story started when he was appointed by the then former Head of State, General Muhammed Buhari in 1984 as Federal Minister of Mines, Power & Steel. He also lobbied his way into the cabinet of General Ibrahim Babangida as Federal Minister of Petroleum Resources of Nigeria between 1988 and 1989 and as President of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
He was Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria,1989-1990, Chairman, Board of Directors, National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), Lagos,1993-1994, Secretary General of OPEC, Austria,1995-2000, Presidential Adviser on Petroleum & Energy, Nigeria,1999-2004, Pro-Chancellor & Chairman of Council, Nasarawa State Univeristy, Keffi, Nasarawa State, Nigeria 2004 – date, honorary Presidential Adviser on Petroleum & Energy, Nigeria, 2007-2008. Chairman, Presidential Committee on Oil & Gas Reform, 2007-2008. Now he is the Minister of Petroleum Resources of Nigeria since 2008 till date.
As at the time of his appointment in 2008, it was exactly five years when former President Olusegun Obasanjo removed him as Presidential Adviser on Petroleum & Energy when he could no longer contain his failed “chicken” policies responsible for the incessant fuel scarcity between May, 1999  and September, 2003, and then the establishment of Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Authority (PPPRA).
Suddenly, after his unceremonious replacement with Dr. Edmund Daukoru as Presidential Adviser on Petroleum, fuel began to flow in all the filling stations as marketers embarked on fuel importation to support output of the refineries belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Within a short period, Nigerians, particularly Lagosians forgot the pains of long queues for fuel until recently. We should not forget cases of kerosene explosions in Lagos and Benin during the period and performance of the refineries below 30 per cent which led to the sack of several top shots of NNPC by Jackson Gaius-Obaseki, former GMD. This particular action was carried out by Obasanjo without his consultation. In response to the protest, he was advised to resign.
Perhaps, in some quarters these days, they prefer to call Lukman “Mr. Fuel Scarcity” and to support that label, he travelled out of Nigeria during Christmas holiday despite the directive of the then Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan that he should stay back during the holidays so as to ensure improvement in fuel supply. His cronies that cut across both upstream and downstream sub-sectors of the Nigerian oil and gas industry fear him like God to avert his wrath on suspicion of disloyalty. And to compensate loyalty, he is good at giving them appointments that will sustain the relationship. One of such loyalty appointments recently was the confirmation of Dr. Bello Gusau as executive secretary of Petroleum Directorate in January 2009, even though the National Assembly is yet to pass into law the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) that gave birth to the directorate. Today, Gusau, a member of the Oil and Gas Implementation Committee (OGIC) is a senior government official managing an illegal office not approved by law yet.
Another beneficiary of Lukman’s loyalty is Dr. Barkindo Sanusi Mohammed, GMD of NNPC, who was technical assistant and later acting secretary general of OPEC. The controversy still rages in the petroleum ministry over his appointment by Lukman as governor of OPEC along with his position as GMD of NNPC. This position since joining of OPEC by Nigeria is reserved for the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources. And for protesting against the appointment of Barkindo as governor, the former permanent secretary was redeployed and later retired last year. It is also good for the record to mention the recent appointment of former Head of Media at OPEC secretariat in Vienna, Austria of Mr.Umar Farouk as his special assistant on media and communications. The appointment, according to industry sources, is temporary because the actual target is for him to be the spokesman of the NNPC.
To ensure that he has his boys in control of the downstream sub-sector, Dr. Abiodun Ibikunle, technical assistant was also appointed recently as the executive secretary of PPPRA. And that is why the ostentatious stakeholders forum organized by the NNPC having Lukman as Chairman barely a week after the forum organized by Mr.Odein H. Ajumogobia, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, who was saddled with the responsibility of downstream sub-sector a week before the departure of Yar’Adua for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia. However, three weeks after the forum, Nigerians now stay longer at the filling stations to queue for petrol.
And for those that refused to play along with him, the reward is denial of appointments. Indeed, he always ensures they are far from getting any key position and that is the case of Dr. (Mrs.) Donu Kogbara, former member of OGIC from Rivers State.
If his refusal to honour  the invitation by the Senate on four occasions and the fine of =N=4,000 he was asked to pay last year is an indictment that will remain in his file, what will be the fine for supporting the NNPC to create shortfall in fuel supply? If in reality, it is clear that NNPC can only supply 47 per cent of the daily demand requirement of fuel, why will Lukman support several lies of former TV talk-show hosts on NTA – “The Sunday Show,” Dr.Levi Ajuonuma, Group General Manager (Public Affairs) that the corporation has 31 cargoes of fuel on the high sea when there is actually none.
If all is well in the oil industry, National Assembly should ask “Mr. Fuel Scarcity” why NNPC cannot support multi-national oil companies in early completion of damaged gas pipelines after the amnesty deal so as to increase gas supply to the power generating stations of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN)? It is clear that the failure of the Federal Government to achieve 6,000mega watts (mw) target on December 31, 2009 lies with the NNPC under the direct supervision of Dr.Rilwan Lukman. He should be held responsible for the failure of the 6,000 mega watts (mw).
At this stage, what is good for him is to resign voluntarily because when the pressure of problems created by his expedition for power becomes too much for him with his fragile health condition, the beneficiaries of his office, would not be able to help him hedge on to power. The sudden withdrawal of support by former President Obasanjo for Yar’Adua should serve as a lesson.
The feeble Dr.Rilwan Lukman will do better as an adviser and therefore it is better for him to join the Eminent Elders Group and allow talented, skillful, agile and energetic young Nigerians like Kola Karim, Femi Otedola, Uche Ogah, Sayyu Dantata and the amiable Wale Tinubu to manage the petroleum industry. He should stop providing cover for NNPC in the mismanagement of our crude oil resources. There are several Nigerians from the North if Yar”Adua must insist on producing a Minister of Petroleum for the region. And that is why the Senate should take the lead to sustain the plans to move Nigeria forward by taking a cue from the success of Oando PLC, Shoreline Energy Int’l by young Nigerians. The hope of Lukman lies in the quick recovery of the ailing President for him to remain in office. Lukman should quit the stage while the ovation is loudest.

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Vice President frustrates Transcorp’s plan to sell off NITEL’s Backbone

The nation’s Vice-President, Goodluck Jonathan has, according to sources, stopped moves by the board of directors of Trans National Corporation (Transcorp) to reduce the net worth of Nigeria Telecommunications (NITEL), the national telecommunication carrier in which Transcorp 51 per cent holdings have remained an unending hassle in the Federal Government privatization of former national assets and companies.

The Transnational Corporation of Nigeria secured the purchase of the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited and its mobile arm, Mtel, on Monday, July 03, 2006 for a fee of about $750m.

However, Transcorp paid only $500m of the amount pledged, as it could not come up with the balance of $250m.

The $750m represented the 75 per cent equity holdings that the Federal Government intended to divest from NITEL to the core investor. The remaining 25 per cent was to be sold to Nigerians through a public offer latest in November in 2006. This, however, never happened, as Transcorp could not meet most of the terms of the contracts.

Close to two years after the acquisition of the 51 per cent holding in NITEL, Transcorp was yet to actualize the intentions of the sale of the majority stake in NITEL, the Federal Government under the presidency of Umaru Yar’Adua, successor to the Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency that superintended the sale of the NITEL shares to Transcorp, in February 2008, reversed the sale of NITEL and its mobile subsidiary, Mobile Telecommunications Limited to Transcorp.

In the immediate aftermath of the announcement of the reversal of sale of NITEL to Transcorp, confusion ensued over the true position of the Federal Government; eventually it was clarified that since Transcorp lacked the requisite technical and financial capacities to manage and successfully rejuvenate NITEL and Mtel, it (Transcorp) and the Federal Government that still holds 49 per cent of the shareholdings would cede 27 per cent and 24 per cent holdings respectively in NITEL to a new core investor.

However, as the nation awaits the announcement of Transcorp successor core investor in NITEL, Transcorp was reported to have floated a special purpose company; the Nigerian Telecommunication Backbone Company Limited. The company was intended to be used to buy out the telecomm-unication backbone of NITEL by way of stripping the telecommunications company’s assets before the cessation of the majority holdings in the company is concluded.

Communications experts explained that success of this sell-off would have put the main operational sphere of NITEL in the purview of this so called Nigeria telecommunication backbone company.

“The company would have inherited NITEL’s main telecommunication platform which may include the SAT 3, the fibre optic and CDMA platforms,” an industry expert said. “These are the platforms that the whole gamut of the Nigerian telecommunication industry still depend on, so if Transcorp arrangement was successful they would, in fact, be transferring a stripped entity to whoever succeeded in the bid to become the new core investor,” the expert reasoned.

Mr. Jonathan, the Vice-President, who is also the Chairman of the National Council on Privatisation, the office on which the ultimate responsibility for the supervision of the privatization processes rests, was reported to have thwarted the move to sell NITEL’s backbone.

“The promoters of the company had successfully persuaded some Nigerians and foreign investors to be part of the Nigerian Telecommunication Backbone company, but when they brought the issue to the attention of the Vice-President he insisted that the status quo must be maintained. This means that nobody is allowed to dispose off any assets or rights that belong to NITEL or Mtel until a new core investor in the company emerges,” a source close to NITEL, confided.