Ribadu’s Report: Matters Arising by Oghenekevwe Laba
Since Mallam Nuhu Ribadu’s Task Force on Oil Revenue Report, on corruption in Nigerian oil industry came to the public knowledge courtesy of Reuters report and since then pressures have been on the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Deziani Allison-Madueke not only to resign her position, but also to face prosecutions.
Those in the forefront for the call of the sack and prosecution of the Minister are Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Non-governmental Organization (NGO) and members of opposition political parties. One wonders what the opposition stands to gain by this brazen hype when it is the same minister that set up the Ribadu panel in the first place to clean up the Augean stable of corruption in the oil industry.
Their grudge was the Minister’s unwillingness to accept wholly, the report submitted by the Mallam Nuhu Ribadu-led Task Force on Oil Revenue Report. They argued that Allison-Madueke had denigrated the report as just a draft which required inputs of government before becoming a public document.
It would be recalled that a report by Reuters, an online news portal, last Tuesday had said a total of $183m (N28.73bn) in signature bonuses paid by oil companies to the federation was missing.
The report accused ministers of petroleum resources between 2008 and 2011 of handing out seven discretionary oil licenses with $183m in signature bonuses allegedly missing from the deals. The report further alleged that three of the oil licenses were awarded since the current minister, Alison-Madueke, came into office in 2010. It further revealed that three oil majors; Shell, Total and Eni, made bumper profits from cut-price gas, while oil ministers handed out licenses at their own discretion. Even if this was not illegal, the report however said the process did not follow best practice of using open bids.
Reuters, citing the Ribadu report had alleged that international oil traders sometimes buy crude without formal contracts, adding that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation had short-changed the Nigerian treasury of billions over the last 10 years by selling crude oil and gas to itself below market rates.
Allison-Madueke had however denied this allegation to the news agency, saying, NNPC buys at international rates. She also denied awarding licenses. I have not given any discretionary awards during this administration, Alison-Madueke told Reuters, adding that the President had the right to do so, instead of using bids if he saw it fit.
In an excerpt of the Minister’s interview with Reuters, the Minister pointed out that the report is not normally put in the public domain until the government’s complete report is finalized. She explained that what normally happens when a committee is set up is that the committee hand in its report, a team is put together by the arm of government or agency that set up the committee in the first place.
That has already happened. That team consists of people with relevant experience in the area. So, it is not just about the Revenue Task Force. The Revenue Task Force handed in its report sometime in September. But there were also the Governance, Control and the Refineries Task Forces which have all sent in their draft reports.
We have set up a team that is looking at them across the board to see if there is a difference in opinion or a difference in perspective. This team will complete its work and submit a comprehensive report in the next 10 days.
It is only after then that government will talk about implementation and the issues that you mentioned will be addressed. Government will decide on where to draw the line on any issue that is not in conformity with its policies. And some of the points you have raised are, in fact, not as they have been presented. I am very careful not to comment on the report until it has been finalized.
There are areas that have already been handled by these committees because they are not the way they were presented. What normally happens with discretionary awards is that they are part of marginal or major bid rounds. It is in the President’s power by law to grant discretionary awards or to go with competitive bidding or to go with a mixed bag when you have a bid round. It is entirely up to him to decide which way to go. The statement, signed by the NNPC spokesman, Fidel Pepple, titled: Petroleum Minister Clears Air on Committee Report explained.
The explanation of the Petroleum Minister was very clear on this issue. For now, the Minister had not been found wanting on the matter. Thus, one wonders why activists, opposition parties and NLC are calling for the neck of Allison-Madueke? Their actions could be described as giving a dog a bad name so as hang him. If not, what connection has Ribadu’s Report on corruption in the oil sector has to do with the calling for resignation and prosecution of the Petroleum Minister. You are calling on someone you’ve not found guilty of any offence to resign and face prosecution, just because a task force came up with a report that has not passed through due process. She said it did not have the discretionary power to award oil blocks. Why do we not give her the benefit of doubt until all investigations have been concluded?
If what Deziani had said about the report going through the scrutiny of another Committee, composed of experts with experience on the field before it could become a material of public consumption is anything to go by, it means Ribadu goofed and should be queried for not following due process by leaking such sensitive draft to a foreign media.
A source in Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) who felt the leakage of the draft has caused a lot of confusion, however argued that it is like Ribadu Committee did not have enough understanding of the difference between exploration block (OPL) awards and Marginal Fields awards.
As part of our clarification it is important to distinguish between the issuing of “Oil Blocks” with that of”Marginal Fields”. There were indeed some Discretionary awards of “Marginal Fields” as follows:-
-Okwok and Ebok which were awarded to Oriental Energy in May 2007 as compensation for loses due to boundary adjustment
-Ubima was awarded to All Grace Nigeria Ltd in 2010, as encouragement for commitment to small scale gas project
-Otakipko was awarded to Green Energy Ltd, also in 2010 (same reason as above).
It is pertinent to note that this is standard practice and not one that was initiated by the present government. The three (Allgrace, Oriental and Green Energy) are Marginal field awardees,â€ DPR source revealed
This is a question for Deziani critics. Who set up the Ribadu committee? Was it Reuters? Hmmmm! It has been submitted to Reuters by very patriotic people. Who should now implement it? Labour, civil society and opposition parties need to have a rethink. You do not condemn government officials because you feel like doing it.
It could probably be that Deziani would have requested for the appointment of Ribadu as the Head of the Board in order to bring sanity in the oil industry. If so it means the lady means well for Nigeria. But some people do not see it from that perspective because of their selfish reasons or I must criticize syndrome.
If President Jonathan did not mean well for Nigeria he would not have set up Ribadu Committee to check mate corruption in the oil industry. Now after the report was ready instead of submitting same to the Jonathan government that set it up as protocol demands, he chose to ridicule him by leaking the report to Reuters which now portrays the government in bad light.
In this case who is to blame? Is it Deziani who wants the oil industry to be sanitized or Ribadu who went out to wash Nigeria’s dirty linens in the international press without following due process? Where have you seen a committee set up by the President of America or United Kingdom leaking confidential report to Nigerian press? We sell ourselves sheepishly to the outside world.
One can still remember vividly when ACN vehemently protested Ribadu’s appointment as head of the committee. Now there could be a political angle to this leakage which could be traced to ACN who might have been secretly spying on the committee or even have a mole planted in the committee in order to rubbish Jonathan’s administration.
However, those calling for the sack and trial of the petroleum minister are just being unfair and their demand could be described as a barbaric act. The fraud in the industry was not committed by her, but rather by previous oil ministers. Even if the report alleged that three of the blocks were sold in her tenure, it might not be her making as she did not officially have discretionary power to award blocks.
Past events had shown that Deziani has always been a point of attack by those who call themselves social critics, opposition politicians and Labour Union. Two reasons could be responsible for such subjective criticism. Either the critics are jealous because she is a female Minister or simply because she is from the same state with the President. What is wrong in her being a woman or coming from the same state with the president? What Nigerians want is someone who can do a good job and move the oil industry forward.
Deziani’s problem could probably be traced to those she stepped on their toes in effort of cleaning the rot in the oil industry. Since, she came in, she had implemented some policies which have got serious effect on the oil cartel who have been milking the nation dry of millions of dollars. Thus, the uproar that followed the introduction of fuel subsidy is the discovery of oil thieves. Right now many of the alleged oil thieves are facing corruption charges in court.
All said and done, the report of the Ribadu Committee should not be allowed to set confusion in the ongoing systematic policy of the oil ministry to clean the organization of corrupt dealings. Consequently, those calling for the sack of the Oil Minister should have a rethink that whatever action she takes is meant to move Nigeria forward in the oil industry.
By Oghenekevwe Laba (08023773039)
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