Ribadu-led petroleum task force

As it has once again turned out, the PDP administration from 2001-2011, according to Ribadu draft report, presided over the theft of N10 trillion worth of crude oil. In all, the entire nation lost about N16 trillion through all sorts of shady deals by PDP and its associates.

Other findings include the loss of $29b from 2001- 2011, the theft of 250,000 barrels of crude oil daily within the same period and also the loss of a total of $183m in signature bonuses paid by oil companies to the federation.

There were also reports of indebtedness of foreign oil firms to the nation such as Addax, now a unit of China’s state-owned Sinopec, which owes Nigeria $1.5 billion in unpaid royalties, part of a $3 billion black hole of unpaid bonuses and royalties owed by oil bonuses. Shell, the report also says, owes Nigeria’s government N137.57 billion ($874 million) for gas sold from its Bonga deep offshore field while oil majors owed $58 million between them for gas flaring penalties. They were also not adhering to newer higher fines.

Among other recommendations, the Ribadu committee want the NNPC re-organised or be scrapped.

Alison Madueke who sat on the KPMG report for months has also acknowledged receiving the draft of Ribadu’s report over a month ago without any action. She has however now disclosed that a committee had been set up by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to look into the “differences in perspective on the Ribadu committee report” and make an “input”.

Dr Doyin Okupe’s heartache on the report however was that the report was illegally and prematurely released. According to him “what was irregularly released prematurely to the media is a draft copy which still requires full assent of all members of the committee and clarifications and due process from the originating ministry before the official handing over to the Presidency”. Like Dr Reuben Abati, who also found it strange that the report found its way to the pages of newspapers even before it was officially presented, he has once more reassured us of the president commitment to fighting corruption. There is however a curious parallel of views between the minister, the two government spokesmen, and the duo of Oronsaye and Otti who have tried to discredit Ribadu’s report.

While no one can begrudge the president’s men for their views on their principal’s commitment to fighting corruption, Doyin Okupe’s attempt to distant the Jonathan administration from the monumental stealing going in government is an assault on Nigerians. Was it not under this government that the number of fuel importers jumped from about two dozen to over 140 out of which 25 are currently facing legal actions for swindling the nation of about N3 trillion? Even if Okupe thinks Nigerians suffer from collective amnesia, Nigerians could not have forgotten so soon the revelations from Lawan Farouk report which the government tried to discredit, or the findings from Aig Imokhuede-led technical committee set up by the government itself.

On the current Ribadu findings which those who have just secured plum government jobs are trying to discredit, Ledun Mitte, chairman of National Stakeholders Working Group (NSWG) of the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) said would not have been necessary if the successive findings of the NEITI had been implemented. In fact in his opinion, the Ribadu’s committee report only reiterated the revelations that had come out of the successive NEITI reports that had shown that the nation was losing about $9.8 billion or N1.373 trillion in outstanding recoverable funds due to the federation account from oil companies.

NEITI has so far conducted three different cycles of industry audits spanning the period 1999-2004, 2005 and 2006-2008. The statement stressed that each of the past NEITI audit reports clearly identified financial, physical and process lapses, and revealed a loss of some $2.6 billion due to underpayments, under-assessments, poor judgment in the computations of volume of crude sales and other leakages. Another round of comprehensive audit of the oil and gas sector for 2009- 20011 which began early in the year is expected to be concluded next month, December. In the light of the above, it is perhaps only government functionaries like Okupe and Alison-Madueke that have faith in government commitment to fighting corruption.

Instead of addressing the cynicism of the governed, PDP that has proved over the years that it doesn’t just give a damn about the governed is busy attacking the opposition for performing its constitutional role of holding the ruling party accountable. What in a democracy is disrespectful in ACN’s argument that “both Orasanye and Otti should have resigned their membership of the committee the moment they were given the plum jobs to avoid the apparent conflict of interest. The fact that they stayed on, only to disparage the report of the task force so openly and ferociously at the end, is the clearest indication yet that they were meant to play that exact role of spoilers’’.

In fact, that was the argument of Ribadu who was pained by the turn of events. According to him, most of the members saw their appointment as a call to duty when appointed in February, and therefore worked round the clock during the first three months. Steve (Orosanye), according to him, “never participated in any of the meetings for this work. And during the course of the committee work, Steve became a member of the board of the NNPC. And Mr. Otti became a director in NNPC. They chose to remain as members of the committee instead of resigning”.

But as usual, government has an ally in Tribune that has always been too quick to help it identify its enemies. As part of effort to discredit the report, Tribune alleged that some politicians have hijacked the report. Quoting sources close to security, the paper claimed ‘A report in the custody of government indicates that a former presidential aspirant, who is still hopeful of contesting the 2015 election met on Saturday with a chieftain of one of the leading opposition parties in Abuja where the plot to hijack the Ribadu report as a launch-pad for the 2015 election was said to have been hatched.’

PDP on its part, instead of showing remorse for the greed of its members is diverting attention from the issue at hand to pillory the opposition which is doing its job of keeping the government on its toes. As if the party forgets we are running a democracy, it is accusing the opposition of disrespect for the presidency.

The Ribadu Draft Report is destined for the same fate as the KPMG report whose non-implementation, Olisa Agbakoba had described as a national embarrassment; like Lawan Farouk fuel subsidy scandal, about which Okonjo Iweala said “we are going to be very aggressive in recovering money owed government and block all revenue leakages”; and like Imokhuede’s technical report being half heartedly implemented.

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