When the Panel of the Senate Committees on Upstream Petroleum, in Uyo, accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) of undermining its work on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) by circulating fake copies of the bill, it was obvious that there are many things both the National Assembly Oil and Gas Committees and the NNPC are hiding away from the Nigerian public.

Though it is common for agenda driven interests groups and politicians to square off on policy promulgation, what’s so absurd in this Petroleum Industry Reform Bill (PIB) case is the now repeated accusation of attempts to replace the authentic and original version of the bill with a fake one by NNPC chieftains.

This is the third time the NNPC top officials were being publicly accused of pursuing personal agenda rather than the collective national interests in the entire business of the PIB.

DPR Branch of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASSAN) had earlier in Abuja during the public hearing on the bill equally alleged that the NNPC chieftains were sabotaging the entire exercise and were more concerned with personal agenda rather than the collective interest of the nation.

Before now, Senators had complained that top officials of the NNPC and government were allegedly railroading the National Assembly to coerce the lawmakers to manipulations and get ‘a suspicious version’ of the bill passed before the end of the year.

The Chairman of the Panel of the Senate Upstream Oil and Gas Committees, Lee Maeba was quoted as saying a retreat in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State that: “The NNPC Group Managing Director is taking the Petroleum Industry Bill so personal and is putting up conducts and actions that are capable of undermining the integrity of this committee and if a line is not clear from the President as to whether this is an NNPC bill or a presidential bill, anytime from now we shall be compelled to stop action on this bill.

“We have traced it to NNPC. NNPC is doing everything to undermine the integrity of the committee. This is a Nigerian bill, it is not an NNPC bill.’’

“He has put up so many bills, he is putting up so much confusion to the committee and even now, he has sent a team from the NNPC to this place. This is an in-house committee why did he send NNPC people to this place and those are the actions that are undermining the integrity of this committee and it is wrong.

“He did not clear from the leadership of this committee if we needed anybody from him or not, he just sent people at will. Who gave him that audacity? Who is he working for? He is disturbing our work and if he is not careful and if this bill is coming from him, then we shall shut down this bill to determine whether the bill is coming from him or from the presidency.’’

However, what the lawmakers did not say was whether other stakeholders including the International Oil Companies (IOCs) equally invaded the National Assembly and the Uyo retreat to make sure the bill did not go through senate without factoring –in their interests especially in the aspect of the fragmented fiscal system proposed in the bill. But this is just an aside.

The senate panel was right to make public the NNPC’s unholy meddling in the Uyo PIB retreat because it was supposed to be exclusively the Panel’s business. And if they don’t cry out, the Nigerian public will find it difficult to believe, going by what has been happening in the National Assembly, that the Senators have not compromised the original PIB.

From the expressed anger of the Senate Committees members, it was obvious the Panel sitting in Uyo did not invite the NNPC officials. So what were they (NNPC officials) doing there in Uyo? Whose interest is Barkindo and his team actually promoting? Is it national, personal (group) or sectional interest?

The issue of a fake or rather an alternative petroleum industry bill or an outright comprise of the entire exercise is a very serious matter that should not just be casually dismissed as a hoax because there are so many divergent interests each pushing its selfish agenda with viciousness. The circulation of an alternative version of the authentic bill points to the designs of their originators and peddlers to traffic and smuggle their contrary views and hopefully translate same into law then it will be too late for anybody to do anything about it.

The International Oil Companies (IOCs) who are afraid of the proposed Fiscal System contained in the bill; the NNPC bureaucrats who want business to continue their way without control; the politicians who want un-coordinated oil industry in order to continue enjoying from leakages in the current system; and some unscrupulous oil and gas work force working against change.

How can the NNPC claim it does not understand why the senate committee panel should protest the visit of some persons from the corporation to the retreat? This is deceit of the highest order.

From the tone of a top official of the corporation as quoted in a prominent national newspaper report administrator of the NNPC have other ideas apart from mere patriotic concerns over the bill.

Hear him as reported: “What is the purpose of a retreat? You withdraw to go and learn more about a matter. If you say you do not fully understand a matter, and consultants are sent to educate on the areas you say you do not know much about, what is wrong with that?

“They are not industry players, they are not experts, and experts have been sent to the learning environment. We should not all be allowed to open our mouths to speak about what is going on. When people start complaining because they think they were not adequately covered, we should learn to discern such matter.”

So, the NNPC has “covered” some people in the Senate Upstream Petroleum committee leaving out some? You see what the true picture looks like.

If the NNPC top official actually said what was attributed to him by the newspaper report, Nigerians should now clearly know that this NNPC officials cannot be said to be lobbying the interest of Nigerians in the sector but pushing a private agenda which for now remains as blurred as it is obscured.

And such pronouncement as reported in the media clearly show that the NNPC seems bent on blackmailing the Senators especially the “stubborn” ones who refused to be “covered.”

This confrontation between the Senate committee and the NNPC may expose things that will baffle Nigerians. So let all citizens encourage the quarrel to continue that we may know more.

The NNPC has always been riddled with serial credibility and transparency issues and it is time the corporation and the federal government square up to the stack reality that there is something fundamentally wrong in the way the NNPC boss has conducted himself except he was put in there to execute Yar’adua/Lukman or other undefined agenda rather than our collective good.

IFEANYI IZEZE IS AN ABUJA-BASED CONSULTANT ON STRATEGY AND COMMUNICATIONS ([email protected])
 

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