Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s declaration that the “NNPC must be killed” while speaking in Abuja on Monday at the 7th Wole Soyinka Centre Media Lecture Series was unnecessary sensationalism and extremism expressed from a “patriotic” heart. Pure and simple!
His words: “The corruption and nonchalance that have hobbled the NNPC are symptoms that its best days are over. We should give it a deserved funeral so that a new institution, active and nimble, can promptly replace it; NNPC’s subsidiaries and associated companies can be reviewed, restructured and privatized or commercialized as appropriate and consistent with national interest and objectives. No one is better qualified to do this than the person that birthed the NNPC through the merger of the NNOC (Nigeria National Oil Company) and the Ministry of Petroleum in 1977—President Buhari himself.”
If the present NNPC would kill Nigeria if it is allowed to continue running, why calling for the setting up of another national oil company that is definitely going to be run by the same or another bunch of Nigerians with similar mindset and operational environment as the present NNPC? There is a contradiction there! You do not kill a bad organization to turn it into a good one. Do we not improve it by identifying what made the original outfit bad in the first instance, and then eliminating the traits and/or structures that helped it achieve the badness? Now, is this process different from what the PIB set to do by unbundling the NNPC? Are we all not swinging on the same fulcrum of the urgent need to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) whichever version—either the Diezani’s or Lukman’s?
Our dear President should be told that the answer to the myriads of problems (especially corruption) in the nation’s apex oil concern lies in the signing of the PIB, either the Diezani’s version or Lukman’s concept, into law, even if we need to still panel-beat aspects of them before signing.
Agreeing that “This country can no longer afford to maintain an NNPC that arrogantly, unlawfully and unconstitutionally spends an unhealthy proportion of national oil earnings on itself,” we still need to tell ourselves the truth: that the NNPC as presently structured undermines our national interests majorly because of undue interference by external forces mainly from the Presidency and those around power including the National Assembly and party chieftains on both sides of the political divide.
If we are serious with the idea of a rebirth for a national oil company and still refrain from tracing the source of the current outfit’s corruption and attendant inertness to the Presidency, then we are only strolling on a sterile academic adventure and nothing different would ever emerge from such exercise.
The NNPC and its ten subsidiaries have been subjected to undue political interference that hindered its autonomy and anything near effective operation. On a daily basis, operations and administration of the corporation come under several masters and conflicting instructions, some of which defy the national objectives and aspirations for setting up the national oil corporation and its subsidiaries in the first instance.
So the politicians, both civilian and military, should hide their heads in shame and take the full blame for NNPC’s corruption and operational deficiencies. Does NNPC have a clear mandate as it does today, and was this situation not created by undue political interference and abuse of policy by the various actors that sat as president at different times?
Any performance rating or assessment of the NNPC would be outright biased and grossly incomplete if it does not take due consideration of the negative effects of undue Presidency’s interference on the activities of the corporation. Even the talked-about corruption in the organization: is it not the people in power who come to managers of the NNPC with all kinds of pieces of papers, notes and orders on shady deals from “ogas on top”? Is this not true?
Whether anybody wants to heart this or not, the corruption in the NNPC was instituted in the first instance, nurtured and had been sustained by the Presidency and people around power. This is the truth! The people in the NNPC only use the opportunities provided by the people in power to also “help” themselves and most times to conscienceless extents. If anybody likes, he/she can kill NNPC and fabricate angelic outfits, but as long as those pieces of papers and notes continue to come from the Office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the administrators of some new national oil company, nothing is going to change. Mark my words!
It is on record that NNPC’s downward slide became alarming under the reign of President Olusegun Obasanjo, who opted to run the corporation as sole administrator. The Obasanjo government short-circuited all existing platforms for decent business transactions in the corporation and technically ran the nation’s apex oil concern as an extension of Obasanjo Farms. Truth be told, the pathetic state of the NNPC today is a showcase of the Obasanjo’s legacy in the oil industry. Funso Kupolokun, throughout his service as the group’s managing director, was dragging Ghana-must-go loads of documents to Aso Villa on a daily basis for Obasanjo to sign even day-to-day operational and administrative approvals. Is this how to run an outfit you expect to produce results? Abeg make all of una go rest!
No doubt that since the NNPC was established to oversee the management and operation of the nation’s oil industry, the Corporation has not only failed to establish itself as an active oil company in business to make profit, it has also failed in establishing administrative structures free from government manipulations. And this led to the 100 percent hijack of the day-to-day decision-making muscle of the corporation by Gen. Obasanjo under the pretence of correcting the fraud and corruption culture often associated with the organization.
The Obasanjo Presidency took this unholy meddling in the affairs and especially the accounts of the NNPC to a criminal height throughout its eight-year stay in office. The actual and objectively ascertainable consequences of the interferences greatly hindered the effective, smooth, and transparent functioning of the corporation as a commercial and profit-oriented business conscription. The Yar’adua presidency did not behave any better either. Then Jonathan and his gang introduced dimensions that were mind-blowing to even Obasanjo. So what are talking about? Is the Buhari presidency and the APC government going to be different? We are yet to see!
Blanket condemnation of the NNPC as inefficient and fraud infested may not be enough in our genuine quest to unravel the demon that has continued to hold the corporation moribund. Every concerned Nigerian should bother to ask where and how the NNPC gets the funds to run its operations including the joint venture obligations. Does the Corporation really have anything like operational budget in the strict sense of the term?
To get what we need as an effective commercial and profit-oriented national company now that “change has come,” President Buhari should rethink the idea of the remote control of the our oil concern by the Presidency and the president’s people so that though NNPC will surely die but the killers won’t be called murderers but reformers. As advised by the Editorial Board Chairman of Vintage Press Ltd., Sam Omatseye, Nigeria, particularly those who find themselves in government need to seek renewed commitment to the rule of law as a strategy towards curbing impunity and corruption in the oil sector.
This is the change we desire. God bless Nigeria!
IFEANYI IZEZE lives in Abuja and can be reached at [email protected] or 234-8033043009.