The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has turned down a request for operation and transaction information made by Lagos lawyer, Mr. Falana (SAN), under the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA).
The corporation said it rejected Mr. Falana's request because the FoIA is not applicable to its transactions and operations.
NNPC's rejection was conveyed to the lawyer in a letter dated 1 March and signed by Mrs. Sarah Ndukwu, General Manager, Litigation, Arbitration and Property Law Department.
While acknowledging receipt of two formal requests (8 January and 20 February) from Mr. Falana, the NNPC claimed that the law shields it from the FoIA.
"While assuring you that NNPC is a law-abiding corporate citizen that complies with all extant laws, regulations and contractual obligations, please be advised regarding the foregoing, your request is denied," the NNPC told Mr. Falana. The corporation argued that the lawyer's request is incongruous with and unsupported by and is outside the scope and purview of the FoIA. It further argued that the NNPC is not a public institution within the meaning of Section 31 of the FoIA, which states:"In this Act, Public institution means any legislative, executive, judicial, administrative or advisory body of the government, including but not limited to committees and. sub-committees, which are supported in whole or in part by public fund or which expends public fund and private bodies providing public services, performing public functions or utilizing public funds."
The corporation said it is simply a statutory corporation established for the single purpose of managing the country's interest in the oil and gas sector and conducting trade in that regard.
The NNPC said its position has had affirmation in many cases, among which were two cases filed by Messrs. Public and Private Development Centre Limited (FHC/ABJ/CS/278/2013 and FHC/ABJ/279/2013), both of which were dismissed in December 2013.
It equally stated that even if the FoIA was applicable to the NNPC, the information requested by Mr. Falana could not have been provided because it is expressly excluded from the purview of the FoIA by virtue of Section 15 (1)(a)-(c) of the act.
"The requested information is in the nature of commercial, financial and trade secrets information, which obviously are either subject to non-disclosure agreements or whose disclosure could reasonably interfere with NNPC's existing. contractual obligations or harm third parties' interests. In fact, by the use of the word 'shall' in the Section, NNPC is obligated, in the absence of any prior consent by relevant third parties,to deny your request," stated the corporation.
Mr. Falana, in his two letters, had requested to be provided information on revenue from the sale of 445,000 barrels of crude oil between 1 January 2015 and 31 December 2017. He also wanted to know the amount spent on subsidy and the amount remitted to the Federation Account from the revenue realized from the daily allocation 445,000 barrels of crude to the NNPC within the same period.
The lawyer equally demanded to know the quantity of crude refined locally, the amount of money spent on Turn-Around-Maintainance of local refineries (with vouchers) and the volume of crude refined daily by the NNPC at Abidjan, capital of Cote d'Ivoire, within the same period.