Sunday, 19 May 2013
NNPC Vs Presidency: FG’s Deceit On The N1.3Trillion Debt Controversy By Ifeanyi Izeze
President Goodluck Jonathan’s declaration in Uyo at the opening of a retreat for the newly reconstituted board of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) that the Federal Government is apparently set to recover about N1.3 trillion owed it by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and other multinational oil companies would have excited Nigerians if not that the declaration came from no other place but the Presidency. The problem with governance and the government people in this country is that most times they don’t weigh what they tell Nigerians at public forums or maybe they think those outside government are too naïve to know anything.
Maybe the President was feigning ignorance of the widely known truth that almost all the financial malfeasances in the NNPC could be directly traced to the Presidency right from the time Obasanjo took over the administration of the nation’s apex oil concern as the sole administrator down to the Yar’Adua’s short stay at Aso Rock. It is not a Jonathan thing as the mess has been on for over 10 years though no one can swear with his life that the current President is behaving differently from his predecessors.
It would have been marvelously patriotic if the Chairman of the NEITI board, Ledum Mitee, can implement exactly what he said at the Uyo event that, “relevant statutory sanctions should be invoked by NEITI against relevant government agencies identified to have willingly frustrated the implementation of remedial issues in NEITI audit reports over the years.” And this has to start from where the real problem of the oil industry and NNPC is domiciled- the Presidency.
Nigerians have been told by the Nuhu Ribadu Report how the Federal Government used its powers to direct the NNPC to release money for presidential purchases, sponsoring of sporting activities, loans to foreign countries and other government agencies.
The summary of outstanding debts found by the task force in the course of its probe, shows that the NNPC was made to pay the sum of N2.230 billion for the purchase of a chopper for the Presidency. The corporation was also made to pay N19.878 billion incurred on behalf of the Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Safety and Security.
It also showed that the NNPC was made to pay out the sum of N2.421 billion to Royal Swaziland Sugar Company for yet to be verified reasons.
Section 7 of the report listed other expenses the NNPC was directed to pay for to include the sum of N866.2 million for the “sponsorship of World Cup and others”; loan to the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), N798.6 million; loan to Sao Tome and Principe, N700.5 million.
Others include payment for storage cost on illegal bunkering, N563 million; payment for expenses of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, N521 million; payment of legal expenses of the case between South Atlantic and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, N250 million among others.
And until the issue of the Presidency’s meddling with the business and ofcourse resources of the NNPC as if the corporation is the financial arm of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) remains unaddressed, transparency in our oil sector would remain a mirage. NEITI can go ahead to “invoke relevant sanctions under Section 16 of the NEITI against any company found to have under-paid the federal government,” it is not going to produce a single result as desired.
How could anybody imagine that the Ministry of Petroleum Resources could set aside N6.2bn to lobby Nigerians to accept the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) which the National Assembly is current debating? Is this not madness?
Even members of the National Assembly (who are not clean on their own) were terribly shocked last week when it was revealed that the N6.2 billion was meant for the implementation of PIB awareness campaign which kicked off since 2010 as claimed. Figures disclosed at the House of Representatives showed that N945 million was already spent in 2010 while another N16. 370 million was spent in 2011. As claimed by the Petroleum Ministry, this PIB lobby or rather awareness campaign is to be taken across the nation and was supposed to have commenced since October 2010 and to be completed Dec 2015.
The question is: where has the Petroleum Ministry ever done any form of awareness campaign that it claimed to have spent over N1billion Naira? And what awareness are they even talking about? Whether the man on the street and villages say no to what government already set out to do in the PIB, is it going to change a single thing or stop government –executive and national assembly from going ahead with the new law? So who is deceiving who?
The NEITI chairman owes it as a patriotic duty to the country to go beyond mere words with the agency’s threat to embark on the “act of naming, shaming and prosecuting those entities and officers whose activities or inactivity either impede the statutory functions or otherwise causes or potentially causes loss of revenue to the country.”
However, good as it sounded, it is a near impossibility for NEITI to harass the Presidency for misappropriating funds/revenues generated by the NNPC. In the first instance, who appointed the board? Was it not the same Presidency? Who does the NEITI Board report to? Is it not to the President? Has there been any statutory allocation to NEITI in the nation’s Appropriation laws since the agency came into existence during the Obasanjo administration? No! Is it clearer now? So how can an agency that is a unit of the Presidency stand up to confront the President over the mess in the NNPC because almost all the missing monies in the corporation could be traced to the Presidency and the PDP Board?
And if NEITI cannot hold the Presidency accountable as the power house of the malfeasances in the management of monies generated by the NNPC, it is impossible to genuinely query any other institution/organization. And this is the truth. What of established stolen monies including subsidy payments or more aptly zakkat, we should think how to recover even a part of it. This will be more productive than all these grammar by the same people.
(IFEANYI IZEZE, Abuja, firstname.lastname@example.org; 234-8033043009)