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Ribadu committee members disagree on report, leaked report confirmed as authentic, far reaching recommendations on oil theft, oil royalties, others
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By Victor Iluyemi
November 2, 2012 18:57:07pm GMT      |      Views: 397

Abuja (WorldStage Newsonline)-- There was an open disagreement Friday at the Presidential Council Chambers between members of the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and Mr. Steve Oransaye.

After Ribadu, submitted the committee’s report with some recommendations, Oransaye however faulted  the  process leading to the compilation of the report.

Incidentally, Ribadu, former boss of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), is chairman of the committee, while Oronsaye, a former Head of Service of the Federation, is the deputy chairman.

The Task Force was  set up in February by President Goodluck Jonathan following the general protest hat greeted the fuel subsidy removal in January to review Nigeria's revenues from the oil industry.

The occasion was the presentations of reports of the three task forces on petroleum industry. The three presentations were- the committee established to design a new corporate governance code for ensuring full transparency, good governance and global best practices in the NNPC and other oil industry parastatals.

An early indication to what was to come started when the first committee to submit report, Special Taskforce  on Governance and Controls had  no copy on hand to present to the minister of Petroleum for onward presentation to the President. The chairman of the committee, Dotun Sulaiman, after making his short remarks, stood up to present a copy to the minister only to find out that the copies that was brought to the Presidential Villa was not at the Council chambers. A file had to be given him to present an empty file to the minister pending when a copy would be brought for onward presentation to the president who was to collect the three reports from the minister at once.

The other committee on National Refineries, chaired by Kalu Idika Kalu, submitted its report without any hitches.

Then the main drama started when Mallam Ribadu submitted his report where he recommended a stricter regulation of the sector especially as regards collection of revenue from oil companies.

Meanwhile, Ribadu has accepted the report submitted Friday as being the same as the one that had been leaked to the press several days earlier.

Submitting the report, former EFCC boss call for a coherent funding process for oil projects so as to free up monies tied up in Joint Venture Companies (JVC).

He also advised government against the use of traders to market the country's crude oil, insisting that the country ought to be selling directly to buyers outside the country.

He also urged the federal government to intensify efforts to improve collections of oil revenues; stressing that oil firms in Nigeria were making huge profits, yet were investing their profits largely outside the country and owing Nigeria royalties.

He also described as the theft of crude oil in the country as an embarrassing national tragedy that must be stopped while the insecurity in Niger Delta should be addressed.

The committee also recommended strongly the need to strengthen the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).

  Ribadu in his submission harped on the need for integrity to be able to execute the reforms desired in the oil sector.

He said, "You are doing well in fighting corruption, but we need to do more. A lot depends on that. We congratulate you on the steps you have taken and we are proud to be able to contribute. Carrying out reforms requires integrity, and I say that from a personal experience. We commend you and wish you successes.

"Mr. President our assignment is essentially to enhance government revenue in proving transparency and accountability and help you to fight corruption in this industry. Therefore, in the course of the assignment, our work was extensive, our findings details and our recommendations far reaching in these various issues covered in our terms of reference"

On the recommendation of the committee, Mallam Ribadu said, to increase government revenue from the industry, "the government will need to put in place a coherent financing solution that allows government to fund its obligation under the joint venture contract.  Funding Government obligation will unlock additional capital from our JV partners which will overtime increase government revenue from the proportionate additional balance of crude oil revenues, royalties on he entire production and taxes on taxable incomes.

"Most of the recommendations are about management, about people and about how we run our own affairs. It probably may not have to do with the law. PIB or no PIB, some of these things right now can be implemented and even if PIB comes, it will still be very important in getting the result.

"The Federal Government should take action on issues of outstanding royalties, petroleum revenue task, and nefarious per at ties for example, gas flaring penalties.

"Mr. President, the companies that are operating in Nigeria today are making huge money from our country. A lot of them are going out and investing in other part of the world. The least is that they can do is to give us our own entitlement. We have found out that so many of them, even simple thing as royalties they don't pay. We need the money. We need them here. We need them to continue to do business, but also let them also look at us and give us what is certainly our own entitlement.

"Mr. President, another point I will properly highlight is the use of traders to sell our own crude oil. Look at it critically; Nigeria is the only country in the world today doing that other than Congo. I don't think we should be comfortable in the neighbourhood of Congo. We have our own crude; we can sell directly like what other countries are doing.

"Mr. President increasing crude oil theft is a national tragedy and grave consequence and there is need for urgent government action. One of the main reasons why we are loosing people who are interested in coming to do business in Nigeria. So many countries today are discovering crude oil even within our region. Ghana, Serria Leone, Liberia.

“Companies do have options. We have to work hard to make our place attractive for people to come and do business with us.

"The insecurity in the Niger Delta. The theft of crude oil, Nigeria is the only country in the world where people steal crude oil. Mr. President, it is embarrassing. You have done well already, you are doing it, but you probably have to continue with it because you have to put a stop to it" he said.

As soon as he ended his submission, Orosanye frantically sought  for the attention of the President as he raised his hands until he was noticed and was gave an audience.

He quickly raised objections to the process leading to the report that was submitted. He said the process was flawed and so cannot be implemented.

His position was supported by another member of the committee,  Mr Bernard Otti who also dissociated himself from the report because according to him, members did not see the report before it was submitted to the President.

Their submission was however faulted by two other members of the committee, who chose to speak on the controversy.  Zubair who is the acting secretary of the Committee and Ignatius Adegunle rejected the submission of Orosanye and Oti saying they never took part in the meetings of the committee.

Besides, Zubiar noted that at the point of compiling the report, Orosanye had complained that the report was too harsh, hence the need soften it.

Oronsaye who disowned the report presented by Ribadu said it was flawed in the process of its compilation, and contained irreconcilable figures,  hence lacking a strong foundation and integrity. He flayed the non-involvement of agencies like the DPR and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

According to Orosanye, "I want to say to you Mr. President that the process that has been followed is flawed and the report that has just been submitted to the Honourable minister is the immediate reaction of the President's directive that the report be submitted.

"The last time this committee met was in early July when the draft report was to be considered and I raised certain pertinent issues. It was agreed and suggested and accepted at that meeting that a small group be put together to review, modify and return to the report drafting committee before presenting to the whole house. That did not happen. No matter how good the efforts that have been put into this exercise, as long as the process is flawed and that report is one that cannot be implemented.

"When Mr. President gave the directed that the report be submitted today, we should been man enough to say, it is not feasible. When I came in, I asked the secretary, where is the signature page? He said the chairman is to sign for all of us. I said certainly, I have not authorized anybody to sign on my behalf. I don't know what the report contains. Therefore, in my view, I do not think the report should be accepted at this time, I challenge any member of this committee take me up.

"It is unfortunate that the point has been missed on the process issue. We agreed that the committee be brought to a committee of the whole. That was not done. Some of the figures that were in the draft report were un-reconciled figures and I did say in that meeting that we have institutions responsible for this figures and therefore you should work with these institutions.  I do not know whether DPR and FIRS are here. These are the people who should be talking about these figures and there were statements that were subjective.

"What I am saying is that the President has said come and submit the report, so what, if we are not ready, we are not ready. When I say so what, the President has spoken, we should be man enough to tell the President that we are not ready. That is the reason why you are handing over a report that is not process driven," he said.

Given the opportunity to respond to issues raised by Orosanye and Otti, Ribadu said both of them  having compromised their positions in the committee ought to have resigned their membership since they had accepted to be members of the Board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

According to him, "this task force was set up in February and we started working almost immediately. Most of the members you are seeing here abandoned everything they were doing and gave everything to it. We worked almost every day for about three months. Steve Oransaye never participated even one day in the deliberation of this committee. Not even for a single day. He never.  The first time we saw Steve was at the end of work when we were asking about recovery from companies that he jumped in. All the members are here they can bear witness to all am saying.

"Then secondly, Mr. President, it is your government, it is your work and whatever it is it's you and nobody else. This recommendation is for you to use. You thought it wise to call people from outside to come into the industry and look at it critically and give you an honest opinion.

"During the work of the committee, Oransaye got himself appointed on the board of NNPC. The other gentleman who spoke, Oti became the director of finance of NNPC and they decided to more or less bully everybody to take over. And they wanted us to write for them but committee members refused.

"By the time they were appointed the honorable thing they would have done was to resign from the committee. They refused to resign. Steve has not been in the country, he flew in this morning for him to come and do this and I think our president deserves more respect than what you have done now," he said.   

President Jonathan while downplaying the disagreement between the members noted " My good friend from the Media, I know you will have a very rich story today."

He however added that "any member that has any observations should write it and send to me through the chief of staff or the minister.

He also urged Nigerians not to be distracted by the small disagreement, but to focus on the subject matter of the committee which is the sanitisation of the Petroleum Sector for the benefit of Nigeria and Nigerians.

"If there are errors of calculation from the institutions, it  will be filtered out. You don't need to quarrel about it. Government has no interest in hiding anything. It is not to investigate anybody in government. Becoming board members of NNPC does not disqualify them to be members; sometimes you need those in establishment to explain certain things and not to influence anybody. I don't believe anybody can influence Ribadu negatively," he said. 

Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dezani Allison Maduekwe who submitted the reports to President Jonathan called on Nigerians to down play the disagreement between members of the committee and focus on the salient recommendations contained therein.

She also expressed appreciation to members of the committees for a job well done, and also expressing hope that necessary steps will be taken to implement the recommendations of the committees as directed by the president. 

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