Nov.2 (PREMIUM TIMES) — The much awaited presentation of the report of the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force to President Goodluck Jonathan was on Friday marred by acrimonious exchanges by members who openly disagreed over the findings and recommendations contained in the final document submitted.
Chairman of the 20-member Task Force and former Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu, openly disagreed bitterly with his deputy and former Head of Service of the Federation, Steve Oronsaye’s remark that the process adopted during its assignment was flawed.
While Mr. Oronsanye said the report ought to be rejected, as the recommendations were not agreed and accepted by all members, Mr. Ribadu disagreed, accusing him of not participating in the deliberations for the better part of the period the committee worked, as he was busy lobbying to be appointed into the Board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
Before presenting the report to the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison Madueke for formal submission to the President, Mr. Ribadu had praised Mr. President’s courage in constituting the committee and urged him to carefully implement the recommendations of the report, which he said would help restore confidence in the petroleum industry.
But, no sooner had Mr. Ribadu completed the presentation than Mr. Oronsaye rose to vehemently disagree with the presentation and to dissociate himself from the exercise.
Listen to the full verbal exchanges here.
“It is true I am the Vice or deputy Chair. But, I did not start with the Committee until much later, because I was busy with some other assignments. But when I joined, I made certain observations,” Mr. Oronsaye said.
“No matter how elegant a house may be, if the foundation is faulty, it will collapse. In the same vein, if the process is flawed, the outcome of that process would not be sustainable. I want to tell you Mr President, with all sense of responsibility, that the process that has been followed is flawed and the report that has just been submitted to the Honourable Minister is knee-jerk reaction to the directive by Mr. President that the report be submitted today.
“The last time the Committee met in the last week of June or early July, when the draft report was to be considered. It was agreed and accepted in 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. I want to say that did not happen.
“No matter how good the effort may be, for as long as the process is flawed, that report is one that cannot be implemented.
“Let me say this, your Excellency, this other report that was circulated for discussion was actually not accepted by members, and that was the reason the committee was to go back to review, modify and return.
“I thought I should make this view…I don’t even know what the report contains. Therefore, in my view, I don’t think this is a report that should be accepted at this time and I challenge any member of this committee to contradict what I am saying right now. Thank you your Excellency.”
Another member of the Committee, Bon Otti, who also disparaged the report presentation, said he was persuaded to be part of submission, as the final report did not follow a process that involved exhaustive “discussion at every level with the officers responsible to cross check, agree, disagree, reconcile and realign before we produce a finished product.”
But another member of the panel, Sumaila Zubairu, expressed surprise at Mr. Oronsaye and Mr. Otti’s presentations and accused them of refusing to respond to the call for members to submit their comments on the draft report to the Secretariat, apart from when they observed during the meetings that “the report was too harsh.”
Mr. Ribadu in his reaction, expressed disappointment at attempts to discredit the report, saying Mr. Oronsaye and Mr. Otti hardly participated in the deliberations of the committee, as they were busy lobbying to be given plum jobs at the NNPC.
“Mr President, I wasn’t expecting this development, so please do excuse me if I may say a few things,” he said. “This Task Force was set up in February. We started work effectively in March. Most of the members that you have seen here abandoned what they were doing and come here and we worked every single day. We gave everything to it.
“For about three months, Chief Oronsanye never participated one day in the deliberations of this committee. Not even a single day, never. The first time we saw Chief was when at the end of the work when we were talking about recoveries from companies that he jumped in. All the members are here, they can bear me witness. He never participated in this work.
“While others, who were appointed from outside the industry to look at it critically and give you an honest opinion, and ensure the independence of that committee, Chief Oronsanye got himself appointed into the Board of the NNPC.
“The other gentleman, Otti, who spoke became the director of Finance, NNPC, and they decided to, more or less, bully everybody and take over.
“And they wanted us to write for them. Committee members refused. By the time they were appointed (into NNPC) the most honourable thing they could have done could have been to resign from the committee. They refused to resign. Chief (Oronsanye) has not been in this country for a while. He flew in this morning to come and do this before Mr. President. And I think the President deserves more respect than you have done now.”
After receiving the report, President Jonathan promised to review the various presentations before taking a final decision on the recommendations to provide the standard for running the industry.
He advised members who have issues with the report to raise them through Chief of Staff or Minister of Petroleum Resources, adding issues bordering on corruption should directed to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC for investigation.
“The interest of government in setting up committees is to help us to do what is right
“Let me assure Nigerians that government has no interest in hiding anything. This report is not to investigate anybody in government. It is to look at the oil industry and tell government the best approach to maximize our revenue base,” he said.
The Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force was constituted last February with a mandate to work with consultants and experts to determine and verify all petroleum upstream and downstream revenues, including taxes, royalties, due and payable to the Federal Government; take all necessary steps to collect all debts due and owing and to obtain agreements and enforce payment terms by all oil industry operators.
Other mandates include designing a cross debt matrix between all agencies and parastatals of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources; development of an automated platform to enable effective tracking, monitoring, and online validation of income and debt drivers of all parastatals and agencies in the ministry as well as working with world-class consultants to integrate systems and technology across the production chain to determine and monitor crude oil production and exports, ensuring at all times, the integrity of payments to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Members of the committee included a one-time President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, and ace constitutional lawyer, Olisa Agbakoba; Abba Kyari of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Benedicta Molokwu, Supo Sasore, Tony Idigbe, Anthony George-Ikoli, Omolara Ituah, Bon Otti, Olusegun Okunnu, Samaila Zubairu, Ignatius Adegunle, Gerald Ilukwe and two ex-officio officers representing the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS and the Federal Ministry of Finance Incorporated.