The Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) has faulted the setting up of the Nuhu Ribadu-led Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force, describing it as a desperate ploy to cover up cases of monumental corruption in the industry.
ANEEJ Executive Director, David Ugolor, said on Wednesday that the task force constituted by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, was clearly a usurpation of the statutory role assigned to the Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI).
Mr. Ugolor, who criticized the decision by the minister to set up several committees and special task forces in the wake of the recent anti-subsidy removal protests as well as a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate the corruption in the industry, condemned her continued stay in office, amid startling revelations from the ongoing probe by the National Assembly.
“This is indicative of a rudderless system and national malaise,” Mr. Ugolor said. “It’s more like a desperate attempt at a big cover up.”
On the composition of the task force, Mr. Ugolor noted that though credible Nigerians like Nuhu Ribadu and Olisa Agbakoba are members, his group is concerned that NEITI, which is statutorily saddled with the responsibility of managing revenue transparency in the extractive sector, was left out.
The task force is mandated to determine and verify all petroleum upstream and downstream revenues, including taxes, royalty payable, collect all debts due to the Federal Government as well as obtain agreements and enforce payment terms by all oil industry operators.
It is also mandated to design a cross debt matrix between all agencies and parastatals of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources; develop an automated platform to for effective tracking, monitoring, and online validation of income and debt drivers as well as integrate systems and technology across the production chain to determine and monitor crude oil production and exports, as well as ensure the integrity of payments to the Federal Government.
However, ANEEJ said the mandate conflicts with the provisions of the NEITI Act 2007, particularly sections 2(a-e) and 3(f), which empower NEITI to monitor and ensure that all payments due to the Federal Government from all extractive industry companies, including taxes, royalties, dividends, bonuses, penalties, levels and such like, are duly made.
Wondering which, between NEITI established by an Act of the National Assembly and a taskforce established by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, would be accountable to Nigerians in the event of corruption and absence of transparency in the sector, Mr. Ugolor also observed that the terms of reference did not indicate the tenure of the task force, apart the demand for it to make monthly reports to the Minister. Would the task force last forever?
“The multiplicity of committees and task forces reinforces the view by most Nigerians that the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) devoid of sector encumbrances remains the panacea to the deep rooted corruption in the oil and gas sector in Nigeria,” Ugolor said.