President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision, on Tuesday to sack the top management of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has continued to attract mixed reactions from a cross section of Nigerians and civil society organizations (CSOs).
The President General of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Peter Esele, does not seem excited with the action, as he sees it as “another change in the usual musical chairs” at the helm of the national oil company; while a group of civil society groups, under the aegis of the End Impunity Now Campaign, described it as “wobbly steps to tackle corruption”.
Mr. Esele, who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday said the problem with the NNPC goes beyond the sack of its management, but how to institutionalize unfettered structural process to run its operations without political interference.
“It is difficult to say if the removal of (Austen) Oniwon, the GMD of NNPC was a sack or not, considering that he was already due for retirement this month,” he said. “But, the real challenge in NNPC is how politicians could take their hands off the running of its affairs.
“In less than 13 years, the NNPC has produced no fewer than six GMDs. No organization as strategic as NNPC, that wants to be taken seriously, can have such high turnover in its management. But that is how the politicians want it.
“There must be a fixed tenure for the management of NNPC to allow them consistently drive policy. Successive administrations since Gaius Obaseki hardly settled down to face the challenge of working to leave any legacy before they are changed.
“The sack is simply the usual change in musical chairs. The only hope for Nigerians is to wait a little more and see what the PIB (Petroleum Industry Bill) is going to come up with. Perhaps that would help put the relevant laws in place that can straighten the NNPC and the regulatory agency, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).
But the End Impunity Now Campaign group in a statement by the Executive Director, African Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), David Ugolor; and National Convener, United Action for Democracy (UAD), Jaye Gaskia, dismissed the sack as inadequate. They said government needed to take more concrete steps to demonstrate not only its commitment to fight corruption, but also the irreversibility of such commitment.
“Now is the time for the President to move forward with the people, to work together to end impunity,” the group said. “The issue of the rot in the petroleum sector in general, and the fraud and mind boggling corruption uncovered by the House of Representatives probe in general, goes beyond the NNPC, and includes all the other agencies and parastatals in the sector, including PPMC, PPPRA, DPR etc.
“We are of the opinion that each of these agencies has been implicated in the fraud and rot, and their boards and managements should also be sacked. We call for total reform in the sector, the prosecution and punishment of indicted members of boards and managements.”
The group stated that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) should immediately prosecute the sacked officials, particularly the Group Managing Director and other board members of the NNPC and other agencies.
“The President should make available to the EFCC and the general public the reasoning behind the dismissal and the evidence that convinced the President to take this action,” the group noted.
The group also said the handling of the sack by the President is a further demonstration of the incompetence of the Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, under whose watch all sorts of nefarious deeds were undertaken.
“How can the minister evade responsibility? We reaffirm our demand for the sacking of the Petroleum Minister forthwith and instruction to the EFCC to undertake an immediate investigation into the activities of the office of the minister.
“Given the levels of corruption that have been exposed by the House of Representatives Committee report, it is simply not good enough to dismiss one or two persons and sweep the rest under the carpet. We say again Mr. President, fire the irresponsible ministers,” the group stated.
The group reiterated its demand for the minister and her counterpart in the Finance Ministry to resign their appointments; saying failure to do so should result in the president exercising his authority to remove them.
It noted that revelations through the various probes have shown that there is little or no coordination of the economy taking place, pointing out that the Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the minister of finance, who also doubles as the coordinating minister for the economy, should be made to share in the responsibility for the monumental fraud and rot in the petroleum industry.
The group emphasized the need for the EFCC to be given full support by the President, who should make a clear public statement endorsing the leadership of the EFCC and re-enforcing the commission’s mandate to investigate and prosecute corruption without hindrance.
“The President needs to allocate appropriate funding to build the capacity and resources of the EFCC to effectively execute its mandate,” it said.