Steve Oronsaye under fire over “shameful” antics to discredit Ribadu panel report

Stephen Oronsaye, former Head of Service
Stephen Oronsaye, former Head of Service

Nov. 4 (PREMIUM TIMES) — Furious reactions have continued to trail the acrimonious altercation between members of the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force during the formal submission of their final report to President Goodluck Jonathan  Friday.

Some Nigerians, who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES on Saturday, described the open disagreement and rejection of the report by the deputy Chairman of the committee, Steve Oronsaye, as not only “shameful and irresponsible”, but also an “attempt to undermine President Goodluck Jonathan’s determination to fight corruption and entrench transparency and accountability in the country’s petroleum industry.”

Mr. Oronsaye, deputy Chairman of the Committee and former Head of Service of the Federation, and Bon Otti, a member, openly discredited the report submitted by the Chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, former Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on grounds that the process adopted in its compilation was flawed, as all members were not alloweds to see the final draft before submission.

In his reaction, Mr. Ribadu revealed that Mr. Oronsaye and Mr. Otti’s decision to reject the report stemmed from their angst after their desire to tone down the recommendations, which they described as “too harsh”, was turned down by other members.

According to Mr. Ribadu, Mr. Oronsaye had abandoned the assignment in pursuit of his personal ambition to be appointed into the Board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, while Mr. Otti was distracted following his appointment as director of finance of the NNPC in the course of the assignment.

But the National Coordinator, Publish What You Pay, PWYP, Nigeria and member, Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) Board, Faith Nwadishi, said the Federal Government should not, under any guise, use the misguided disagreement and confusion to rubbish and throw out the report.

“The Federal Government should not be misled into thinking that because Mr. Oronsaye allowed himself to be used to rubbish the report that the recommendations should not be considered,” Ms. Nwadishi said.

“Every letter of the recommendations must be considered and implemented. Government should forget about going in circles with all these probes and begin to take more serious interest in the various NEITI audit reports since 1999 if it is serious about checking corruption and promoting transparency in the petroleum industry.

“If the President said that another committee will be constituted to consider the Ribadu report, that should not be done in isolation of NEITI audit reports, and others, like the KPMG and other probe reports on the industry.

“The Ribadu report is not saying anything different from what either the Farouk Lawan Committee Subsidy Report said, or what the NEITI audit reports have been saying over the years about corruption in the petroleum industry. It might be saying the same thing in a different language.”

Ms Nwadishi, who noted that Mr. Oronsaye showed the lack of seriousness most senior citizens exhibit when entrusted with serious national assignments, said he should have been asked to resign from the committee and sanctioned seriously, including being made to refund whatever allowances he might have received as member of the committee if indeed he did not participate in the meetings and deliberations as expected.

“How can a deputy Chairman of a serious committee like that not attend meetings and participate in deliberations where decisions were taken only for him to show up a day before the presentation of the report to complain about process.

“For such lack of seriousness, he should be sanctioned and asked to refund all allowances he may have been paid. It is the very height of irresponsibility for a supposed former Head of Service of the Federation to behave so shamefully.

“If he did not participate in the deliberations of the committee, it is a shame that he still showed up on the day of the report presentation to publicly ask questions and condemn the report. Clearly, Oransaye lent himself to be used to rubbish that report. But, what they should understand is that Nigerians would not allow that report to be rubbished under any guise.”

Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, Awwal Rafsanjani, who said there was nothing the Ribadu committee said that is new to Nigerians, noted that  Mr. Oronsaye not only “ridiculed himself by his conduct”, but he was also “clearly undermining President Goodluck Jonathan’s authority and resolve to fight corruption in the country’s petroleum sector.”

“Describing the recommendations of the committee as harsh and demanding that it should be toned down after accepting appointments into the Board of the NNPC and as the Director of Finance, NNPC shows that Mr. Oronsaye and Mr. Otti were serving their selfish interests and not the interest of Nigeria, as they were desperate to justify those appointments,” he said.

For the Chief Economist, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Ozo Esan, it was unfortunate that the members of the committee could not work together to deliver on their mandate, pointing out with the conduct, the “unnecessary controversy appears to have detracted from whatever recommendations they had made in the report, such that instead of facing the real issues of serious corruption and lack of transparency in the petroleum industry, the committee is now debating the disagreements.”

Though he said it was not compulsory that members of committees must always agree, the Labour leader said it was important that they buried their differences and work together, adding that if the differences cannot be resolved, some members may chose to present a minority report that would be presented along with the majority.

“To have come out in public to argue against each other at the point of presentation the way the Ribadu Committee members did was shameful and irresponsible,” Mr Esan said.

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