“Let me state it very clearly, that I am a member of the APC and I believe in the ideals of the party.”
The opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, recently issued a statement criticising the handling of a swap deal between the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and two companies, Taleveras and Aiteo.
The two companies are involved in the crude oil for petrol swap the NNPC does for the 445,000 barrels daily crude oil it is allotted.
The APC in a statement by its spokesperson, Lai Mohammed, alleged underhand dealing in the transaction in which the two companies presented the highest bid of $2.85 billion for two oil blocks Shell is divesting from, beating many other major players in the oil industry, despite being less than five years in business.
The party also requested the House of Representatives to investigate the matter.
The Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Finance, Abdulmumin Jibrin, however, disagrees with the party. Mr. Jibrin, a member of the APC, stated his view in this interview with PREMIUM TIMES.
Although, an APC member, Mr. Jibrin said the information his party relied on was not accurate.
Q: What is your view on the statement issued by your party, the APC, recently, in which it suspected foul play in the swap deal entered between two companies, Taleveras and Aiteo, and the NNPC? I asked because the party requested the House of Representatives to investigate the deal?
A: First of all, let me state it very clearly, that I am a member of the APC and I believe in the ideals of the party. I am also a loyal party man, and I believe that the party is supreme. I have utmost respect for the leadership of the party, and we will continue to do what our party asked us to do.
We are all stakeholders in our own little way and one way or the other; we can all contribute to issue and also advise the party where appropriate. If the party had consulted some of us, particularly, myself, who chairs the Finance Committee in the House, I would have also advised the party on how to go about this issue and I would have also shared with the party, the information I have at my disposal as regards some of these issues that the party raised. Perhaps, the approach the party would have adopted might have been different.
The second aspect of it is that these are not normal times in the House, under normal circumstances, parties all over the world give advice or directives and also share some of these information with their members in the parliament. But, today, the circumstances in the House of Representatives are not normal. There are a lot of issues and crises of trust between the various political parties in the House. We started very strongly, but the House is now very much divided. We want to work and there are a lot of issues to deal, but then you have to be united to be able to deal with such issues.
So when a party identifies such issues and come out to direct its members to do certain things, it becomes suspicious at the level of the House. For instance, I chair the Finance Committee, but it is not made up of just APC members, so the moment PDP members in the committee hear that our party has given directives to do A or B, it becomes difficult to do your work.
So we try to make the party understand that this approach is counterproductive and I believe it will do us good if we try to find a way to moderate it and make it easier for us at the level of the House to do the work that we are expected to do.
Q: Are you saying there is difference between information at your disposal and what the party is alleging in its statement?
A: Absolutely, specifically on the issue of the SWAP; we had lots of petitions since I came on board as chairman of the Finance Committee. Many of those issues are facts and we have spoken out about them. But many others are also not true especially with the way they are being portrayed in the public. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of challenges in the oil and gas sector. If you read some of our reports, you will see some of the issues we raised. But on the issue of SWAP, most of the issues were exaggerated.
We have tried severally to look at the template and all matters related to the swap and it really did not look like the way it is being portrayed in the eyes of the public.
I have always said there are bigger issues, where people should look at the various business arrangements. There are matters like the IOC and the aspect of the cost of production; these are areas where we have a lot of issues, but I think the swap issue is being overflogged and exaggerated.
What is stated did not actually capture the truth about what is on the ground. If the party had approached some of us, we would have discussed it with them and give them some of the information at our disposal.
Q: Do you also have information about the two companies mentioned, because APC said they are less than five years in Business?
A: I don’t want to hold brief for any company, but for the purpose of this conversation, let me share with you what I know, also as a businessman before coming into the parliament. In business, it is not how long, but how well you have been. Somebody can be in business for sixty years, but if you don’t do the right thing, you can be there for hundred years without achieving anything.
And if somebody starts very well, does the right thing and gets the right opportunity, can within a year or two achieve much more than who have been there long but failed to act right. I don’t think the issue of how long you have been in the Industry should matter.
I think the issue has to do with their bid, which they presented at over $2 billion. When you hear a company bided at $2.8 billion, it does not mean they have the money in liquid cash. They have to go and mobilise these resource from various source of financing. So it has more to do with the wherewithal of the company, its executives and network and also the cash flow and balance sheet of the company that could attract the Banks to lend the money to such companies.
I think we should always look at such issues with a bit of caution.
Q: APC also said the two companies are actually oil marketers and not explorers, so have no business with such kind of transactions?
A: Well I am not a specialist in the Oil and Gas sector, but I know that the issue of swap is done in a couple of countries and I don’t want to overflog the issue. But the reality of the matter is that some of the people in these companies, especially Taleveras, are not from other planets; these are people we grew up with in Abuja. The young man is putting up a lot of hard work to get to where he is; building an indigenous company and putting in a lot of time it and I think there are a couple of them that needs to be encouraged. He has been trying to build his capacity locally, to create employment. Personally, I look at these things differently.
We should try sometimes, no matter how it is, to put a balance to our perspectives to issues like this.
Let me also say, I know there are a lot of challenges in the oil and gas sector, but we have spent the last couple of years talking about personalities and figures in the sector. Now I believe, is the time to put more energy on dealing with the issues institutionally; we need to put more energy and fast track the passage of the PIB. We need to strengthen the system to ensure that things are done properly. I am not suggesting that people who are caught doing the wrong thing should not be punished. But I think we need to shift the debate to institutional issues and get the industry right.
Secondly, we also discovered that there is a lot of dirty war in the industry; the operators of the industry themselves need to put their house in order. A lot of information that flies around comes from the Industry. There is a great deal of unhealthy competition going on in the industry. You have a situation where the IOCs are involved in a lot f issues in the industry, but they get away with it!
You also have a situation where indigenous companies that are working hard and also building capacities are coming under attack. I am not holding a brief for anyone, but the truth is that we need to start looking at these issues and treat them the way they come.
All I want to say is that look, we have problems in the House and we don’t want these problems to be compounded. We started as a united House, and we need that unity to return. When we started, nobody wants to know whether it is Goodluck, Jonathan, APC, or PDP, we speak with one voice. Now, we cannot speak with one voice, no matter the amount of work that the APC wants us to do, we cannot be able to do it unless we have a united House.
Q: What is the cause of all this disunity?
A: So many factors are in play mostly to do with some of us leaving the ruling party and the rest of them. These are normal in a political dispensation, but managing the aftermath is also another issue.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401...