CONTRARY to fears being expressed by opposition political parties, there will be no cover-up over the report to be submitted by the Mallam Nuhu Ribadu-led Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force which President Goodluck Jonathan has directed the committee to turn in on Friday.
Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on Public Affairs, Dr Doyin Okupe, who made this declaration in a statement he issued in Abuja on Monday, pointed out that the president was committed to the fight against corruption and has assured that there would not be any cover-up in the findings of the Ribadu report when the report is finally submitted.
According to Okupe, this was why the president has directed that the report be submitted to him on Friday, November 2.
The committee was required to, among other tasks, determine and verify all petroleum upstream and downstream revenues (taxes and royalties, etc,) due and payable to the Federal Government of Nigeria, and to take all necessary steps to collect all debts due and owed; to obtain agreements and enforce payment terms by all oil industry operators.
The statement noted that the president has neither seen nor received any copy of the report, noting: “Essentially, what appears to have been irregularly released prematurely to the media is a draft copy which still requires full accent of all members of the committee and clarifications and due process from the originating ministry before the official handing over to the presidency.”
While saying that President Jonathan should be commended for his personal resolve to fight institutionalised corruption in Nigeria, the statement observed that the president ordered the probe of the oil industry for the period of ten years (2002-2011) which also covers the tenure of his administration.
“No president in our history has gone this far and this explains why the rot in our system has persisted for so long,” it said.
To buttressed the point, the presidency statement stressed that “President Jonathan approved the appointment of a well–known anti-corruption crusader, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu,who ran against him at the presidential poll on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). It is also noteworthy that the Secretary of the committee, Mr Supo Sasore, was a former Attorney General of Lagos State under an ACN government.
“President Jonathan’s unwavering and commendable determination to fight corruption is clearly demonstrated by his approval of the appointment of credible Nigerians, anti-corruption crusaders and members of the opposition party in the committee.
“The efforts of President Jonathan has also helped in exposing the fraud in the Petroleum Subsidy regime dug up by the Aig-Imokhuede committee. The indicted persons are currently being tried in various courts.
“For the purpose of clarity, President Jonathan’s resolve to fight against corruption and dig out all the rots in the system should not be misconstrued or politicised by the opposition as if it is his administration that is guilty of corruption, rather, he should be commended for taking the bold step that will ultimately sanitise the policy and the system,” the statement added.
Meanwhile, President Jonathan has directed former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, to submit his committee's report on petroleum revenue.
President Jonathan appointed Ribadu head of the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force in furtherance of his administration’s commitment to transparency, probity, and accountability in the petroleum sector.
A statement issued by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr Reuben Abati, in Abuja on Monday, noted that the president has directed the committee to present a comprehensive report of the task force to him on Friday this week at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Two other committees set up by the Federal Government earlier this year on different aspects of the country’s petroleum industry are to also present their reports to the president same day.
They include the committee established to design a new corporate governance code for ensuring full transparency, good governance and global best practices in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and other oil industry parastatals which had Mr Dotun Sulaiman as its chairman; and the committee headed by Dr Kalu Idika Kalu.
It was charged with the duty of conducting a high-level assessment of the nation’s refineries and recommending ways of improving their efficiency and commercial viability.
In a related development, the controversy trailing the leaked Ribadu report on the oil sector is creating ripples within the federal administration with one group pushing for immediate action while the other is canvassing for more internal checks before the report is made public.
While the debate within the presidency is heightening up, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), an agency charged with enforcing transparency in oil and mineral sector, has, however, declared that its previous reports identified all the loopholes contained in the leaked Ribadu report.
NEITI, an agency charged with enforcing transparency in oil and mineral sector, had issued an audit report last year identifying alleged lapses in revenue accounting within the oil and energy sector.
Nigerian Tribune was told that President Goodluck Jonathan was under pressure from two various groups within the cabinet, with the president expected to take a final position on the issue in the next few days.
Findings showed that the in-fighting that surrounded the handling of the oil marketers involved in the fuel subsidy scam was playing itself out again, as various interests were said to be at play.
Those in favour of immediate action were said to be anchoring their position on the need for the government to sustain its anti-corruption drive as was witnessed in the disclosure and subsequent arrests of some oil marketers.
The group called the reformers within the cabinet was said to have counselled that the political cost of keeping the report away from the public was greater than making it public, a position said to have been presented to the president.
The other group was said to have warned against the government being stampeded into abandoning due process in treating reports of committees set up by government, insisting that the report had to be assessed and a white paper issued as was the case with similar committee reports in other ministries.
An administration source told the Nigerian Tribune that the controversy was needless, as “a report must have a white paper and you don’t just submit a report and said no white paper should be issued on it.”
According to the source, the report was to be reviewed by a committee which would then be made public by government, adding that “when the president received the Orosanye report on the rationalisation of the public service, the president set up a white paper committee. The minister in this case set up the committee and he will follow due process.”
Meanwhile, Dr Ogbonaya Orji, NEITI Director of Communications, has told the Nigerian Tribune that “over the years, NEITI, through its cycles of independent audits, consistently revealed and highlighted several fiscal, physical and process lapes in the Nigeria oil and gas industry and the connection of these lapses to loss of huge revenues to the Federation Account.
“NEITI’s reports over these years also identified remedial measures many of which are yet to be implemented. As you are aware, another independent comprehensive audit of the oil and gas sector for the period 2009 to 2011 by NEITI, which began earlier in the year, has reached advanced stage.”
While noting that NEITI had not seen nor read the Ribadu report, Dr Orji expressed optimism that ongoing audit would hopefully be concluded on or before the end of the year.
“In view of NEITI’s concerns on issues of transparency and accountability in the oil and gas industry in particular, we are currently working closely with stakeholders to ensure early passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill with contents and provisions capable of enthroning regimes of corporate governance, competition, openness and accountability,” the NEITI spokesman said.