By Emmanuel Aziken
ABUJA â€” THE Senate Committee on Upstream Petroleum has accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, of undermining the Senateâ€™s work on the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, and circulating fake copies of the bill.
Lamenting the intrusion of NNPC officials at the ongoing Senate retreat on the PIB yesterday, the committee chairman, Senator Lee Maeba, accused the Corporationâ€™s Group Managing Director, Mr. Mohammed Barkindo, of alleged personal agenda which he said was at variance with the Presidentâ€™s.
The NNPC, in a quick rebuttal, denounced the allegation, saying that whoever was insinuating such did not mean well for the PIB and the nation. NNPC Group General Manager, Public Affairs, Dr. Levi Ajuonuma told Vanguard yesterday that all officials of the NNPC and the Department of Petroleum Resources in Uyo were on invitation and had a duty there.
Members of the Senate committees on Upstream Petroleum, Downstream Petroleum, Gas and Finance are presently in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, for a joint retreat on the PIB. The retreat follows the public hearing by the joint committees in Abuja just before the Senate proceeded on its recess last July.
Lamenting the activities of NNPC officials at the retreat, which he said was essentially an in-house affair, Senator Maeba told Vanguard yesterday that:
â€œThe NNPC GMD is taking the Petroleum Industry Bill so personal and is putting up conducts and actions that are capable of undermining the integrity of this committee and if a line is not clear from the President as to whether this is an NNPC bill or a presidential bill, anytime from now we shall be compelled to stop action on this bill.â€
Pointing finger of accusation at Barkindo, Senator Maeba said: â€œHe has put up so many bills, he is putting up so much confusion to the committee and even now, he has sent a team from the NNPC to this place. This is an in-house committee why did he send NNPC people to this place and those are the actions that are undermining the integrity of this committee and it is wrong.
â€œHe did not clear from the leadership of this committee if we needed anybody from him or not, he just sent people at will, who gave him that audacity. Who is he working for? He is disturbing our work and if he is not careful and if this bill is coming from him, then we shall shut down this bill to determine whether the bill is coming from him or from the presidency.â€™â€™
On the fake PIB, he said: â€œWe have traced it to NNPC. NNPC is doing everything to undermine the integrity of the committee. This is a Nigerian bill, it is not an NNPC bill,â€™â€™ he said.
Responding yesterday evening, Dr. Ajuonuma dispelled the insinuations saying: â€œWhat is my business in Uyo? Whoever is peddling such rumour does not mean well for the PIB and for Nigeria. If the Senate is doing a hearing on a bill that pertains to you, like the Freedom of Information and you see the President of the NUJ there, will you consider them out of place?
â€œEverybody means well. Nobody is there because they are idle or because they donâ€™t have anything to do, let us concentrate on the substance of the matter,â€™â€™ he said.