By Ben Agande
An open disagreement between Nuhu Ribadu and his Deputy Chairman in the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force, Steve Orosanye in the process leading to the compilation of the report of the committee almost marred the presentation of the report to the presidency yesterday.
But President Jonathan who obviously appeared embarrassed by the altercation however urged Nigerians not to be distracted over the issue but to focus on the subject matter of the committee which is the sanitisation of the Petroleum Sector for the benefit of Nigerians.
He urged any member of the Ribadu Committee who had a contrary opinion from those expressed in the report to submit his opinion to him (president) through his Chief of staff or the Minister of Petroleum Resources.
Trouble started when Mallam Ribadu submitted his report where he recommended a stricter regulation of the sector especially as regards to collection of revenue from oil companies.
He said: “Mr President, the recommendation of our task force will strengthen institutions responsible for the management of petroleum institution, increase revenue accruing to the Federal Government.
”Mr. President our assignment is essentially to enhance government revenue improving transparency and accountability and help you to fight corruption in this industry. Therefore in the course of the assignment, our work was extensive, our findings detailed and our recommendations far reaching in the various issues covered in our terms of reference.
”The government will need to put in place a coherent financing solution that allows government to fund it’s obligations under the Joint Venture, JV, contract. Funding Government obligation will unlock additional capital from our JV partners which will overtime increase government revenue from the proportionate additional balance of crude oil revenues, royalties on the entire production and taxes on taxable incomes.
”Funding Government obligation will unlock additional capital from our JV partners which will overtime increase government revenue from the proportionate additional balance of crude oil revenues, royalties on the entire production and taxes on taxable incomes.
”Most of he recommendations are about management, about people and about how we run our own affairs. It probably may not have to do with the law. PIB or no PIB, some of these things right now can be implemented and even if PIB comes, it will still be very important in getting the result.
”The Federal Government should take action on issues of outstanding royalties, petroleum revenue task, and nefarious activities for example, gas flaring penalties. Mr. president, the companies that are operating in Nigeria today are making huge money from our country. A lot of them are going out and investing in other parts of the world. The least that they can do is to give us our own entitlements. We have found out that so many of them, even simple things as royalties they don’t pay. We need the money. We need them here. We need them to continue to do business but also let them also look at us and give us what is certainly our own entitlement.
”Mr. President, another point I will properly highlight is the use of traders to sell our own crude oil. Look at it critically, Nigeria is the only country in the world today doing that other than Congo. I don’t think we should be comfortable in the neighbourhood of Congo. We have our own crude, we can sell directly like what other countries are doing.
”Mr.President, increasing crude oil theft is a national tragedy that have grave consequence and there is need for urgent government action. One of the main reasons why we are losing people who are interested in coming to do business in Nigeria… So many countries today are discovering crude oil even within our region. Ghana, Serria Leone, Liberia. Companies do have options. We have to work hard to make our place attractive for people to come and do business with us.
”The insecurity in the Niger Delta, the theft of crude oil: Nigeria is the only country in the world where people steal crude oil. It is embarrassing. You have done well already, you are doing it, but you probably have to continue with it because you have to put a stop to it” he said.
No sooner had he finished his submission than Mr Orosanye who was a Permanent Secretary and former Head of Civil Service of Federation raised objections on what he said was the‘’flawed process” adopted by the committee in arriving at its report.
His position was colloborated by another member of the committee, Mr Bernard Otti who dissociated himself from the report because according to him, members did not see the report before it was submitted to the president.
However, two other members of the committee, Sumaila Zubair who is the acting secretary and Ignatius Adegunle rejected the submission of Orosanye and Otti saying they never took part in the meetings of the committee.
Mallam Ribadu who was asked by the president to respond to the remarks by the duo of Orosanye and Otti accused them of having compromised their positions in the committee and ought to have resigned their membership since they had accepted to be members of the Board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
”Then secondly Mr. President, it is your government, it is your work and whatever it is it’s you and nobody else. This recommendation is for you to use. You thought it wise to call people from outside to come into the industry and look at it critically and give you an honest opinion.
”During the work of the committee, Oransaye got himself appointed on the board of NNPC. The other gentleman who spoke, Otti became the director of finance of NNPC and they decided to more or less bully everybody to take over. And they wanted us to write for them but committee members refused.
”By the time they were appointed the honorable thing they would have done was to resign from the committee. They refused to resign. Steve has not been in the country he flew in this morning for him to come and do this and I think our president deserve more respect than what you have done now” he said. President Jonathan while down playing the disagreement between the members noted “any member that has any observations should write it and send to me through the chief of staff or the minister.
”If there are errors of calculation from the institutions it will be filtered out. You don’t need to quarrel about it. Government has no interest in hiding any thing. It is not to investigate anybody in government. Becoming board members of NNPC does not disqualify them to be members, sometimes you need those in establishment to explain certain things and not to influence anybody. I don’t believe anybody can influence Ribadu negatively” he said.
And an obviously flustered Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dezani Allison Maduekwe who submitted the reports to President Jonathan called on Nigerians to down play the disagreement between members of the committee and focus on the salient recommendations contained there in.