By Henry Umoru & Ben Agande
ABUJA—THE controversy trailing report of the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force, PRSTF, headed by former Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu took a new turn, yesterday, as the presidency said the report was badly presented.
This came as President Goodluck Jonathan set in motion, machinery for full implementation of Petroleum Sector committee reports beginning with the committee on the nation’s refineries in order to boost domestic refining of products and to create jobs.
The Presidency while noting that the Ribadu Report was being overtly politicized, pleaded with Nigerians to be patriotic in their approach to issues. It condemned the politicization of the report and alleged attempt in certain quarters to disparage the genuine efforts of President Jonathan to bring sanity to Nigerian oil sector once and for all.
In spite of these, the presidency, however, assured Nigerians that corrections would be made to rectify the issues raised and a white paper would be issued and its recommendations fully implemented by this administration.
Addressing Journalists, yesterday, in Abuja, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe who noted that Ribadu was encouraging negativism and declared that the committee did not complete its assignment, however called on Ribadu to be courageous enough with names that made overtures to make him compromise the report which he resisted.
Okupe said: “His claim of an overture to him to compromise the report is perfidious and false. We respectfully enjoin Mallam Ribadu to be patriotic enough to name the proponents of this compromise. If Ribadu claims that by serving on the committee he is on the side of the Nigerian people, on whose side is President Jonathan whose idea it was in the first place to set up the Task Force and approved the appointment of Mallam Ribadu as chairman of the committee?”
The Presidential Aide who noted that the intention of President Jonathan was for the committee to do a holistic investigation into the intransigent challenges of our oil and gas industry in the past 10 years, however stressed that the committee passed the job of verifications and reconciliation back to the Federal Government.
Okupe said: “One of the major terms of reference of the committee was to work with consultants and experts to determine and verify all petroleum upstream and downstream revenues (taxes, royalties, etc) due and payable to the Federal Government of Nigeria, but this aspect of the committee assignment was left undone.
“Unfortunately and most regrettably, this paramount duty of the PRSTF committee could not be accomplished as stated in paragraph four of the covering letter signed by Chairman Ribadu and Secretary of the committee.
“Paragraph four of the covering letter read: “The data used in this report was presented by various stakeholders who made submissions at various dates, which have been disclosed in relevant sections of the report. Due to time frame of the assignment some of the data used could not be independently verified and the Task Force recommends that the government should conduct such necessary verifications and reconciliations”.
Ribadu issues disclaimer to report
Okupe noted that the implication of this paragraph four of the covering letter of the Ribadu committee was that the committee has issued a disclaimer to their own report which will now make it “impossible under our laws to indict or punish anybody except and until the federal government fully verifies and reconciles the facts as recommended by the committee in its submission to the government.
“There is a major public disinformation deliberately calculated to overheat the polity and cause disaffection and opprobrium against the President for doing what is right, what is needful and profitable to the nation”.
He, however, condemned the leakage of the report to Reuters and other international news media, adding that two versions of the same report were in circulation, but the federal government will only work with the report that was officially submitted to it by the Task Force.
Meanwhile, less than a week after the committees set up by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Deziani Allison Madueke on the petroleum sectors submitted their reports, President Goodluck Jonathan has set in motion machinery for their full implementation, beginning with the committee on the nation’s refineries in order to boost domestic refining of products.
Jonathan commences implementation
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr Reuben Abati, who disclosed this to State House correspondents, yesterday, said that already, the president has set March, 2013 deadline for the completion of the Turn Around Maintenance of three refineries in Kaduna, Portharcourt and Warri.
It would be recalled that the committee on refineries, headed by Dr Kalu Idika Kalu blamed the epileptic performance of the country’s refineries on lack of proper maintenance and funding.
Speaking on the reports, yesterday, Dr Abati said “the president has not only commended the committee on refineries, but he also made it clear that part of the determination of his administration is to make sure that Nigeria stops the importation of fuel and he subsequently directed the Minister of Petroleum Resource to take that report and look into it and then come up with action plan as to what can be done going forward.
“He also directed that a technical report be prepared on how to get the refineries working. I just came back from a meeting now in the president’s office where the minister of petroleum resources together with her team, including the Group Managing Director of the NNPC and other directors in the oil and gas sector made presentation. The major issue that was discussed at that meeting had to do with the refineries.
“First, the state of the refineries, their present capacities: What the Kaduna refinery is able to produce per day now which is about 110,000 barrels per day, the Port-Harcourt refineries 210,000 barrel per day and the Warri refineries 125,000 barrel per day and what steps can be taken to improve the capacities of these refineries to make them perform at their optimum function for the objectives outlined by Mr President to be achieved”.
Importation of finished petroleum products
The presidential spokesman said the president told the team that made the Presentation that the interest of this government is to ensure that crude oil is refined domestically, adding that ‘this administration is determined to put an end to the importation of finished petroleum products because you can refine domestically and at the same time import because if you don’t have enough you will be bridging it. Thirdly, to create jobs locally because the president’s conviction is that if you keep importing refined products, you are creating jobs for other people in other economies and hence the presentation was focused on two things; to take care of the Turn Around Maintenance, TAM, of the refineries in the immediate term and the target is that this short term intervention will be completed by march, 2013. If that is done, that will raise the capacities of these refineries taken together to 65 per cent. But the determination is even to go beyond that to also engage in the rehabilitation of the refineries. There is also plan for rehabilitation. There are other steps that are being considered to achieve this three objectives by Mr President”.
According to Abati, contrary to the belief by some people that government sets up committees then refuse to implement the recommendations of such committees, president Goodluck Jonathan has already commenced the implementation of the recommendations of the committees he set up.
“The whole point is to make it clear that action is already being taken on the reports of the committees. The first meeting that was held today is on this issue of refineries. What I have given you is the outline. Another meeting will be fixed where further presentations would be made on the technical details on how these objectives would be achieved.
“I think this clarification is important because since the presentation of these reports to Mr President, there has been an excessive focus on the politicisation of the Petroleum revenue task force reports where as on that day, there were discussions relating to the refineries, there were discussions relating to the issues of governance system in the petroleum sector.
“It is important to clarify that actually action is already being taken and for the benefit of those who think when committees submit reports, government sleeps on those reports, you can see clearly that this is not the case”