By Okey Ndiribe, Ben Agande, Emman Oviokpare & Henry Umoru
ABUJA—President Goodluck Jonathan is not foot-dragging on the implementation of the report of the Nuhu Ribadu- Petroleum Revenue Task Force because of any vested interest and will deal with the evil doers wherever they are found, his spokesman Dr Reuben Abati said yesterday.
His assertion nonetheless, some members of the House of Representatives, yesterday, chided presidential aides in the vanguard of attempts to discredit the report, saying that the efforts would amount to nullity.
While the House members condemned the onslaught against Mallam Ribadu and his report, senators were, yesterday, evasive on the controversy that had dogged the report since it was submitted penultimate weekend.
The report of the Ribadu led committee had slammed current practices in the oil sector, alleging multiple corruption schemes and leakages costing the country billions of naira.
The Ribadu report had also slammed the government that Nigeria was the only country apart from war-torn Congo, currently selling its crude on the spot market to oil traders. Observers had also argued that Nigeria does not know the volume of crude oil sold daily.
The presidency through the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Communications, Dr. Doyin Okupe, last Thursday, faulted the report, alleging that same was poorly prepared and inconclusive.
The criticism had itself generated fears of a possible attempt by the presidency to cover up the issues raised in the report.
Reacting to the criticism that had trailed the submission of the Nuhu Ribadu committee report, Dr Abati said the President was ‘working hard at the Nigerian Project and taking every step to transform it for good’ as such, he should not be dragged ‘into the cheap arena of opportunistic demagoguery.
“The President’s position that the work of the Ribadu Committee and of the two other committees that presented their reports on that occasion, the Idika Kalu committee on Refineries and the Dotun Sulaiman Committee on Governance is useful and enlightening has not changed. Mrs Daziani Alison-Madueke, Minister for Petroleum had further echoed that position more than twice. The three committees were set up as fact-finding and advisory bodies. That fact was further underscored by the President’s mature response to the altercation that the Ribadu Committee Report generated when he said that those who have issues to raise should be free to make their own independent submissions. This shows a determination to get every possible piece of information and to accommodate all concerns. This shows a will to act. President Jonathan has not dumped any input, rather he welcomes every possible input and he has no private interest in this matter. So for anyone to say that the Ribadu committee was “calculated to fail from the beginning,” is absolutely uncharitable”.
Mr Daniel Reyenieju, representing Warri Federal Constituency and a member of the Upstream Committee of the Petroleum sector in his reaction to the controversy said: “My position is that the attitude of people in government on this report is unfortunate and may discourage further investigations in this nation.
“This attitude will discourage well meaning Nigerians to be part of a good investigative team in the future. “
Mr Chukwuemeke Nwogbo from Anambra State in his contribution,said “Let’s wait and see. My prediction is that the National Assembly will have the last laugh in this unfolding drama. Just wait.”
Reacting, Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) Mr. Dakuku Peterside, said although, he had not read the Ribadu report, but based on what he heard, there was nothing contained in it that had not been said before.
Said he:” For instance, it is not news that Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, has been selling crude oil to itself below the international price or that NNPC fixes the exchange rate that suits her or that the same corporation sells part of its 445,000 barrel of crude oil per day since it refines at below 25 percent of installed capacity.”
He added that corruption was becoming part of our body politic and would persist unless something was done genuinely about it.
“I don’t believe we are serious about fighting corruption,” he added.