The blame games again in the oil sector

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By Omoh Gabriel

Blame games either in a family, corporate world or community is a sign of failure of leadership. Leadership is about taking responsibility and action where necessary no matter who is involved. In situations where people are not ready to accept responsibility for their actions or inactions, they blame their failures on subordinates or opponents.

When the Minister of Petroleum Resources decided to invite Nuhu Ribadu to pry into the affairs of the oil sector, many assumed that something serious will come out of it. It presupposes that the government and the ministry had nothing to hide, hence the courage to invite Ribadu to chair the oil revenue verification committee. Ordinarily, there is nothing the federal government and its agencies do not know about the high level of corruption in the oil sector.

The NNPC, DPR and the multinationals are  all known  to be neck deep in corruption and denying the government due revenue. To any serious minded Nigerian, knowing how things work here, appointing the committee in the first instance was an exercise in futility. The blame game going on now is pretence and the unwillingness of this government to act promptly and decisively on issues affecting the nation.

Is the Presidency saying it is not aware that Nigeria sells its crude oil to oil merchants in the spot market as against the international practice of selling crude to refineries? Do they need a Ribadu to tell them this? Is government saying they are not aware that Nigeria does not know how much crude is produced, NNPC and DPR take what the multinational give to them as production data, and do we need a Ribadu to tell the nation that simple fact known to all? Are the oil thieves raving pipelines across the country ghost? Are they not known politicians in ‘khaki’ and ‘agbada’? Why is this government pretending?

President Goodluck Jonathan and Mallam Nuhu Ribadu

The debts that multinationals are owing the country, has the Nigeria Extractive Industry Initiative not been crying and sounding the alert? How has the government responded to it in the last three years?  In the last two weeks, the government and Ribadu committee members have dragged the nation into the blame game portraying the state of hopelessness, lack of vision and direction of leaders in the country.

The Ribadu Committee was a mere riddle of the Nigerian people to say the least.

The committee as composed does not have the strength, knowledge, and insight to unravel the dept of the rot in the oil sector. It will require the expertise of a forensic accountant, a production engineer and meter reading expert to understand movement of crude from one terminal to another.

That Ribadu was a police man did not equip him with the requisite knowledge to engage oil thieves at the terminals, NNPC, DPR and International oil companies and come out tops. The mere admission by Ribadu and Olasupo Sasore that some information included in the report were not verified and reconciled gives support to the position that the Committee members were not equipped to understand happenings in the oil sector.

This fact is further supported by the position canvassed by some members of the committee like Mr. Anthony George Ikoli (SAN) and Mr. Steve Oronsaye, a former Head of Service, who openly described the report as “fundamentally flawed” in findings, recommendations and procedure.

This clearly points to the fact that Ribadu may not have been deep, thorough and painstaking in this assignment. Ribadu and Sashore with their own hands destroyed what ever was good in the report when they wrote in the letter to Petroleum Minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke dated November 01, 2012 that, “The data used in this report was presented by various stakeholders who made submissions to the Task Force in the course of our assignment at various dates, which have been disclosed in relevant sections of the report.

“Due to the 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.”

If some of the data in the report were those presented by operators in the industry without being independently verified by the committee, how such a report could help to solve the problem it was set out to look into beats common sense. Besides some prominent members of the committee, Oronsaye and Anthony George-Ikoli (SAN) disowned the report citing procedural issues, unverified and unreconciled data amongst others.

During the presentation of the report to President Jonathan, Oransaye said, “I want to say to you Mr. President that the process that has been followed is flawed and the report that has just been submitted to the Honourable Minister is the immediate reaction to the President’s directive that the report be submitted.

The last time this committee met was in early July when the draft report was to be considered and I raised certain pertinent issues. It was agreed and suggested and accepted at that meeting that a small group be put together to review, modify and return to the report drafting committee before presenting to the whole house”.

From the grapevine words are making the rounds that efforts were made to hush up the report and that attempts were made to falsify the content of the report which was rebuffed by Ribadu. It is clear that the Ministry of Petroleum Resources did not want the report to see the light of day and Ribadu played into the hands of those who are bent on continuing business as usual in the sector.

While Nigerians are here enjoying the blame game, others are out there looking for alternative to fossil oil. The United States, the major importer of Nigeria crude will overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s top oil producer by 2017, the West’s energy agency said last week, predicting that Washington will come very close to achieving previously unthinkable energy self-sufficiency.  When this happens in five years time, I hope Nigerians will still be comfortable to engage in blame games.

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