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Ribadu’s report: An oily slip?

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I JUST finished reading the Ribadu report, both the one leaked to the press and the version submitted to the President, and in my view, the report is virtually inconclusive. And for now, I agree with the Presidency that the committee’s terms of reference was not duly followed.

The basic task of the committee is to examine all, total aspect of the Nigerian oil industry, from production to sales, including the actual, exact amount of oil pumped from Nigerian soil each day, and how much royalties, fees and prices are being paid into Federal accounts.

Surprisingly, the committee was given a free hand to hire experts, professionals and even simple fact-checkers to do their job, yet they carried on without verifying almost all their sources or even attempted any collaboration. The committee went on, on paragraph 4 of the report, and agreed that their method of investigation and lack their own collaboration due to time, was flawed. Why? The committee did not explain in the report.

If the committee had asked for an extension of time, it would have been granted, perhaps. Instead it leaked an uncompleted work to the press and still left the verifications of figures with the Federal Government to ascertain. I say Haba!

Also glaring is that the leaked report is significantly different from the final report submitted to the Presidency. In my view, Ribadu and his committee did a poor job. They had a chance to do the people’s job, here they failed.

And to compound the messy job, Ribadu accused certain un-named oil barons of trying to influence him and his committee. Now, since he is off the chain, he owes it a duty to tell the Nigerian people who are these oil barons? And he should name names. It is a duty that he does so; crying for Nigeria is not enough.

In fact, it has been revealed that the committee was supposed to be generating a monthly report akin to being a standing committee, but that was not even touched before producing the final report. Equally so, the documents were not signed by members of the committee.

So much is just wrong with this report; it’s so messy. Was the chairman of the committee being deceptive?  Ribadu actually acknowledged in an interview that both the leaked report and the final piece presented to the Presidency was one and the same document, but those who read both documents know someone is being mischievious.

Ribadu remains the crime fighter, police lawyer and patriotic Nigerian. So what went so horribly wrong? He admitted thus: “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.” The drama has begun.

Just as he stepped out to hand over the Report, His Deputy, Mr.Steve Oronsaye,a former Head of Service of the Federation, raised objections. “I want to say to you, Mr President, that the process that has been followed is flawed…the last time this Committee met was in July when the draft Report was to be considered and I raised pertinent issues.”
Ribadu put up a strong defence.

According to him: “During the work of the Committee, Oronsaye got himself appointed to the Board of the NNPC. The other gentleman who spoke, Otti, became Director of Finance of the NNPC and they decided to more or less bully everybody to take over.” It was real drama and shameful.

Now the issue is, was Ribadu out to report the NNPC or to make recommendations based on the findings of his committee? Did his grouse against fellow members affect his sense of judgement since neither Oronsaye nor Otti saw the report before it was presented? And why did Ribadu have to sign for the duo?

Petroleum minister Mrs. Diezani Allison Madueke gave the committee a free hand. She said: “I never for once called in members to seek to influence them one way or the other, and I gave them full access to the parastatals, to deal with all elements of their terms of reference to the extent that some members have even said that I was too aloof from their work.”

And since Ribadu admitted that his report was inconclusive, the Minister acted well by appointing a committee to look into it. That was when the draft was leaked to international news agency, Reuters. Why this was done is unclear, but it created the impression that government was sitting on the findings.

The Presidency through its spokesman on Public Affairs, Dr.Doyin Okupe, has already faulted this report. He observed that in one of the Committees’ terms of reference, they were supposed 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”.

Okupe explained that Ribadu failed in this. “This makes it impossible under our laws to indict or punish anyone except, and until, the Federal Government fully verifies and reconciles the facts as recommended by the committee in its submission to the government.”

There you have it, one more opportunity to reform the oil sector bungled. Instead of a thorough work, we got controversy. What an oily slip.

Mr. EHIS OZEMOYA a geologist , wrote from Benin, Edo State.

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