By Dirisu Yakubu
A Civil Society Organisation (CSO), the Accountable Leadership For Better Nigeria Initiative, ALBNI, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to relieve the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva of his duties over claims by the latter that debt owed the federal government by the International Oil Companies, IOCs would be difficult to recover legitimately.
In a press release signed ALBNI Executive Director, Remi Adebayo, and made available to journalists in Abuja, the group said it was hypocritical for the Minister to have made the claim, knowing that the process of recovering the debt was in the pipeline and is legally sanctioned by the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
The statement read: “Our attention has been drawn to the statement credited to Mr Timipre Sylva, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, published in Vanguard Newspaper of Thursday 17 October 2019 on ‘why FG can’t recover $62 Billion from international Oil Companies.’
“While answering questions from State House correspondents at the end of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, the Bayelsa-born Mr Timipre Sylva was reported to have said referring to the duly calculated $62 Billion, now owed to Nigeria by the oil companies: ‘Let us consider that as a lost opportunity, the money was not in a cupboard, they have taken it. Nobody can bring out that kind of money. I mean we can’t get the $62 Billion.”
According to ALBNI, “If the above statement was indeed made by Mr Timipre Sylva, then President Buhari ought to relieve him of his duties forthwith as Nigeria’s Minister of State for Petroleum Resources. It is unbecoming of a minister to assume the role of the mouthpiece and insider representative of the oil companies against the economic development of Nigeria and against the federal government’s fight against corruption and economic sabotage.
“Since 2003 when the price of crude oil exceeded $20 per barrel, real terms, the oil companies involved in deep offshore contracts with the federal government represented by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, have plundered Nigeria’s economy by surreptitiously colluding with regulatory insiders in the oil and gas industry to avoid adjusting the share of the federation in the additional revenue accruing under the production sharing contracts all through the years and up till today.
“In a consent judgment in SC/964/2016 between Mr Timipre Sylva’s Bayelsa State, Rivers and Akwa Ibom States versus the Federation, the Supreme Court of Nigeria on 17 October 2018 ordered the federal government of Nigeria, ‘to adjust the share of the Government of the Federation in the additional revenue under all the production sharing contracts in Nigeria’s oil industry with the inland Basin and Deep Offshore areas as approved by the federal government from the respective times the price of crude oil exceeded twenty dollars ($20.00 USD) per barrel in real terms and to calculate in arrears with effect from August 2003 and recover and pay immediately all outstanding statutory allocations due and payable to the states arising from the said adjustments.’
The group said given the above pronouncement, the Minister “cannot through the statement overrule the Supreme Court on a debt already recognised by the apex court and ordered to be recovered.”
According to the statement, “It is surprising that a junior minister in the same government will say that the federal government of Nigeria has embarked on wild goose chase and that it will be impossible to recover the debt now legitimately,” adding that Mr Sylva served a government official when the court ruled in favour of Nigeria only to turn around to say the debt could not be recovered.
“It is on record that Mr Timipre Sylva was Special Adviser to the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Edmund Daukoru, at a time when this debt arose in favour of the federal government and when he should have advised his boss at the material time to recover this debt from the oil companies but Mr Timipre Sylva neglected and shut his eyes against this obligation and against the economic interests and development of Nigeria,” it added.