Sunday, October 28, 2012
Ribadu report: Sack, prosecute oil minister – Labour, SNG, others
by Fidelis Soriwei, Allwell Okpi and Leke Baiyewu
Labour groups and civil society organisations on Friday were up against the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, for her unwillingness to accept wholly the report submitted by the Mallam Nuhu Ribadu-led Task Force on Oil Revenue.
The minister had denigrated the report as just a “draft” which required inputs of government before becoming a public document.
Consequently, the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, Social-Economic Rights and Accountability Project and the United Action for Democracy called for her dismissal.
The Nigerian Labour Congress also said she must not be a judge in her own case, just as the Trade Union Congress led by Mr. Peter Esele, urged the Federal Government to prosecute those found culpable including the minister, if she was one of them.
The Federal Government had set up the panel early this year to recover oil revenues owed it by multi-national oil firms and to establish governance structures to guide operations in the oil sector, which had been crippled by corruption and brazen theft of public funds.
A report by Reuters, an online news portal, last Tuesday, had said a total of $183m (N28.73bn) in signature bonuses paid by oil companies to the federation was missing.
The report accused ministers of petroleum resources between 2008 and 2011 of handing out seven discretionary oil licences, while $183m in signature bonuses was missing from the deals.
The report further alleged that three of the oil licences were awarded since the current minister, Alison-Madueke, came into office in 2010.
It further revealed that three oil majors – Shell, Total and Eni – made bumper profits from cut-price gas, while oil ministers handed out licences at their own discretion.
While this was not illegal, the report, however, said the process did not follow best practice of using open bids.
The minister had acknowledged receiving the report in September.
Miffed by the minister’s action, the Executive Chairman, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, Mr. Debo Adeniran, on Friday called on her to voluntarily resign, or be sacked by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Adeniran said, “Given the position of Madueke in the sector, her inadequacies and her inability to give proper account of the amounts of oil explored, exported, imported and of monies spent and the revenue generated, there is a need for her to step aside to allow the investigation.
“The minister has proven herself to be incompetent by not being able to provide accurate data on activities in the sector during the post-subsidy removal crisis. The industry has recorded several irregularities under her.
“We have said Madueke does not have the moral standing to continue as the minister, she could not convincingly explain how about N1.7tn (subsidy) found its way out of the national coffers. We are awaiting her voluntary resignation or she should be sacked by the presidency.”
According to CACOL boss, the submission of the report through the ministry is an ambush, and a way of killing the report.
Similarly, the Executive Director, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, Mr. Adetokunbo Mumuni, told SUNDAY PUNCH that the Federal Government’s attitude to the Ribadu report was condemnable and spoke volumes.
He said, “It is worrisome that the government sets up committees and commissions of enquiry, only to dump their reports after damning discoveries have been made. We hope the Ribadu committee report is considered and its recommendations implemented.
“Those who set up the committee should have the political will to flush out the minister in charge and other indicted persons or organisations.”
The Deputy President, NLC, Promise Adewusi, also said, “We have not had the privilege of reading the full report to establish the culpability of any person. But we have always been against persons being judges in their own cases.
“Since the excerpts of the report as published allege that some of the shady deals took place under her supervision, we insist that she is the wrong person to set up a committee to review the Ribadu report as this is tantamount to being a judge in her own case.
“We call on the presidency and the legislature to take immediate steps to establish the veracity of the report and bring all culpable parties to book.
“Such impunity against the national treasury is a draw back on efforts to check corruption, if not tackled immediately and with tenacity of purpose.”
In the same vein, the Chairman of the United Action for Democracy, Mr. Jaye Gaskia, called for the immediate removal of the oil minister.
Gaskia said a government that was truly serious with the prosecution of the campaign against corruption would take the bold step to remove the minister of petroleum especially with the fraudulent management of the subsidy funds under the watch of the minister and the emerging revelations.
A total of 21 oil firms are being prosecuted for allegedly siphoning N328bn oil subsidy in 2011 under Allison-Madueke’s watch.
Gaskia said, “One of the things we have consistently done is the call for the sacking of the minister of petroleum, going by the discovery of the fuel subsidy fraud which happened under her watch.
“A regime that is serious with the fight against corruption would sack her immediately. My reasons are clear. She is not just minister of petroleum; she is the chairman of the board of the NNPC, and the corporation is deep in corruption.”
Esele, however, said sacking of the minister would not be the solution. Rather, he said, she and others should be prosecuted, if found culpable.
He said, “If the minister is culpable, she should be prosecuted and the law should be allowed to take its course.
“Any company that is involved in the corrupt practices, whether directly or indirectly, should be duly sanctioned and the personnel involved prosecuted. That way, the institution would be strengthened.
“Right from when we started the strike in January, we have been more interested in strengthening the institutions and not necessarily sacking anybody. It would be unfortunate if these reports are swept under the carpet.”
The Save Nigeria Group was however of the opinion that nothing good would come out of the probe, just like previous probes in the country.
The Publicity Secretary, SNG, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, told one of our correspondents that, “Ribadu must be naive to think that this probe would achieve anything. Has he forgotten that he indicted many top politicians in 2007, when he was the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, and they are still free men?”
The convener of the SNG, Tunde Bakare, also said the Ribadu report showed that “these are not the best of times for Nigeria.”
“The motto of Jonathan’s administration is ‘see nothing, hear nothing and say nothing’ regarding good governance and the aspirations of majority of Nigerians except those of the crew and the cheer.”
Reuters, citing the Ribadu report, had alleged that international oil traders sometimes buy crude without any formal contracts, adding that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation had short-changed the Nigerian treasury of billions over the last 10 years by selling crude oil and gas to itself below market rates.
But Allison-Madueke had denied this to the news agency, saying, “NNPC buys at international rates.” She also denied awarding licences.
“I have not given any discretionary awards during this administration,” Alison-Madueke told Reuters.
While she said the President had the right to do so, instead of using bids if he saw it fit, she added, “That is entirely up to him.”
Also, while the report seen by Reuters was labelled ‘Final Report,’ Alison-Madueke had told the news agency she received the report last month but that it was a draft and the government was still supposed to make input.
“It is a draft. There will be some areas where the government may have a slightly different opinion and will put its point of view to the committee,” she said.
President Goodluck Jonathan had on February 7, 2012, inaugurated a 21-member task force to probe and collect revenues accruable to the country from both the upstream and downstream sectors of the oil and gas industry in the wake of the oil subsidy removal crisis in January.
A statement announcing Ribadu’s appointment issued by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Mr. Goni Sheikh, had said the setting up of the task force was consistent with Jonathan’s promise to clean the oil industry of corruption in line with the yearnings of the people.