Friday, November 02, 2012

PENGASSAN Raises Doubts Over Nigerian Oil Probe

PENGASSAN Raises Doubts over Oil Probe Panel Reports

01 Nov 2012
By Chineme Okafor
Nigeria ThisDay

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) has expressed doubts over the authenticity of reports to be submitted to President Goodluck Jonathan by various committees and task forces set up by Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, to probe activities in the oil and gas industry.

National President of PENGASSAN, Mr. Babatunde Ogun, said yesterday in Abuja that he was sceptical about the authenticity about the reports in the wake of his claim that one of the task forces, the National Refineries Special Task Force, of which he is a member, was yet to conclude its assignment but has been invited to present a final report to the president Friday.

President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday had directed the ad hoc committees, including the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force, headed by former Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, to submit their reports to him Friday.

The committees were set up in the wake of the nationwide protests that trailed the deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry that led to the rise in the pump price of petrol from N65 to N141 per litre.

Ogun, who is a member of the 22-man task force headed by a former Minister of Finance, Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu, said he was called up to join members of the task force in presenting a final report despite the fact that the task force had not drafted its final findings and recommendations.

He told reporters at the third triennial delegates’ conference of the PENGASSAN branch of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) corporate headquarters that Kalu was oblivious of the new development as he has been out of the country and would not witness the presentation.

He added that the alternate chairman of the task force, Mallam Yusuf Alli, had been called up to present the report.

According to him, “I have not taken a full picture of what Ribadu has recommended but what I have discovered and I am surprised at is that government is denying what was written by the Ribadu committee.

“One of the challenges that I have as a member of the task force on refineries and I also read in the newspapers is that the report is ready. However, the report has not been concluded by the committee.

“So if that is the kind of thing that is happening in a committee that I serve, then I will be expecting some challenges with that of Ribadu and this simply tells us that whatever you get from there cannot be the true recommendations of those who are in the team.”

Giving some insight into the meetings and discussions that took place within the schedule of the task force, Ogun said: “We had about seven meetings in the task force for the refineries and from the last time we sat until now, nobody has ever called.

“But I was surprised to get a call this morning (Wednesday) summoning me to Abuja for the presentation of the report when we never even looked at the final part of it.

“The last time we deliberated, we asked that the findings and recommendations be drafted out for final input but they are now inviting us next tomorrow to present the report. I will never be part of that.

“I strongly believe that when the committee was being formed, another set of people were doing something different in the corner and so somebody cannot really vouch for whatever you read now coming out from that committee because you don’t know the source.

“But immediately we see it and it does not tally with what we recommended, I am going to write my own minority report because the fact remains that these committees were not formed to function.

“All the times we met, it has been frustrating for members of the committee. When you called for a meeting, they (government oil sector representatives) were never available and the logistics were never there.

“So it was a case of forming the committee for the sake of the anger that arose from the subsidy protests but the government never really wanted it. It was just seeking for measures to douse the tension from the protests.”

Asked if the taskforce ever worked as a team, he said there was no consensus in the committee because it did a report that was not concluded.

“I think the Ministry of Petroleum does not want the task force to perform effectively because as we talk now, the chairman of the committee, Kalu, is out of the country and they are saying that the alternate chairman will present the report.

“All they did in the wake of the subsidy crisis was to put credible people together but they know very well that they won’t do anything with the report,” Ogun added.

The task force was set up in February 2012 and had 60 working days to submit its report. It was mandated to, among other things, produce a diagnostic report on the operations, finances and efficiency of Nigeria’s four main refineries situated in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna.

They were also expected to review all licences issued for new refineries in Nigeria, assess their operational, technical, and financial readiness and design investment models with a road map to Nigeria’s self-sufficiency in local production of petroleum products.

Efforts to get NNPC to respond to Ogun’s claims were not successful as the Group General Manager, Public Affairs of the corporation, Mr. Fidel Pepple, could not be reached on the phone at the time of filing the report.

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