The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC urges the Federal Government to act decisively in the ongoing rift between the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). This is to restore confidence in the Government and the fight against corruption.
We note with grave concern, allegations leveled against the GMD that he circumvented the procurement process in the award of series of contracts involving a humongous sum of up to $25 billion or N9 trillion (at prevailing exchange rate of N360 to a dollar). If proven, this will amount to a major setback in the fight against corruption and the promotion of transparency and accountability in governance which is, supposedly, the major thrust of this administration.
CISLAC finds it worrisome that such abuse of due process could have gone on without restraint under an administration that promised change and a different way of conducting government business. The abuse in the award of contracts in sums exceeding the annual budget of the nation represents a scandalous all-time low in a sector that is notorious for monumental corruption.
It is embarrassing that despite documented commitments, such as is contained in the Seven (7) Big Wins, the National Oil Policy and the Open Government Partnership National Action Plan relating to open contracting, information disclosures in the extractive sector, as well as, open, competitive licensing and bidding processes in line with the Public Procurement Act, such allegations could have reared its head again.
CISLAC notes that this is an indication of failure in the exercise of effective supervision and oversight by relevant agencies and institutions. The National Assembly has obviously failed in her oversight responsibility and the characteristic setting up of a committee to investigate is reminiscent of the knee-jerk approach demonstrated by the legislature in the past that yielded no results.
We also consider the manner in which the Minister of State, as Chairman of the NNPC Board, has gone about the matter as a belated response that smacks of inefficiency and poor performance of supervisory functions by allowing the figures to pile up so much before reacting and then resorting to whistle-blowing to the President.
CISLAC states categorically that such actions have continued because this government has failed to establish clear-cut regulatory and legal frameworks that were promised while campaigning for office. Specifically, she has failed to inaugurate the National Council on Procurement and enact the Petroleum Industry Law after almost three years in office. The degeneration of the rift to seemingly personalized tones would have been avoided had the NNPC being unbundled as envisaged in the evasive legislation, rather than the superficial restructuring so far carried out in the Corporation.
We observe that the spate of inter and intra-ministerial discord that the allegation of insubordination suggests, has been rampant under this government and is an indication of the absence of a firm, decisive and resolute presidency and this has undermined governance.
We, therefore, call on the President, who doubles as the substantive minister for petroleum, to act decisively and resolve this rift. He should, as a matter of urgency, ensure a prompt and thorough investigation into the allegations and ensure that this is conclusive and pursued to its logical conclusion with consequences, where necessary. He should also assert his authority as the head of the executive arm and enforce strict compliance with laid down procedures in all ministries, departments, and agencies. He should constitute the National Council on Procurement without further delay.
CISLAC calls on the relevant Committees of the NASS to be more proactive in the exercise of her oversight responsibility for the processes and agencies in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, so as to prevent the recurrences of such abuses. The investigative committee set up by the Senate must be prompt and thorough in her work and make her findings public devoid of the sensationalism and melodrama associated with similar previous exercises. They should expedite action in the passage of all outstanding components of the Petroleum Industry Bill into law. These are necessary to restore citizens’ confidence in the government and the much-touted fight against corruption.
We call on civil society, the media and all well-meaning Nigerians to maintain close vigilance on the oil and gas sector at all times and especially as we approach the election season from 2018. We must remain steadfast in advocacy for the establishment of frameworks that will strengthen the institutional and governance frameworks and strict compliance with extant laws and regulations.
CISLAC remains committed to monitoring the government to ensure that she fulfils her promises to the citizens of our great country.
Auwal Ibrahim Musa