Abdulsalami Abubakar Speaks On Need To Sustain Peace

AbubakarChairman of the 2015 Elections Peace Committee, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, says he has a responsibility to ensure that the peace Nigeria got following the presidential elections is sustained especially in those states where elections have been declared inconclusive.

General Abubakar, who spoke in the Presidential Villa after meeting with the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, said that he was grateful to President Goodluck Jonathan and the President-elect Muhammadu Buhari, for their statesmanship and toning down of the celebrations following the elections.

He also described as mischievous, stories making the rounds that he has been interacting with the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Deziani Allison-Madueke.

He said that he has been meeting with many of the ministers and other people and there was nothing strange.

NNPC Vs House Of Reps: Court Orders House To Correct Impression

house_of_repsA Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has asked the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts to address a news conference to correct the erroneous impression that the court issued an order restraining the House from investigating the Minister of Petroleum Resources and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.

At the resumed hearing of the suit, lawyer to the plaintiffs, Mr Etigwe Uwa, berated the actions of the House of Representatives for stalling the hearing of the suit challenging the constitutionality of the House of Representatives’ summon to the Minister of Petroleum Resources and some parastatals under the ministry.

Lawyer to the House of Representatives, Abubakar Mahmoud, however, apologised to the court for the misrepresentation of facts by his client, saying that it was not done intentionally.

Efforts by the plaintiff’s counsel to move his application for an order restraining the House of Representatives from investigating the Minister of Petroleum Resources was turned down by the court as Justice Ahmed Mohammed promised an accelerated hearing of the suit.

Justice Ahmed Mohammed, after listening to all the parties adjourned the hearing of the suit to June 19 and ordered that all processes must be served before the date.

The House of Representatives Committee on Public Account had on Thursday, May 22, issued fresh summons to the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Deziani Allison-Madueke, to appear before it over the alleged expenses of 10billion Naira on private jets.

Also summoned were the Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Andrew Yakubu; Managing Director, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Engr. Saleh Dunoma; the Managing Director of Pipeline and Petroleum Products Marketing Company, PPPMC, Mr Haruna Momoh; Vistajet International Limited and other stakeholders.

Chartered Private Jets: Reps Give Diezani, Others One Week To Reply Query

The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke
The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke

The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison Madueke, Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Mr. Andrew Yakubu, VistaJet International, Evergreen Aviation Terminal, operators of private Jets and the Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria, FAAN have been written by the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts.

The letters dated March 26 and signed by the Chairman of the committee, Samuel Adeola, signifies the heightened preparations for the probe of the chartered private jets which is said to be costing the country billions of Naira.

The Minister is expected to tender a written submission within one week of “all she knows about the transactions, and if as a Minister she is entitled to such chartered private jets for private use, and whether or not she has not breached public service rules, as well as who is responsible for the bills.”

Other necessary information that would aid the Committee in the investigation is also to be forwarded by the Minister.

On its part, the GMD NNPC is to forward in written form to the lawmakers “all information relating to the deal from 2011 till date, the level of involvement of the Corporation, the contractual agreement between the Corporation and the operators of the private jets and its financial commitment to it since 2011 till date among others,” a source close to the committee said.

The Committee is requesting from the private jets operators “the contract agreements between them and the NNPC from 2011 till date, all the flight schedules, the passengers’ manifests from 2011 till date and the amount of money paid to them during the period under review,” the source added.

The probe into the controversial operation of chartered private jets for private use for local and foreign trips by Mrs Diezeani Alison-Madueke was sequel to a motion brought before the House on the matter by a member, Samuel Adejare (APC, Lagos).

One of the aspects that the Reps Committee is interested in getting answers to is why there was no valid contract agreement between the NNPC/Petroleum Resources Ministry and the Private Jets operators for the lease of the 850 challenger Aircraft which was allegedly extensively used by the Minister.

The tendering of memoranda by stakeholders would be followed by the adoption of a date for the public hearing on the matter, in line with the resolution of the House, it was learnt on Wednesday.

Several new flight schedules operated on foreign trips by the Minister between 2012 and 2013 has also been uncovered by the Public Accounts committee.

The new discovery, involving Global Express XRS with tail number S5-GMG and tail number OE-LGX,OE-LSS and OE-INA allegedly cost $300,000 (about N50m) per trip, way above an estimated cost of N7.5million for the same trip.

A December 21, 2012 trip from the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja to the United Kingdom with the Global Express XRS with the tail number: OE-LGX gulped N57.5million as against an estimated N6million, it was also alleged.

Petroleum Minister’s Probe: National Assembly Is Equally Corrupt – Nwankwo

Richard NwankwoA representative of the Crusade for Justice, Richard Nwankwo, believes that the reports of corruption in the Nigerian oil sector and the abuse of funds levelled against the Petroleum Minister are products of corruption in the entire Nigerian system.

Speaking on Channels Television, he said that there was a bazaar going on in Abuja, as “there have been several instances of massive corruption.”

The House of Representatives had mandated its committee on public accounts, to probe the alleged reckless spending of over N10 billion by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Deziani Allison-Madueke for air charter services, and Mr Nwankwo refused to take them serious.

He said that the National Assembly itself lacked the moral justification to investigate corruption when they are also corrupt. He cited the $620, 000 bribery scandal still hanging on the neck of a member of the House of Representatives, Farouk Lawan, as one of those that disqualifies the National Assembly from investigating the NNPC or the alleged abuse of funds by Mrs Allison-Madueke.

When reminded that some of the cases involving the lawmakers were still in court, the legal practitioner said that this was no guarantee that the House was seeking true justice, considering how long the cases have been lingering without signs of being close to its conclusion.

He expressed belief that if indeed Nigeria wishes to truly fight corruption; all corruption cases must be tried on a day-today basis and brought to conclusion without the usual unjustifiable delays. He feared that all those cases in court, involving lawmakers would not be concluded before the election and they would be forgotten.

“There are a lot of latter day born again activists in the National Assembly”, he said, adding that but none of them has ever come out to tell Nigerians how much they were earning, let alone admit that these monies were too much, despite complaints that they were consuming too much of the country’s resources.

Nwankwo advised that Nigerians cannot afford to look at agencies like the NNPC or the Petroleum Ministry in isolation. He insisted that there is an existing culture of corruption, explaining that the system has a structure of how they do things which has been customary in the mentality of the people within the system.

He said that the system of operation within the NNPC has been the same way for decades, as it has become their in-house style, and to fight it, there has to be a strong political will.

He said, “If you are operating within the confines of these institutions, you must be above board” and once the National Assembly is guilty of some of the corruption allegations against the Minister and the NNPC, they cannot tackle the issue.

The National Assembly was said to have acknowledged that the NNPC has a right to use a private aircraft, and Nwankwo would not oppose this, but he said that allegations of ‘Waste of Resources on the Arbitrary Charter and Maintenance of a Challenger 850 Aircraft for Non-Official Use’ against the Minister of Petroleum are indeed cases of corruption, which should be taken up.

He noted, “A leader must be forensic and result minded.”

 

Nigeria lost N28.73 billion in oil cut prices- Ribadu committee

A total of $183m (N28.73bn) in signature bonuses paid by oil companies to the federation is missing, according to a confidential report seen by Reuters.

A team headed by the former Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, produced the 146-page study based on the Ministry of Petroleum Resources’ request. It covers the year 2002 to 2012.

The report said that Ministers of Petroleum Resources between 2008 and 2011 handed out seven discretionary oil licences, but that $183m in signature bonuses was missing from the deals.

Three of the oil licences were awarded since the current minister, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, took up her position in 2010, according to the report.

“I have not given any discretionary awards during this administration,” Alison-Madueke told Reuters, although she added that the President had the right to do so instead of using bids if he saw fit.

“That is entirely up to him,” she said.

Alison-Madueke, told Reuters on Tuesday that she received the report last month but that it was a draft and the government was still supposed to give input.

The one seen by Reuters was labelled “Final Report.”

The report concluded that oil majors, Shell, Total and Eni, made bumper profits from cut-price gas, while oil ministers handed out licences at their own discretion. This, while not illegal, did not follow best practice of using open bids.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in signature bonuses on those deals were also missing, it said.

“We have not seen this report and are, therefore, unable to comment on the content, but we will study it if and when it is published,” a Shell spokesman said.

The report alleges international oil traders sometimes buy crude without any formal contracts, and the state oil firm, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, had short-changed the Nigerian treasury billions over the last 10 years by selling crude oil and gas to itself below market rates.

There was no suggestion that the oil majors or traders had done anything illegal, but the report highlighted a lack of transparency in their dealings in a nation rife with graft.

“It is a draft,” Alison-Madueke said. “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 she expected the final report to be with President Goodluck Jonathan within two weeks.

Ribadu’s probe was among several set up following a week of nationwide strikes against a rise in fuel prices in January, which morphed into a campaign against oil corruption.

Billions of dollars of revenue was missing in unpaid debts from signature bonuses and royalties, the report found.

Nigeria LNG, a company jointly owned by the NNPC, Shell, Total and Eni, had paid the country for gas at cut-down prices before exporting it to international markets, the report said.

Total and Eni declined to comment because they invest in but do not operate Nigeria LNG, the role played by Shell.

“The estimated cumulative of the deficit between value obtainable on the international market and what is currently being obtained from NLNG, over the 10-year period, amounts to approximately $29bn,” the report said.

It also said foreign oil firms had outstanding debts.

Addax, now a unit of China’s state-owned Sinopec, owes Nigeria $1.5bn in unpaid royalties, part of a $3bn black hole of unpaid bonuses and royalties owed by oil firms.

Addax did not respond to requests for comment, but the report noted it disputed owing the signature bonuses.

Shell owes the Federal Government N137.57bn for gas sold from its Bonga deep offshore field, the report said, while oil majors owed $58m between them for gas flaring penalties. They were also not adhering to newer higher fines.

The probe also said Nigeria was the only nation to sell all its crude through international oil traders rather than directly to refineries, adding that such trades were often opaque.

It said some international oil traders who were not “on the approved master list of customers” had been sold crude oil “without a formal contract” so little could be obtained about the details of these deals, which could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

“This logically will serve to reduce margins obtainable on sale of crude oil,” the report said.

But Alison-Madueke disputed this, saying there were no informal contracts and there was “an official tender put out every year,” which could be seen by the public in newspapers.

The state oil firm gets an allocation of 445,000 barrels per day of crude oil to refine locally, but it has been selling itself this oil at cut-down prices, a practice which cost Nigeria $5bn in potential revenue between 2002 and 2011, the report said.

“NNPC buys at international rates,” Alison-Madueke retorted.

The report said the NNPC made N86.6bn over the 10-year period by using overly generous exchange rates in its declarations to the government. There was no sign of the money.

Among the report’s recommendations were that parts of NNPC be reorganised or scrapped, an independent review of the use of traders be set up and a transparency law be passed requiring oil companies to disclose all payments made to Nigeria.

United States regulators put new rules in place in August that will require US-listed oil and gas companies to disclose payments they make to foreign governments like Nigeria.

 

Petroleum Industry Bill: FEC approves bill, sends to NASS

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) for onward transmission to the National Assembly.

Briefing State House correspondents at the end of its weekly council meeting, the minister of petroleum resources, Mrs. Deziani Allison-Madueke said the new PIB which will ensure the independence of the regulators in the oil and gas sector as well as unbundle the NNPC, will yield high return on investments for Nigerians.

“The new PIB is going to make the oil industry more competitive and accountable. It proposes revolutionary changes in the industry,” said the minister

She said that the fiscal frameworks which delayed the bill in the past have been reworked and that when passed by the National Assembly, the country will remain an interesting investment destination for oil and gas investors.

FEC also directed the ministers of agriculture and finance to reduce the import duty rate for cassava enhancing enzymes from 10 to 0 percent as well as come up with a development fund that will support the value chain in the production of bread in an effort to promote cassava farming in the country as well as reduce the country’s dependency on importation of wheat.

Budget Office of the ministry of finance will manage the fund meant for small scale millers who may need additional support.

 

NLC demands report on probe of fuel subsidy

 

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has alleged that there are ongoing moves to ‘instigate a major cover up” for the House of Representative probe on fuel subsidy and has demanded an urgent release of the probe’s report.

This was stated in a press release signed by the President of the labour group, Abdulwahed Ibrahim Omar, where he claimed that there are “insinuations that unprecedented pressure has been mounted on the legislature from various quarters to jettison the report.”

The House of Representatives committee on the downstream sector was set-up an ad-hoc committee to probe the increase in the payment of fuel from N600billion in 2010 to N1.2trillion in 2011.

The committee swung into action for 10 weeks on the probe following wide spread protest and industrial action following the removal of oil subsidy in January.

The probe invited every major oil companies, oil importer and marketer that have benefited from the oil subsidy as well as government agencies and departments involved in the downstream sector. A host of revelations were made during the probe which was broadcasted live by Channels Television.

According to the NLC, some interests groups, such as oil marketers, speculators and briefcase businessmen who will lose out on cheap money and government officials who have been feeding fat on contrived leakages in the oil industry, stand indicted and might face sanctions based on assessment of their submissions during the probe.

The NLC worries that “these pressures might overwhelm the report of the probe or if released might not be implemented by the executive.”

Ribadu’s distraction

It also noted that the rush by the Minister of Petroleum, Mrs Deziani Allison-Madueke, to set up series of committees and task forces to probe the oil industry, is “tantamount to medicine after death.”

Referring to the appointment of former anti-corruption czar, Nuhu Ribadu, as the Chairman of the taskforce, Labour noted that despite the caliber of people that constitute the task-force, “it might also be a distraction and a ploy to pre-empt the report by the legislature and instigate a major cover up.”

Citing examples of similar rigorous probe into some critical sectors of the economy, but  such probe’s report were jettisoned; the labour group warned that Nigerians will not tolerate such this time around, adding that “investigations into the oil subsidy removal was a product of a recent national strike and mass protest by workers and the Nigerian people.”

“Thus, the probe report by the National Assembly will not be allowed to be so treated as the power probe or other probe reports of its kind” the statement said emphatically.

It commended the House of Representative on its stand on the report of the probe on privatization of public enterprises, and called on the Chairperson of the House Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), Farouk Lawan, to make true his claim that “there would be no sacred cows.”

“We are watching!” the labour leader concluded the message.