ROT IN NNPC: WHAT THE PRESIDENCY DOES NOT WANT TO HEAR? By: Ifeanyi Izeze
The recent 12-member committee set up by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, to enthrone according to her, “transparency and sanitize activities in the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)” could best be described for what it was- a step in deceit.
If Mrs Madueke expected applause for the vote of no confidence on the NNPC, obviously she is not going to get it because she failed to properly situate the NNPC's handicap or rather the cause of the massive rot which to a great extent was not the fault of the top management of the corporation though they cannot completely extricate themselves because without their collaboration it couldn't have been possible for the apex oil concern to sink to such a low.
Whatever Madueke's committee designs as new corporate governance code for ensuring full transparency, good governance and global best practices in the NNPC and other parastatals is not going to work until the root-cause of the problem is addressed.
Blanket condemnation of the NNPC as a fraud haven may not be enough in our genuine quest to unravel the demon that has continued to hold the corporation moribund.
Every concerned Nigerian should bother to ask where and how the NNPC gets the funds to run its operations including the joint venture obligations.
Does the Corporation really have anything like budget in the strict sense of the term? So when the National Assembly roared like a lion seeking to devour the NNPC over its alleged refusal to present its annual budget, the intimidation never worked. For the simple reason that NNPC has no budget in the strict sense of it outside what it agrees with the Presidency or rather what's given to it to run its operations.
The lawmakers know that the only place the NNPC reports to till tomorrow is the Presidency. This arrangement is not in any way a Jonathan- making. The present administration met it that way and keyed-in because it's in its favour. Why has the National Assembly not taken any serious initiative to free the NNPC from the strangulating grip of the Presidency? The answer is equally simple: Na the same people!
It was pathetic how Austin Oniwon and his management team were so harassed in the last few months by all kinds of National Assembly probe committees to the extent that the NNPC people lost composure and confidence in themselves and were acting like child witches in front of cameras juggling facts and figures in manners reminiscent of village primary one pupils.
No doubt that since the NNPC was established in 1977 to oversee the management and operation of the nation's oil industry, the Corporation had not only failed to establish itself as an active oil company in business to make profit, it has also failed in establishing administrative structures that is free from government manipulations especially the Presidency.
However, any performance assessment of the NNPC would be outrightly biased and grossly incomplete if it does not take due consideration of the negative effects of the undue Presidency's interference on the activities of the corporation.
Whether the Government wants to hear this or not, it must be said that the Presidency's unholy interference in the operations of the NNPC, especially in money matters, has remained the sole cause of the rot in the system and this has caused terrible harm and made the corporation lose its credibility both at home and abroad.
There is no amount of unbundling that would make NNPC or its strategic business units graft-free if the corporation continues to take direct instructions from the Presidency or even any other government agency that is not schooled in the highly technical oil and gas exploration and production business even the downstream aspect of its operations.
Under the pretence of correcting the alleged “widespread fraud and corruption in the NNPC,” the Obasanjo government short-circuited all existing platforms for decent business transactions in the corporation and technically ran the nation's apex oil concern aground. Truth be told, the pathetic state of the NNPC today is a showcase of the Obasanjo's legacy in the oil industry. The Obasanjo Presidency took this unholy meddling in the affairs and especially the accounts of the NNPC to a criminal height throughout its eight-year stay in office.
The Yar'adua's administration modified the milking strategy and even introduced new dimensions especially when the late president became incapacitated. All sorts of miscreants including housewives and adult almajiris were dishing orders for money and funny contracts from the NNPC group managing director to the extent that it looked as if the GMD reported directly to the wife of the late president and the cabal around her.
Now also, the Jonathan Presidency is not behaving better.
It may even be apt to conclude that the Jonathan Presidency is even doing more terrible things than the two previous administrations in terms of meddling with NNPC and oil money as the language of the rot in the corporation which was originally Yoruba has now been translated from Hausa to Izon.
The National Assembly knows where the problems of the corporation are coming from and should frontally confront the “big masquerade if it's serious at sanitizing the NNPC. It was actually surprising that neither the NNPC officials nor any other person that appeared before the two National Assembly probe committees mentioned anything about the Presidency's and the PDP's involvement in the money mess hanging on the corporation.
Why should the administrators of the NNPC not be challenged to institute an independent audit of its finances and come up with a strong case to prove that the problems of the corporation had always been extraneous.
Whether the Group Managing Director likes it or not, if he does not pioneer this self audit, any probe instituted by the National Assembly, would continue forever to indict the NNPC management for massive corruption and unbalanced accounting for oil and gas proceeds.