GAIUS OBASEKI: OIL CABAL HAD ALLOCATIONS UP TO 2016
Former Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Chief Jackson Gaius-Obaseki, yesterday told the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee probing the activities of the corporation and its subsidiaries how he fought the cartel operating in the oil industry to a standstill when he came on board in 1999.
Although he neither denied nor admitted the theory of alleged connivance between the cartel and NNPC, Gaius-Obaseki, however, disclosed that he met an incredibly chaotic situation on ground wherein as at 1999, some companies involved in lifting fuel oil had allocations up to 2016.
Also, more revelations emerged at the sitting of the committee with NNPC facing fresh charges of conniving with the infamous oil cartel to keep the nation's four refineries perpetually in a state of coma.
Gaius-Obaseki was NNPC GMD under former President Olusegun Obasanjo regime from 1999 to 2003.
He told the committee that he was forced to cancel such bogus allocations when he discovered that the procedure for lifting the products for local industries and export lacked transparency.
The committee has, however, asked Gaius-Obaseki and Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dr. Rilwan Lukman, who was then the Special Adviser to former President Obasanjo on Petroleum Matters and alternate Chairman of NNPC board to appear before it within the next two weeks to explain more on this fuel oil racketeering and the role of NNPC in it.
Companies implicated under this charge included Ocean & Oil Limited, Noel Energy, Haske Enterprises as well as MRS Oil and Gas.
Nigeria was said to have lost N17 billion as a result of this trade malpractice. The four companies have been accused of profiteering from the export of fuel oil at a time, textile firms, confectionaries and cement companies were winding up across the country due to non-availability of fuel oil to power their production plants.
It emerged at the panel yesterday that the cartel's joker over the years was to prevent the refineries from producing at full capacity and at best function epileptically where they can produce more of the Low Pour Fuel Oil (LPFO) and High Pour Fuel Oil (HPFO), two rather unpopular but highly lucrative petroleum products, from which a privileged few have made huge profits.
None of the four refineries located in Kaduna, Warri and Port Harcourt is functional forcing the country which is the second largest exporter of crude oil in Africa to rely on fuel importation to meet domestic consumption.
This scenario provides avenues for the NNPC to export its own share of domestic crude and import refined products from overseas.
Also yesterday, the ad hoc committee rolled out another round of accusations against NNPC, alleging that the oil corporation in 2000 claimed to have imported 5.9 million metric tons of petrol but later inflated the volume to 7.3 million metric tonnes.
Hon. John Halims Agoda, who read the fresh charges, said by the alleged false inflation of figures in respect of imported fuel, NNPC and companies involved in the importation deal have ripped off the nation to the tune of $551 million in a single year.
The companies implicated in the importation deal namely Hyson, Sunray, Shell and Addax have been summoned to appear before the committee alongside NNPC at a latter date to explain the details of the transaction.
Similarly, NNPC was accused of arbitrarily granting approvals for the lifting of fuel oil (HPFO/LPFO) to a cartel which procures the products at the domestic rate under the guise of supplying to local industries but diverts the products to the export market where the products are sold at international market rates.