By Bashir Adefaka
The Muhamadu Buhari-led administration, recently, hinted of its plan to establish an inter-ministerial committee, which, according to him, would speed up the re-organisation and reformation of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). The President, speaking on this at a meeting with a visiting Chief Executive Officer of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Jin-Yong Cai, in Abuja, said the planned joint committee had become imperative because, according to the Daura-born Nigerian leader, reforming the NNPC had become inevitable in view of the corruption and abuse of its present structure in the recent past.
President Muhammadu Buhari
The fresh idea that Mr. President had hinted about, beyond the forum where he made the hint, has been described as quite a welcome development in the quest to change the way of doing things within the Nigerian system. Stakeholders, however, observed it would be of greater value if the President could, among other things, cause the planned committee to look inward to relevant efforts that had been made in the past with respect to NNPC re-organisation and reformation to save cost and time.
President Muhammadu Buhari idea, generally believed to be laudable, is said to be coming at a good time considering the fact that a member of the civil society, Comrade Gabby Adeagbo, had expressed disappointment in his piece published in Vanguard of May 6, 2015 before the President’s inauguration that the out-going government of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan at that time had consistently failed to listen to voices of reason regarding how to rescue the Nigerian oil sector from collapse.
Adeagbo, a former Federal servant, was not alone in it. Former President of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Peter Esele, had also, earlier before Adeagbo, urged the the then incoming President Buhari to reform NNPC in 100 days “or be sucked in.” Also, in a piece by Tolu Ogunlesi, published in Punch of Monday May 4, 2015, the same issue was discussed to which Adeagbo reacted in his piece published in Vanguard two days after.
What Adeagbo was simply telling in his reaction at that pre-Buhari administration era was that there had been several attempts in the past to look into the operations and management of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, in order to put it back in good operational and management order. The General Abisoye’s Report on NNPC Inquiry highlighted a good number of factors responsible for the corporation’s inability to perform its roles to the nation. The General Tajudeen Olanrewaju Review Committee that x-rayed the Abisoye’s Panel Report clearly came up, in its white paper, with recommendations for government to implement. Whatever these two reports are saying, they should be dusted and be looked into. What is important is that NNPC is overdue, truly as observed by Mr. President, for a thorough unbundling exercise with a view to making all its business units stand and operate independently.
General Buhari is required to call for all the Abisoye’s and Olanrewaju’s Reports and act swiftly on their recommendations, this time, as a way of helping the new inter-ministerial committee he plans to set up on the NNPC re-organisation and reformation achieve its set goals without much ado.
The government, Adeagbo said, should look into NNPC’s books covering a period of 10 years and ensure that there should be no sacred cows and that probing of records and punishment should apply.
During Abacha regime, investigations revealed, there was no subsidy and there were no scarcity of petroleum products. What the public experienced during that time was only politically motivated strikes. That was a time when crude oil for refined oil transaction was at par without subsidy payment to anybody. With one that had no subsidy payment, the government and its agencies were involved in the importation and distribution of fuel at that time. Their system was that they would send crude and have refined and by-products in return.
Unbundling of NNPC
“Even as of that time of Abacha, it was the role of the government and its agencies in providing adequate supply of fuel that led to setting up of the General Abisoye’s Panel of Inquiry on NNPC which the General Tajudeen Olanrewaju’s Review Committee was later set up to look into working out the modalities for the unbundling of NNPC and its subsidiaries and make recommendations for implementations.
“The benefits of recommendations of these two reports cannot be overstretched because oil, which is the cash-cow of our economy, was safe or protected in the hands of the government. So, there was no room for payment of subsidy. Those who took up the role hitherto played by the government, therefore, who are the marketers, engaged in the importation of fuel and went away with or pocketed the profit they made without re-investing it into our oil sector especially in the areas of repairs or privatisation of oil refineries as emphasised by Reports of the panels led by the two Generals, who are still very much around. It is not too late for the General Muhammadu Buhari’s incoming government to look into getting the 140 subsidy takers, who are involved in the importation of this product, to re-invest the profit they make into our oil sector and not take it away,” said Adeagbo.
The Generals, Abisoye and Olarewaju, who worked on this singular issue at that time are still very much alive and on ground. The inter-ministerial committee will be greatly helped in terms of less of time and spending if the Presidency could call those Generals, who already did what the President is now planning to do and achieve with it by, sit down with them, rub minds and share ideas with them as to what they did, how they did it, what the government’s destination of choice was at that time and bring that side-by-side with what they government of the day intends to achieve and move on from there.