Posted by News Express | 10 December 2015 | 2,579 times
“…If there is crisis in any state of the federation and there is need to mobilise resources for security agencies, the next thing you hear from whoever is the President of Nigeria is ‘call me the GMD’. If a leader of one of the ECOWAS countries visited and was genuflecting before our president about how rough things were for his country (and may be later behind closed doors, for himself), the instant instruction would be, ‘call me the GMD’…”
The foregoing is taken from my column, “Sanusi’s Letter, Jonathan’s Burden”, was published on this page on 9th January last year and it situates the challenge of transparency and accountability in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector. The intervention becomes even more relevant today against the background that the $2.1 billion “security money” which is currently a subject of investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was actually withdrawn from the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) accounts.
Having devoted so much attention on this page to the management of our oil and gas assets in the past 12 years, nothing for me illustrates a lack of seriousness on the part of those we call our leaders than the fact that the Senate, which has been unable to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) for almost a decade now, is on the verge of passing a self-serving “anti-saharareporters” bill. The speed with which this frivolous bill, aimed at circumscribing the social media, passed first and second readings reveals very clearly that our lawmakers can indeed be diligent when their personal interest is involved.
However, to the extent that there have been several missed opportunities to reform the oil and gas sector, which is neither fulfilling its potentials nor serving the people, we must commend President Muhammadu Buhari for showing signs that he means business: First, by bringing some people to account for the infractions of the recent past and second, for the reported moves towards new legislations that will guide operations in the sector. The only hope is that our lawmakers would show sufficient interest in the bill and work towards its passage with as much passion and commitment as they are pursuing the futile bid to fight the social media.
According to a report in Reuters on Monday, the Federal Government has concluded plans to replace the PIB with the “Petroleum Industry Governance and Institutional Framework Bill 2015”, which aims to create “commercially oriented and profit driven petroleum entities” by repealing the act that created NNPC and splitting the corporation into two: the Nigeria Petroleum Assets Management (NPAM) and a National Oil Company (NOC).
However, while the report states that “one can sense more strategic thinking behind it (the bill) than in past drafts”, it added that “some noticeably problematic amendments are absent from this bill.” The report also attributes this to Aaron Sayne, a US lawyer who focuses on the Nigerian oil sector: “The bill leaves open lots of questions around what roles the new national oil companies will play in the sector, and how they will receive and manage money.”
That the oil and gas sector is in dire need of fundamental reforms is no longer in doubt and one would wager that all factors considered, the Buhari administration really doesn’t have much choice on the issue. The question, however, remains: how far will it go? I hope the administration goes far enough to rid the sector of the all-pervasive rent culture, and that includes doing away with the corrupt, wasteful and inefficient regime of subsidy in the downstream operations.
While the proposed bill is no doubt a positive move for which, I hasten to add again, President Buhari must be commended, I will also urge that it should be weaned of all the things that have combined to turn both the upstream and downstream operations of our oil and gas sector into no more than an ATM machine for people in political authority. If that is not done, then there may be no real change in the sector. I enjoin readers to go back to my piece of January last year.
•This piece by Adeniyi (shown in photo) originally appeared in his column “The Verdict” in today’s edition of ThisDay. Adeniyi can be reached via email@example.com
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