By Felix Ayanruoh

The Mallam Nuhu Ribadu’s headed Petroleum Revenue Special Task-force set up by the Honourable Minister for Petroleum Resources was soporific to the urgent crisis bedeviling the Petroleum Industry. The Minister, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, while setting up the task-force, stated that the move was “designed to enhance probity and accountability in the operations of the petroleum industry.”

Several audits and reforms spanning the period 1999 till date have been conducted in the petroleum industry. Corruption was and is still a major factor in the cycle of failure, inefficiencies and capacity shortages plaguing the industry. At every stage of the petroleum industry reform process a constant theme is the issue of corruption.

Apparently, the leadership and the very institutions charged with policy implementation have collectively failed to recognize – or just as likely, abdicated responsibility for – this endemic and corrosive social problem.

The Mallam Nuhu Ribadu’s headed Petroleum Revenue Special Task-Force should be highly commended for completing its assignment timely. Since the Minister of Petroleum Resources main objective of setting up the committee is to fight graft in the industry, my advice to the Jonathan administration is to allow the report to see the light of day.

President Goodluck Jonathan in receiving the report stated, among others things that his government will surely use the report. He went on to state that since the oil and gas industry is an international industry, players should endeavour to do a little more than what others are doing. He stressed the need for a robust method of operation in terms of relationships with potential investors.

In light of the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and the United Kingdom Bribery Act (2010), the proposed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) before the National Assembly, if passed, will not achieve its main objectives of attracting foreign investment if the issue of corruption and transparency is swept under the rug.

In covering bribery between businesses, the UK’s legislation goes further than the Foreign Corrupt Practice Act in the US, which makes it illegal for companies to give foreign officials improper payments. The UK Act, which became effective on July 2011, is regarded to the most exacting anti-graft legislation in the world. The implication of these laws implication on the oil and gas sectors are compelling and wide ranging.

The nature of the petroleum industry makes it a natural focus for enforcement authorities from developed economies. Holistic analysis from energy experts and anti-graft agencies has concluded that oil and gas resources are often located in countries with high propensity of corruption. For example Nigeria was among the countries that scored less than 2.9 on Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index in 2010.

When it comes to implementations of committee reports, I think our nation needs social and economic re-engineering. There have been reports since independence that are still unattended to or sabotaged by some in government. For there to be meaningful reform in the petroleum industry – private investment from international capital market, the government should implement the recommendations of the committee.