Since the setting up of the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force headed by former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, there has been some form of politically orchestrated insinuations casting aspersion on the sincerity and integrity of government’s intention both in the setting up of the committee, the process of submission of the report and government’s political will to implement its findings and recommendations.
It is being insinuated that certain individuals have been planted in the committee to either scuttle it or programmed to discredit it. Yet others have wondered about the political will of Mr. President to implement the findings and recommendations of the report.
Inspite of this development, we feel constrained to be engage in this ongoing debate so as not to re-enforce the erroneous impression that the government wants to shoot down the report.
However, it has become imperative in the overall interest of this nation to set the records straight. This is the first time in the history of this nation that a sitting President will initiate a major investigation into the intransigent challenges of our oil and gas industry. From the outset, it was clear that the President had nothing to hide. This is evidenced by his bold action of appointing major opposition members like Mallam Ribadu and a former Attorney General of an Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) controlled state and other distinguished Nigerians. After a painstaking research we make bold to say that President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan attribute of running an inclusive government, as evinced by the composition of this committee, is unparalleled in the political annals of this country.
It is necessary to also make it clear that this report is not about the President Jonathan administration in the main since its mandate is for a period of ten years from 2002-2012 of which Jonathan’s tenure covers a period of two years. Therefore, this administration cannot be held liable for whatever transpired during the period of the other administrations under review.
The commitment of President Goodluck Jonathan in ordering a thorough investigation of the petroleum sector is genuine and cannot be faulted. Unfortunately, the entire report is being overtly politicized and there is obvious attempt in certain quarters to the disparage the genuine effort of Mr. President to bring sanity and cleanse the Nigerian oil sector once and for all.
There is a major public disinformation deliberately calculated to overheat the polity and cause disaffection and opprobrium against the President for doing what is right, what is needful and profitable to the nation.
We are aware that Mallam Nuhu Ribadu to a certain extent advertently or inadvertently but definitely unfortunately, has encouraged this negativism by his actions and statements. For instance on his page Facebook page a while ago, Mallam Ribadu remarked that he resisted overtures to make him compromise the report and rather than compromising the report, he stayed on the side of the Nigerian people. His claim of an overture to him to compromise the report is perfidious and false. We respectfully enjoin Mallam Ribadu to be patriotic enough to name the proponents of this comprise. If Ribadu claims that by serving on the committee claims to be on the side of the Nigerian people, on whose side is President Jonathan whose idea it was in the first place to set up the Task Force and approved the appointment of Mallam Ribadu as chairman of the committee.
Every indication points out clearly that President Jonathan is a caring leader with a high sense of commitment to the welfare and well being of the citizens of Nigeria. He has been commended nationally and worldwide for his prompt and effective intervention to the plight of millions of Nigerians affected by the recent national flooding. We can therefore say unequivocally that his standing with the Nigerian people is not in any way in doubt.
A cursory look at the report mischievously leaked to Reuters and other international news media and the one submitted on November 2, 2012 to President Jonathan shows some discrepancies. In the covering letter submitted to the President and signed by Mallam Ribadu as chairman and Olasupo Shasore as secretary. The first paragraph:
“We have the pleasure of reporting the conclusion of the assignment given to the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force (“PRSTF” or “the Task Force”) in accordance with its Terms of Reference as laid out at the inauguration of the Task Force. We enclose our final report of work done together with our key findings and recommendations”.
This statement is untrue as paragraph one of the Terms of Reference (ToR) of the committee mandated it:
“To work with consultants and experts to determine and VERIFY all petroleum upstream and downstream revenues (taxes, royalties, etc) due and payable to Federal Government of Nigeria.”
Unfortunately and most regrettably, this paramount duty of the PRSTF committee could not be accomplished as stated in paragraph four of the covering letter signed by Chairman Ribadu and the secretary of the committee. The paragraph in question states:
“The data used in this report was presented by various stakeholders who made submissions to the Task Force in the course of our assignment at various dates, which have been disclosed in relevant sections of the report. Due to time frame of the assignment, some of the data used could not be independently verified and the Task Force recommends that the Government should conduct such necessary verifications and reconciliations”.
From the above therefore, the committee failed to carry out a very critical part of its assignment and instead passed on the duty of reconciliation and verification of data to the government. The further implication of paragraph four quoted above, which is an obvious DISCLAIMER issued by the committee on the entire report makes it impossible under our laws to indict or punish anybody except and until the Federal Government fully verifies and reconciles the facts as recommended by the committee in its submission to the government.
For the avoidance of doubts, let me assure that all the work to be done to rectify the incompleteness of the document will be done and a white paper will be issued and its recommendation fully implemented by this administration.
Finally, the failure of previous governments to implement white paper reports on cogent and crucial national issues have made some Nigerians to become cynical about government’s willingness and commitment to implement recommendation of various reports in the past.
This administration because of its overriding commitment to fighting corruption right from its inception has never failed to implement any investigative report on corruption. The examples of the National Assembly Oil Subsidy Scam Probe and the Aig-Imoukhuede probe, which have since been handed over to the anti-corruption agencies for which the accused are being prosecuted are eloquent testimonies.
Dr. Doyin Okupe
November 7, 2012