…Sets-Up 3-Man Committee .. Buhari to Probe Contentious Deal…
..Angry Oil Workers, Ex-Minister Kick, Blast Alison-Madeuke, NPDC MD, Others
Nigeria has once again come under global corruption scrutiny as Transparency International (TI) at the weekend charged President Muhammadu Buhari to stamp out what it called endemic corruption, systemic impunity, fragrant abuse of due process and transparency and endemic conflict of interests which characterized the Oil, gas and Energy Sector under the watch of Mrs Diezianni Alison-Madueke, as Minister of Petroleum Resources during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan,
Speaking exclusively with The New Diplomat from its Headquarters in Germany, the global watch dog, Transparency International (TI)’s Regional Director for West Africa, Mr Samuel Kaninba warned that Nigeria is too strategic and important to the International Community and indeed the world to be left to be mismanaged through a growing culture of impunity by political Office holders.
According to TI, this factor and the compelling need to stamp out corruption necessitated its decision to forward a petition to President Buhari, requesting him to investigate amongst other five key issues, the fundamental issues of corruption in the Oil and Energy Sector, especially with respect to several cases bordering on abuse of office and ethical misconducts, including the controversial and contentious transfer of Oil Mining Lease(OML 42) to Neconde Energy Ltd by Alison-Madueke at the very tail end of the Jonathan’s administration allegedly without due process as well as the missing $20billion which former Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) Governor, Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, consistently alleged was missing as NNPC failed to account for the said amount in Oil revenues with the CBN stressing that these issues are ‘’too grave and compelling to be ignored.’’
TI’s call on Buhari is coming on the heels of a marathon 12- hour meeting held last Monday at the instance of the Group managing Director(GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC), Dr Joseph Dawha and his top Chiefs, including its subsidiary’s management team, the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company(NPDC) in Abuja with angry and agitated Union Workers under the platform of NUPENG and PENGASSAN, Benin City Chapter where a decision was said to have been reached to the effect that the controversial transfer of operatorship of OML 42 to Neconde Energy as authorised by Alison-Madueke in conjunction with the MD of NPDC, Mr Anthony Muoneke, be investigated and re-opened. Sources told The New Diplomat ‘’because there are too many grey issues that need to be resolved in line with due process, transparency and ethical conducts in respect of OML 42, a three man Committee was raised by the GMD.’’ The members of the Committee which, would amongst other things investigate and come up quickly with measures to address the lingering crisis are Mr Adebayo Ibikunle Ibirogba, Group Executive Director, (Engineering and Technical), Dr Dan Iwoene Efebo, Group Executive Director(Corporate Services) and Mr Wayas of Legal Services).
Sources at the Abuja marathon meeting disclosed that all the Directors of the NPDC who attended the meeting distanced themselves from the OML 42 deal blaming it on Muoneke ‘’who did not carry any member of management along’’ in the said contentious transfer. Said a director of NPDC who attended the meeting but pleaded not to be mentioned; ‘’ The whole thing is a fraudulent in look, The MD never carried us members of management along and there is no way we would accept this illegal sale of our national assets. It is even against the national interest of the country. Where have you seen a junior partner in a JOA, saying he is the one to assume the headship of the Company? That is what is happening in this case because NPDC has 55% while Neconde has 45% in the equity stakes and in the JOA-Joint Operating Agreement, there is no where it was stated that Neconde should take over the operatorship of OML 42…. It is pure daylight robbery and theft.’’
Investigations by our Abuja Bureau team revealed that the leadership of the Oil workers Union in Benin City who attended the meeting openly confronted the MD of NPDC, Mr Anthony Muoneke, that ‘’ you(Muoneke) would be locked out of the premises of NPDC as from next week because we would not allow you to sell all our national assets…’’. The Union was said to have called for an outright reversal of Alison-Madueke’s transfer approval. The New Diplomat gathered that industry watchers are irked that Mrs Alison-Madueke hurriedly approved the transfer of the contentious Operatorship of OML42 with just a few weeks to the end of Jonathan’ s tenure without allegedly passing through the due process as provided for, an action they said has continued to raise dusts and questions about her real motives.
A top presidency source told The New Diplomat at the weekend; ‘’ There are processes for selling our national assets. They belong to the Nigerian people and no minister has the sole power to just sell, not even the President or a Governor of a State can wake up and sell the commonwealth of the Nigerian people. First, the Federal executive Council has to approve of it and then it goes to the National assembly, which would then hold a public Hearing on the desirability, acceptability and credibility of the sale or otherwise. In addition, there has to proper valuation of the status of the assets and the capacity and background of the prospective buyers.. Who are they? So it is very wrong, unethical, illegal to just wake up and transfer the operatorship from NPDC to Neconde Energy. I can assure you that all these issues and many others will be thoroughly investigated and reversals made where necessary…’’
In an attempt to justify the transfer, Mrs Alison-Madueke had alleged that NPDC lacked the technical capacity to operate and fully secure value from OML42 so as to put the nation in good footing. This same position was echoed by Dr Ernest Obiejesi, Chairman of Neconde Energy Ltd, who was reported as saying that NPDC lacks the capacity to operate the blocks to optimum capacity. This declaration was said to have angered frayed nerves especially the NUPENG and PEGNASSAN who then went on strike in Benin City, wondering why a major national asset as profitable and prolific as OML 42 would be stripped off NPDC handed over to Neconde ‘’with just a few weeks to the end of Jonathan’s presidency, lamenting that ‘’the Oil Industry was being hijacked by a few individuals in the out-going administration of Jonathan.’’
This development was said to have encouraged NNPC which then took up the matter , maintaining that there is no provision in the JOA which allows a new buyer to assume operatorship status because SHELL which sold its assets could only transfer its ‘’operatorship to its affiliates which are as provided in Article 1.12(1) of the JOA are: , Shell in the Netherlands, Shell Transport and Trading Company Plc in the United Kingdom or any other company that is being controlled directly or indirectly by any of these two companies.’’
The New Diplomat gathered that since the purchasing company, Neconde Energy was not an affiliate of Shell, ‘’ the operatorship reverted to NNPC which then transferred it to its affiliate, NPDC for operation.’’ Sources in Germany told The New Diplomat that this is one issue which TI has listed and forwarded to President Buhari for resolution. NUPENG and PENGASSAN chiefs told our Abuja Bureau team that contrary to claims that NPDC has no capacity to operate the blocks, the Company had indeed been the sole body that revamped the OML42 to its present enviable status: ‘’ The fields are Batan, Odidi, Egwa and Jones Creek. In 2012, when we took over the operatorship from SPDC because we have 55% while Neconde has 45% equity stakes, it was only Batan that was operating at that time. All the other fields were vandalized because of the Niger Delta Crisis. NPDC took over and replaced all the vandalized facilities, repaired all the flow stations, revamped all well heads and Christmas trees, dredged all the well slots and the access ways and initiated production for Odidi field on October 16, 2014. NPDC has been doing production from Odidi from zero to 24, 000 barrels per day and we are still growing production. While this was on-going, the Minister(Mrs Alison-Madueke) decided to transfer the operatorship of the assets to Neconde Energy in 2015, pre-elections period thinking probably that PDP would win the elections. As God would do it she and her party lost. We are therefore calling on President Buhari to reverse this transfer as it did not follow due process and the terms stipulated in the Joint Operating Agreement(JOA). The new administration should investigate the underlying factors that fuelled this dangerous, unacceptable, unethical and spurious transfer.’’
Expectedly, Industry analysts seem to be in agreement with the Union workers. Engr Chris Ogiennwonyi, one time Minister of State for Works and erstwhile Group Executive Director of NNPC described the transfer of OML42 oil block being operated by NPDC to Neconde energy as not only a violation of due process but also a ‘’ theft of our national wealth.’’
Apparantly responding to all these and other troubling issues, the Regional Director of Transparency International in charge of West Africa, Mr Kaninba, further told The New Diplomat at the weekend that given the fact that President Buhari campaigned and won the mandate of the Nigerian people in the last presidential elections with a pledge to fight corruption and impunity, TI is optimistic that the president would act on the issues raised by the global body.
It would be recalled that Buhari , had while receiving a delegation of Adamawa State chapter of the All Progressives Congress ( APC) who paid him a congratulatory visit in Abuja on his victory at the polls, had promised to investigate the out-gone Jonathan’s administration’s transactions in the Oil and gas sector. “I heard that some people have started returning money; I will not believe it until I go and see for myself. Imagine a situation where the former CBN governor who by God’s grace later became the Emir of Kano raised an issue of missing billions of money, not in Naira but in Dollars, $20 billion. What happened, instead of investigating to know whether it was true that the money was missing or not, they simply found a reason to remove him. So, these are the issues we are talking about…you voted for change, now change has come.”
Similarly, The Transparency Chief, Mr Kaninba had identified five steps which the President should address as including’’ full scale accounting and investigation of Oil Revenues, especially the $20billion dollars, which the former CBN Governor said was missing because such grave matters cannot be swept under the carpet, implementation of access to information to enable the citizens, the media and civil society help track corruption and corrupt people, prosecution of persons , no matter how highly placed, found to be corrupt, repatriation of stolen and illegal monies by former Head of state late Gen Sani Abacha, strengthening and empowering anti-graft institutions such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission(ICPC) and radically tackling allegations of endemic corrupt practices .’’