The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) deserves a Nobel laurel for its record in churning out Group Managing Directors as compared to apex national oil concerns of other oil producing countries particularly those of the OPEC cartel. Is it not record-breaking that in the last 10 years the NNPC produced seven Group Managing Directors from Dr. Jackson Gaius-Obaseki to Mr. Andrew Yakubu?However, if President Goodluck Jonathan expected applause for the sack of the entire leadership of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), obviously he is not going to get it, at least from those who know where the real problems of the nationâs apex oil company comes from.
The Presidentâs action was a mere naked âowigiri danceâ because he deliberately failed to properly situate/address the root of the gross financial malfeasance in the NNPC which to a great extent, was not the fault of the top management though they cannot be completely extricated from complicity in the rot.
According to a statement by the Presidential spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, the sack was to further strengthen the ongoing reforms and transformation of the petroleum sector. As said, âThe action of the President was in furtherance of efforts to achieve greater transparency and accountability in the oil and gas sector.â To a great extent, the NNPC was the architect of its misfortunes. The top Management of the corporation especially within the last 14 years allowed the Presidency to use them to ridicule the organisationâs efforts at being anything near a credible and serious-minded national oil interest. This is the truth.
No doubt that since the NNPC was established in 1977 to oversee the management and operation of the nationâs oil industry, it had not only failed to establish itself as an active oil company in business to make profit, it also failed in establishing administrative structures that is free from government manipulations. And this led to the 100 percent hijack of the day-to-day financial and business decisions- making muscles of the corporation by the Presidency under the pretence of correcting the fraud and culture of corruption often associated with the organisation.
The presidency of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo started this unholy relationship and ever since, any sitting administration sees the NNPC as a cash cow to be milked, and in most times, in unsustainable manners.
However, if we are now ready to redress the fraud and corruption culture in the NNPC system, the approach must be holistic if itâs a sincere one. All these years, we have majorly dwelt on the bad eggs in the system ignoring the hen that has continued to lay these bad eggs. It is time we place the NNPC problem in proper perspective.
The Presidencyâs interference in the operations of the NNPC, especially in money matters has done more harm and made the corporation completely lose its credibility in business transactions both at home and abroad. It is not a Jonathan thing at all. It was instituted by King Obasanjo when he reigned as the sole administrator of the entire oil and gas sector using even NNPC funds to run his Peoples Democratic Party activities and campaigns. That was why we had people like the former PDP Chairman heading the âlucrativeâ cow -milking conscription- the PPPRA. We had what happened during the fight between Obasanjo and his deputy Atiku over how the NNPC was used for purposes other than our collective national interests. And it has been so through Yarâadua and now to Jonathan- nothing has changed.
So blanket condemnation of the NNPC as inefficient and fraud infested may not be enough in our genuine quest to unravel the demon that has continued to hold the corporation moribund. Every concerned Nigerian should bother to ask where and how the NNPC gets the funds to run its operations including the joint venture obligations. Does the Corporation really have anything like its own budget in the strict sense of the term? Any performance or transparency rating/assessment of the NNPC would be out rightly biased and grossly incomplete if it does not take due consideration of the negative effects of the undue Presidencyâs interferences in the activities of the corporation.
Ask me, and I would say that the parasitic marriage of convenience between the Presidency and the NNPC be dissolved immediately rather than re-packaging it under the guise of reform and restructuring for transparency and accountability. There is no amount of restructuring that would make NNPC corruption/fraud-free and profit-driven if the corporation continues to take direct instructions from the Presidency or even any other government agency that is not schooled in the highly technical oil and gas exploration and production business even the marketing of the crude and products. The Presidency should completely hands- off the NNPC so that the corporation can function like a commercial profit-driven business outfit.
Is it no interesting that everybody in the NNPC who should refund or at least tell us how to trace and retrieve the stolen fuel subsidy money is being sacked in an âoperation sweepâ style. Who is going to be held responsible for the monumental fraud in the fuel subsidy scam? How is the stolen billions going to be retrieved from the alleged culprits if actually those NNPC officials were the ones responsible for the fraud? Is it not obvious that somebody or an office that was actually responsible, maybe by proxy, wants to clean-up/cover something?
In the past few months, the nation has spent billions of naira on the refineriesâ revamp project working to bring back the refineries. And there have been some results to this effect no matter how small, as the Kaduna and Port Harcourt Refineries have started working progressively towards their installed capacities from their present disabled setting. Now we have sacked the people incharge of this operation. So are we going to start all over again or accept that nothing is going to come out from the exercise after the huge resources already committed to the exercise?
Is it deliberate that the first causality of the Presidentâs decision to sack the entire leadership of the NNPC is definitely going to be the ongoing Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) and revamp of the four existing name-plate refineries intended to put them back on stream to operate at least somewhere near acceptable capacities? Letâs watch and see.
Severally, I have challenged those incharge of the NNPC to institute an independent audit of its finances and come up with a strong case to prove that the problems of the corporation had been extraneous. And again, whether the latest Group Managing Director, Andrew Yakubu likes it or not, if he does not pioneer this self audit, he will go the way of his predecessors and with the same accusations as any assessment coming from outside the corporation would continue to indict the NNPC Management of fiscal irresponsibility. This is the truth!
(IFEANYI can be reached on: firstname.lastname@example.org; 234-8033043009)
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