The Federal Government, at the weekend, while receiving the report of the Petroleum Revenue Special Task force (PRSTF), which was headed by Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, vowed to carry out a comprehensive reform of the petroleum industry in order to bring efficiency and accountability in the entire Nigerian economy.

The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, said the Federal Government was determined to reform the oil and gas industry to root out waste, inefficiency and corruption and to transition the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and other parastatals.

Alison-Madueke said: “We set up these Task Forces under the leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan to bring sanity, probity, efficiency and reform to all parastatals of The Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources ahead of the passage of the new Petroleum Industry Bill currently being considered by the National Assembly;

“We set up these Task Forces to bring about change and full transparency to the oil and gas sector and draw a road map for ending corruption and waste in this critical extractive industry to the full benefit of the peoples and governments of the Federal Republic of Nigeria at all levels;

“In setting up these Task Forces, we went beyond partisanship in appointing the members, we invited time and tested professionals and technocrats, we invited labour and civil society and put them all together to design a way forward for the greater good of the people of Nigeria.

“When I took the shortlist of Task Force members to the President for his consideration, he did not hesitate to approve them all even though the list contained those who were known critics of his administration and members of opposition political parties.

“The President gave the necessary backing to ensure that all were carried along in our reform of an industry not too known for transparency over the last few decades. We salute the President for such uncommon courage and leadership;

“Once the Task Forces were inaugurated, I let them do their work without let or interference

I never for once called in members to seek to influence them one way or another and I gave them full access to the parastatals, to deal with all elements of their Terms of Reference to the extent that some members have even said I was too aloof from their work.

“This was deliberate as we wanted full independence of thought and action for the Task Forces. Indeed, it has already been agreed with the Task Forces that within two weeks we will hold working meetings to review what we have done and what needs to be done going forward.

“Mr. President, whatever the skeptics and critics may say, we are determined, under your able and steady leadership, to reform the oil and gas industry to root out waste, inefficiency and corruption and to transition NNPC and other parastatals to a post PIB world;

“Once considered and approved by Mr President and the Federal Executive Council, it is my determination to ensure the full implementation of the White Paper from the Reports of these Task Forces. Mr. President, once approved, the road to implementation will begin.

“To this end, we are already setting up a unit at the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to ensure full compliance with the letters and spirit of these reports. Mr. President, this is a new moment for the Oil and Gas industry: this is a new beginning.

“To ensure we keep the momentum for reform, we urge our fellow compatriots in the National Assembly to pass the new PIB into law as quickly as possible, to give some of the necessary legislative backing for our transformation efforts within the Oil and Gas Industry for the benefit of all Nigeria people,” she stated.

The Ribadu Committee was asked to work with consultants and experts to determine and verify all petroleum upstream and downstream revenues (taxes, royalties and others) due and payable to Federal Government of Nigeria.

The committee was also take all necessary steps to collect all debts due and owing, to obtain agreements and enforce payment terms by all oil industry operators, to design a cross debt matrix between all Agencies and Parastatals of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and to develop an automated platform to enable effective tracking, monitoring and online validation of income and debt drivers of all Parastatals and Agencies in the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources;

It was equally mandated to work with world-class consultants to integrate systems and technology across the production chain to determine and monitor crude oil production and exports, ensuring at all times, the integrity of payments to the Federal Government of Nigeria and to submit monthly reports for ministerial review and further action.

Accordingly, the Task Force set out to confirm if existing systems, laws, processes and functions across the value chain provide reasonable assurance that revenues from the Petroleum Industry are captured, complete, recorded intact, properly accounted for and that revenue due is demanded and collected.

The findings of the Special Task Force which have been widely leaked are expected to be highly controversial with allegations that a total of $183million (about N28.73billion) in signature bonuses paid by oil companies to the Federal Government is missing.

However, the Nigerian presidency had complained that the leakage of the report of the Mallam Nuhu Ribadu-led committee that probed oil and gas transactions covering 2002 to 2012 and which allegedly uncovered widespread corruption and abuse of processes, was meant to embarrass the Federal Government.

Media reports revealed that the Ribadu report alleged that a total of $183million or about N28.73billion in signature bonuses paid by oil companies to the Federal Government was missing.

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, said the allegations contained in the news reports could not be taken as the official document because the committee had not formally submitted its report to the government.

Abati said as far as the Federal Government was concerned, the reports being circulated in the public domain were suspicious. He said if indeed the published report was the committee’s genuine work, whoever leaked it to the press did not mean well and was out to embarrass the government.

He said: “It is strange that government will set up a committee, that report has not been submitted to the authorities that set up the committee and the report will be found on the pages of newspapers. The report cannot be taken as an official document because the proper procedure is for committees set up by the government to submit their reports to the government. In principle, this report in the public domain is suspicious because it was not submitted to the appropriate authority.

“If every committee set up by government goes above the system to leak reports, there can be chaos. Whoever leaked the report, if indeed the report is genuine, does not mean well. Whoever is behind it is out to embarrass the government,” he stressed.

Following the controversy generated by the alleged leakage of the report, Jonathan directed the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force to submit a comprehensive report to him last Friday.

The 21-member committee was among three others set up by the Federal Government in the wake of the nationwide protests that trailed the deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry that led to a rise in the pump price of petrol from N65 per litre to the initial price of N141 per litre in January 2012.

Two other committees set up by the Federal Government in the wake of the protests to examine other aspects of the country’s petroleum industry were to also present their reports to the president on Friday.

They are the committee established to design a new corporate governance code for ensuring full transparency, good governance and global best practices in the NNPC and other oil industry parastatals headed Mr. Dotun Sulaiman and the committee headed by Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu, which was charged with conducting a high-level assessment of the nation’s refineries and recommending ways of improving their efficiency and commercial viability.

Another panel, a special task force to fast track the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) into law, chaired by former Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, had since submitted its report, which paved the way for the president to send the revised PIB to the National Assembly in July.

By Lily