Notes on the Ribadu Committee Report By Chido Onumah

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For those who know the level of graft not only in our oil industry, but the gamut of the Jonathan administration, there is nothing surprising about the report of the Nuhu Ribadu-led Petroleum Revenues Special Task Force. What is surprising is that it took so long for the committee’s report to be made “public”. If anything, the report confirms what we already know: that our brand of democracy is nothing but plain-faced piracy.

Considering the contradictory views from the government, chances are that if the report did not come to us through Reuters, it may not have seen the light of day. Now the government, through its handlers, has gone into overdrive in its effort at damage control and convince us that there was no attempt at cover up.

The government headlined its response through its spokesperson, Reuben Abati, an attempt to embarrass the Presidency, as if anything can indeed embarrass the Jonathan administration. Except, of course, the government is complicit in the damning indictment as contained in the committee’s report, I do not know how the report of a committee set up by the government to review the activities of a particular sector, should constitute an embarrassment.

It appears the government is more concerned about managing the so-called leakage than the findings of the committee’s report. Abati, said the excerpts from the report could not be taken as an official document because the committee had not formally submitted its report to the appropriate authority. I agree with him. But he went ahead to expose himself by saying “as far as the Federal Government was concerned, the report in the public domain was suspicious”. What makes it suspicious? Is it because it was revealed by the media?

According to Abati, “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”. There is nothing strange about this. Abati is a newspaper man and he ought to know better.

When the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs, Doyin “the-attack-lion” Okupe, weighed in (no pun intended) he offered this explanation: “what appears to have been irregularly released prematurely to the media is a draft copy which still requires full assent of all members of the committee and clarifications and due process from the originating ministry before the official handing over to the Presidency”. And to clear any doubts, he reminded us that “President Jonathan’s resolve to fight corruption and dig out all the rots in the system should not be misconstrued or politicized by the opposition as if it is his administration that is guilty of corruption, rather, he should be commended for taken the bold step that will ultimately sanitize the polity and the system”.

Much earlier, the country’s controversial Minister of Petroleum Resources and de facto vice president, Diezani Alison-Madueke, while reacting to the publication by Reuters had described the report as a draft and that a committee had been set up by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to look into the “differences in perspective on the Ribadu committee report” and make an “input”. Alison-Madueke who acknowledged receiving the same report last month and failed to act on it, said the new committee “will complete its work and submit a comprehensive report in the next 10 days.”

Interestingly, Alison-Madueke’s “next ten days” coincides with Friday, November 2, 2012, the day the President directed that the Ribadu committee report be submitted to him. We eagerly await the version of the report that will be submitted to the President: the real report or the one with “input” from the Minister of Petroleum Resources.

The Ribadu committee report, amongst other things, revealed that $183m signature bonuses from seven discretionary oil licences awarded by petroleum ministers between 2008 and 2011 were missing. Three of these “sweetheart deals” occurred from 2010 when Alison-Madueke was appointed Minister of Petroleum Resources. The report also noted that multi-national oil companies, Shell, Total and Eni, made “bumper profits from cut-price gas”, at the expense of Nigerians “while Nigerian oil ministers handed out licences at their own discretion”.

Writing on this issue, under the title: “Looting Nigeria to Death: Piracy as Democracy”, social activist, Jaye Gaskia, noted, “it is important to emphasise that there is no way this scale and scope of corruption could have been perpetrated and perpetuated without the connivance and collaboration of officials of state institutions, including ministries, departments and parastatals”!

“It is inconceivable that the current Minister of Petroleum Resources and chairperson of the board of NNPC is still in office, not sacked and facing prosecution along with the NNPC board after all these revelations! It is unthinkable that all the previous petroleum ministers over the last 10 years have not yet been arrested and are not facing prosecution along with all previous Group Managing Directors and boards of the NNPC! How can any government and any political elite be comfortable with the loss of over $100bn in 10 years to corrupt practices, if such a regime and political elite is not complicit in the fraud in the first place?”

Gaskia’s intervention, in a sense, explains why nothing will come out of the Ribadu committee report. This regime and our political elite are complicit in the unmitigated piracy that has left Nigeria comatose. Asking the Jonathan administration to act on the Ribadu committee report is simply asking it to indict itself. It will not happen!

To hazard a guess, the President will receive a version of the committee’s report on November 2, and in his usual belaboured response to such revealing probes, thank the committee for doing a great job. He will promise vainly, in line with his fuzzy transformation agenda, that the committee’s recommendations will be addressed. And then pretending commitment to due process, he will set up a committee to produce a White Paper on the report. A committee will then be set up to review the findings of the White Paper.

The report will then be submitted to the Senate Committees on Petroleum (Upstream) and Gas for further investigations. The Chairman, Senate Committee on Gas, Nkechi Nwogu, has already expressed her committee’s interest in looking at the report “to find out the true position of things as contained in it”. Her committee’s report will then be submitted to the Senate Committee on Anti-corruption, a committee whose members parade a rap sheet that will put the legendary Lawrence Anini and his sidekick, Monday Osunbor, to shame. Depending on their inclination, the report will then go back to the Presidency or any of our anti-corruption agencies for safekeeping.

Damn the opposition for playing politics with a serious national issue. Now, we’ll never know those responsible for this mess much less get them to account for their misdeed!

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