Trouble in the petroleum sector

THREE chairmen of committees of the House of Representatives are at war over the alleged mess in the nation’s petroleum industry.
Tuesday, the chairmen of the joint committees of House on Petroleum Upstream and Gas Resources, Mr Muraina S. Ajibola and Mr Bassey Ewa faulted their counterpart in the Finance committee, Dr Abdulmumin Jibrin for alleging that the nation’s petroleum industry is riddled with corruption.
In a joint statement, the chairmen of the respective House Committees stated that Jibrin shouldn’t have pre -occupied himself with the affairs of the petroleum industry because it is outside his sphere of influence.
Casting aspersions on Jibrin for calling on the Minister of Petroleum Resources to render accounts of happenings in the petroleum industry, they accused him of meddling in the affairs of their respective committees without regard to the standing rules of the House.
Ajibola and Ewa cited the provisions of Order XVIII Rules 158,16 & 187 of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives arguing that it confers on them the powers to exercise oversight functions on the Ministry of Petroleum Resources; including its agencies and parastatals , particularly crude oil sales.
They argued thus: “From the provisions of the Rules of the House of Representatives, crude oil production and sale are clearly not within the purview of the Committee on Finance which Hon Abdulmumin Jubril chairs.
We would have dismissed this statement in the greater interest of protecting the image and sanctity of the House of Representatives, so that the institution will not be seen as divided against itself, but this rejoinder has become imperative on account of the following:
“Hon Abdulmumin’s press statement is an indictment of the Petroleum Committees of the House of Representatives , that they are not performing their oversight functions as required by the Rules of the House. There had been several similar misleading comments in the media concerning the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC) by Hon. Abdulmumin Jubrin.
“As colleagues, we have had cause to bring these actions of his to the attention of the appropriate quarters. His latest outburst is not a product of any Parliamentary proceedings. It is a reaction to the complaints made by some governors on the Sovereign Wealth Fund. The Honourable Minister of Finance is capable of responding to the complaints made by these governors and should have been allowed to defend herself.
“But our colleague improperly turned himself to the spokesman of the Minister of Finance, He even proceeded to the ridiculous extent of making a sweeping statement in the said report to wit:-
“The Petroleum Resources Minister is guilty of superintending over a massively corrupt sector, as shown by her inability to disclose the actual daily production of crude oil to Nigerians”
“For the sake of posterity, this press statement is important so that Nigerians will not be misled; and also to state the facts as they are , lest the Petroleum Committees of the House be perceived as incapable of performing their oversight duties. Let it be known that the Petroleum Committees of the House have always been alert to their oversight responsibilities. We have been asking relevant questions from the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and its agencies and they have always provided the required information.”
When contacted, Jibrin insisted that order 1555, sub section 1, and 2 of the House standing order confers on his committee the power to exercise oversight functions on the petroleum industry and other revenue generating agencies of government.
Expressing surprise that his colleagues took offence over his call on Mrs Diezani Alison Maduekwe to render account over the corruption in the petroleum industry, he said he does not see any harm in the statement adding: “ I don’t want us to put the issue of jurisdiction out in the public but in order not to create a wrong impression, the primary responsibility of over sighting the oil and gas sector lies in the petroleum committees – Petroleum Upstream and the Committee on Gas.
“But yet again, the rules of the House gave the Committee on Finance oversight function over revenue matters. So whenever there is revenue that should accrue to the Federal Government, I have the power to go in there. And it is backed by two strong instruments.
One, before you talk about any revenue matter, the Medium Term Expenditure Framework(MTEF) is usually referred to the Committee on Finance; we determine the oil benchmark; we determine production output and somebody is telling me that I do not have jurisdiction over output? We determine it and make recommendation to the House for approval and all other basic things that involves oil revenue.
“The Alternative Funding; the Joint Venture – all these things are approved by the Committee on Finance. We make recommendation for approval. Then after that the budget comes. The committee on appropriation deals with allocation of resources; the committee on finance constitutionally deals with revenue framework. After pegging the projection, we go back after the passage of the budget to see performance.
“During the preparation of revenue framework, we engage the NNPC, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the Customs and the Inland Revenue Service, we peg their projection and when budget is passed, we go back to look at how are they performing. This is an exclusive responsibility of the finance committee. So I am not poke-nosing in anybody’s job; I am doing the job that the rule of the House permits me to do.
“Everybody knows that it is not news that there is massive corruption in the oil and gas sector. A lot of reports of the standing committees of the House have proven that. So, if as a citizen of this country, I come out to make a comment on the matter, why should it be interpreted to mean that it is an indictment on the House Committee on Petroleum Resources?
“People criticize Okonjo Iweala on a daily basis. So do they expect me to question them for doing that? If that is what they want to teach me, now I know that if anybody does that, then it is an indictment on me. If that is how we would do our legislative work, then nobody can do it.”
Noting that he had been one of the staunch critics of the Finance Minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, he said it was very unfair and uncharitable for his colleagues to say he is singing her praise.
He enjoined all stakeholders to sanitize the petroleum sector.
Jibrin had, while reacting to the call by Governor Rotimi Ameachi led Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF that the Finance Minister, Dr Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala should resign her position over her management of Nigeria’s economy, argued that rather than calling on the Finance Minister to resign, such calls should have been directed to the petroleum minister whose ministery is neck-deep in corruption.
He was quoted as saying inter alia: “It is not the Minister of Finance. Nobody knows the quantum of crude we produce per day in this country, the Minister is not giving out any information and nobody is asking her”.