The controversy that has enveloped the Mallam Nuhu Ribadu-led Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force report was yesterday elevated to another level by the presidency: it described the report as shoddy and "impossible under our laws to indict or punish anybody".
Apparently disturbed by the criticisms and comments that have trailed the report since its submission last Friday, the senior special assistant to the president on public affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, told journalists in Abuja yesterday it was unfortunate that a genuine effort on the part of President Goodluck Jonathan to cleanse the oil sector and bring in sanity was being politicised.
He said against the public disinformation deliberately calculated to overheat the polity and pit the Nigerian people against President Jonathan, the truth remained that a cursory look at the report would reveal a report that fell short on standards and was not comprehensive.
Okupe said while Ribadu's covering letter said it worked according to the terms of reference of the committee, with key findings and recommendations, the reverse was actually the case as it never worked with the guidelines and thus basically transferred back the responsibility to government.
Ribadu's committee was mandated to "work with consultants and experts to determine and verify all petroleum upstream and downstream revenues (taxes, royalties, etc) due and payable to the Federal Government of Nigeria," Dr. Okupe said. He noted, however, that this task could not be achieved as admitted by the committee, thus returning same responsibility to the government.
Okupe quoted part of Ribadu's report as saying, " The data used in this report was presented by various stakeholders who made submissions to the Task Force in the course of our assignment at various dates, which have been disclosed in relevant sections of the report. Due to time frame of the assignment, some of the data used could not be independently verified and Task Force recommends that the Government should conduct such necessary verifications and reconciliations".
He said the federal government, not minding, was determined to ensure the implementation of the report and hence would fully reconcile the facts first.
"From the above, therefore, the committee failed to carry out a very important part of its assignment and instead passed on the duty of reconciliation and verification of data to the government. The further implication of paragraph four above, which is an obvious DISCLAIMER issued by the committee on the entire report, makes it impossible under our laws to indict or punish anybody except, and until, the federal government fully verifies and reconciles the facts as recommended by the committee in its submission to the government.
"For the avoidance of doubts, let me assure that all the work to be done to rectify the incompleteness of the document will be done and a white paper will be issued and its recommendation fully implemented by this administration," Okupe stated.
He then charged Ribadu to mention the names of those who attempted to compromise him, saying Ribadu's claim of staying on the side of Nigerians was perfidious and false.
"We are aware that Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, to a certain extent, advertently or inadvertently but definitely unfortunately, has encouraged this negativism. For instance, on his Facebook page a while ago, Mallam Ribadu remarked that he resisted overtures to make him compromise the report and rather than compromise the report, he stayed on the side of the Nigerian people.
"His claim of an overture to him to compromise the report is perfidious and false. We respectfully enjoin Mallam Ribadu to be patriotic enough to name the proponents of this compromise. If Ribadu claims that by serving on the committee he is on the side of the Nigerian people, on whose side is President Jonathan whose idea it was in the first place to set up the Task Force and approved the appointment of Mallam Ribadu as chairman of the committee?" Okupe queried.
The Ribadu Committee report got enmeshed in controversy during its presentation to President Goodluck Jonathan as some members of the committee led by former head of service, Steve Oronsaye, openly kicked against the report.
Sets March 13, 2013 deadline for revamping refineries
President Goodluck Jonathan has commenced full implementation of reports of the committees set up by the minister of petroleum resources, Mrs Dieziani Alison-Madueke, on the petroleum sector including that of the Nuhu Ribadu-led Petroleum Revenue Task Force, the presidency hinted yesterday.
Barely a week after the committees submitted their reports to the president, Jonathan is said to have put in place machinery for their full implementation, beginning with the committee on the nation's refineries to boost domestic refining of products and create jobs.
Disclosing this to State House correspondents, special adviser to the president on media and publicity Dr Reuben Abati noted that the president has set a March 2013 deadline for the completion of the turnaround maintenance and complete rehabilitation of three refineries in Kaduna, Port Harcourt and Warri.
The committee on the refineries, which was headed by Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu, said the poor performance of the country's refineries was as a result of lack of proper maintenance and funding.
To this effect, Abati said: "The president has not only commended the committee on refineries, but he also made it clear that part of the determination of his administration is to make sure that Nigeria stops the importation of fuel and he subsequently directed the minister of petroleum resources to take that report and look into it and then come up with action plan as to what can be done, going forward.
"He also directed that a technical report be prepared on how to get the refineries working. I just came back from a meeting now in the president's office where the minister of petroleum resources together with her team including the group managing director of the NNPC and other directors in the oil and gas sector made presentations. The major issue that was discussed at that meeting had to do with the refineries.
"First, the state of the refineries, their present capacities: What the Kaduna refinery is able to produce per day now, which is about 110,000 barrels; the Port Harcourt refineries 210,000 barrels per day and the Warri refineries 125,000 barrels per day, and what steps can be taken to improve the capacities of these refineries to make them perform at their optimum function for the objectives outlined by Mr President to be achieved."
The presidential spokesman added that the president told the team that made the presentation that the interest of this government was to ensure that crude oil is refined domestically.
He said: "This administration is determined to put an end to the importation of finished petroleum products because you can refine domestically and at the same time still import, because if you don't have enough you will be bridging it.
Thirdly, to create jobs locally because the president's conviction is that if you keep importing refined products, you are creating jobs for other people in other economies, and hence the presentation was focused on two things: to take care of the turnaround maintenance of the refineries in the immediate term and the target is that this short-term intervention will be completed by March 2013, and if that is done that will raise the capacities of these refineries taken together to 65 per cent.
"But the determination is even to go beyond that to also engage in the rehabilitation of the refineries. There is a plan for turnaround maintenance and also a plan for rehabilitation. There are other steps that are being considered to achieve these three objectives by Mr President."
Abati faulted the impression given by some Nigerians that government sets up committees and then refuses to implement the recommendations of such committees, just as he said President Jonathan has already commenced the implementation of the recommendations of the committees he set up.
He added: "The whole point of this is to make it clear that action is already being taken on the reports of the committees. The first meeting that was held today is on this issue of refineries. What I have given you is the outline. Another meeting will be fixed where further presentations would be made on the technical details, on how these objectives would be achieved.