Something in the report of the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force, PRSTF, must be galling the Presidency. Its unwillingness to state its challenge makes the matter confusing and could make Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, chairman of the PRSTF, a hero.
Apparently, the drama that prefaced the submission of the report was the first indication that government would reject the report. Did President Goodluck Jonathan not ask opposing task force members to tender their views? Have their views been accepted over the entire report? Were the views not meant to be appendages to the report?
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe addressed the report with uncommon bellicosity directed at Mallam Ribadu, who he accused of "negativism".
Was Okupe aware that two task force members, who stridently disassociated themselves from the report, were appointed into the board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, in the course of the assignment? Is NNPC not among the organisations the task force investigated? Could their loud protests not be related to their straddled position?
If the report was incomplete, should the Presidency not have asked the task force to finish its work? Why does Okupe think, Ribadu's "claim of an overture to him to compromise the report is perfidious and false"?
Okupe is pouring all the bile on a report that he says government would still issue a white paper. Would the white paper be different from Okupe's tirade? It is unfortunate that government does not seem to know what it wants.
What did the Ribadu report say that was wrong? If the task force did not complete its report, was it wrong for that to be stated in the report? Who did this report hurt so badly that government would expend so much effort discrediting it?
Nigerians are no fools. They are aware of the ferocity government deploys to get what it wants. What is baffling is that nobody knows what government wants this time. Government says it is fighting corruption, a task force it set up gives a detail of areas of corruption, and Okupe, presumably speaking for government, accuses Ribadu, not the entire task force, of being unpatriotic.
Does Okupe realise he cannot go on blaming the task force without noting government must have had its reasons for choosing Ribadu for the assignment? What changed? Having discredited the report, what would government implement?
Government has wasted another opportunity to rev up the flagging war against corruption. The controversies taint the Ribadu report, rendering it useless.
The oil and gas sector, the mainstay of the economy, should not be treated trivially by those who should protect it from thieves in different disguises.