16 November 2012

Nigeria: Ribadu Report - Presidency Makes U-Turn

The federal government has no intention to dump the report of the Nuhu Ribadu-led Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force as being speculated in some sections of the media, Dr Doyin Okupe, the senior special assistant to the president on public affairs, said yesterday.

In a press statement, Okupe said that the government would definitely take a good look at the recommendations and comprehensively verify every datum. "That the government would verify data as recommended does not mean the report would be thrown away; it is not true," he stated.

He added that since the committee's report on its cover letter insisted the government must conduct necessary verifications and reconciliations before any action could be taken, it would be wrong for the government to do otherwise.

According to him, at no time did he or any official of government suggest the report should be dumped because even though the data were yet to be verified, there are several issues raised by the committee that would never be swept under the carpet by the Jonathan's administration, as all those found wanting would be punished and all loopholes for corruption blocked.

"A paragraph of the committee's report had said due to time frame of the assignment, some of the data used could not be independently verified and the task force recommends that the government should conduct such necessary verifications and reconciliation," said the presidential spokesman, explaining that, at his recent media briefing, he spoke in line with the recommendation of the committee.

He noted: "At that event, I said the further implication of paragraph 4 quoted 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."

Okupe stated that because the report was hurriedly put together and submitted, the government would have to waste a lot of time and money putting together machinery to verify the document before a white paper would be issued. "I must assure Nigeria that this administration is serious about fighting corruption through prosecution and institutional reforms, and whoever or whatever organisation is found wanting by the report after proper verification would be made to face the due process of law."

Jonathan sets up committees to review reports

Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday established three committees to prepare draft white papers on the report of the Ribadu-led task force and two others - the National Refineries Special Task Force and the Governance and Controls Special Task Force - submitted to him three weeks ago.

Of the three reports, that of the Ribadu-led PRSTF has been the subject of debates following a disagreement between Ribadu (the chairman of the task force) and his deputy, Steve Oronsaye over the process that produced it.

A statement by Dr. Reuben Abati, special adviser to the president on media and publicity, announcing the setting up of the white paper committees to look into the reports on Thursday, noted that the president's decision was "in furtherance of his declared commitment to doing all within his powers to ensure greater accountability, probity and transparency in Nigeria's oil and gas industry".

Abati said "the committees are to study the reports, review the issues raised, and prepare draft white papers for the consideration of the Federal Executive Council within two weeks".

The White Paper Committee on the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force Report, the statement noted, is chaired by the minister of labour, Chief Emeka Wogu. Minister of interior Comrade Abba Moro, minister of state for FCT Oloye Jumoke Akinjide and minister of state for foreign affairs II Dr. Nurudeen Mohammed are members.

It added that the White Paper Committee on the Report of the Governance and Controls Special Task Force will be chaired by the minister of lands, housing and urban development, Ms. Amal Pepple. Other members of the committee are minister of state for defence Erelu Olusola Obada, minister of transport Senator Idris Umar and minister of state for agriculture and rural development Mallam Bukar Tijani.

For the White Paper Committee on the Report of the National Refineries Special Task Force, the minister of mines and steel development, Arc. Mohammed Sada, is the chairman. Members of the said committee are minister of agriculture and rural development Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, minister of state for health Dr. Muhammad Pate and minister of state for education Mr. Ezenwo Nyeson Wike.

"The Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation will provide a secretariat for the committees," Abati said.

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