From the Senate came yesterday an order that the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) should halt further action on the planned concession of the Port Harcourt Refinery to AGIP and OANDO.
The upper chamber also set up a seven-man investigative panel led by Abubakar Kyari to unravel the allegation of breach of due process in the concession arrangement. Other members of the panel are Dino Melaye, Aliu Wammakko, Duro Faseyi, Sabo Mohammed, Benjamin Uwajumogu and Mattew Urhoghide.
While the resolve by the Federal Government to increase local refining capacity is laudable and should be applauded by all Nigerians, the observance of corporate governance principles and the country’s extant laws must be followed to the letter.
Adopting a motion sponsored by Sabo Mohammed (APC, Jigawa State) tagged “Non- Transparent Transaction relating to the planned concession of the Port Harcourt Refinery to AGIP and OANDO by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources”, the Senate expressed doubts about the motive for the planned concession. It therefore resolved to set up an ad hoc committee to conduct a comprehensive investigation to determine how and why such a deal was sealed and the criteria used to select AGIP and OANDO to maintain and operate the Port Harcourt Refinery.
Defending his motion earlier, Mohammed said the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, had revealed that the agreement was part of a broader government plan to increase capacity for local production and consumption of petroleum products with the aim of ending fuel importation in Nigeria by 2019.
The lawmaker further observed that the planned concession was without recourse to due process and described it as illegal and a clear attempt at ridiculing Nigerians. He said the action would create a hole that would be hard to fill in the anti-corruption crusade of the administration.
On the alleged bias in the process of selecting AGIP and OANDO Plc as partners to operate the Port Harcourt Refinery and Petrochemical Company, Kachikwu revealed that final decision had not been reached.
He said the Federal Government had decided to concession all the four refineries in the country by August this year. “We hope to award the contracts by July/August and hopefully between 12 and 18 months to be able to get the refineries fully back, and the model is to bring investors, who will repair the refineries and recoup their money from the incremental production.
“We are ready to offer all the refineries for investors who have money to repair and manage. People keep mentioning AGIP and OANDO Plc but nobody has made the final decision on those, they are probably the front runners because they put a lot of work on that, but I am not in the technical committee. I am the chair of the steering committee, when the technical committee meets and finishes their work, they will refer it to the steering committee and then it goes to NNPC Board, so all the hullabaloo about transparency of the exercise will stop.”
Sabo further drew the attention of the Senate to what he called ‘several defects’ in the planned concession of the refinery.
Also yesterday, the Senate passed the bill for mutual assistance in criminal matters between Nigeria and other foreign states.
The bill among others is intended to effect the temporary transfer of persons in custody to assist in investigations or appear as witness, facilitate obtaining and preserving of computer data, and providing any other assistance that is not contrary to the law of the requesting state.
It seeks to also facilitate the identification, tracing, freezing, restraining, recovery, forfeiture and confiscation of proceeds, property and other instrumentalities of crimes.