Against the backdrop of recent happenings in Nigeria’s Oil sector, Adams Abonu, a media practitioner, is of the view that there is an urgent need for proper audit of the transactions of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) by the admnisration of Muhammadu Buhari.
Recently, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, during a policy summit organised by the Research and Strategy Unit of the All Progressives Congress (APC), charged the administration of Muhammadu Buhari to overhaul the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Represented by Lord Mandelson, a former British Home Secretary, Mr. Blair in his characteristics candour urged the government to plug the leaks in revenue accruing from crude oil sales and tackle corruption head on as panacea towards reviving the ailing Nigeria economy.
Blair said: “The issue is like this: for a country that has extraordinary resources of oil and has the amazing privilege of sources of energy, yet power generation was not a happy issue, people are having to wait for hours queuing to get fuel yet ending up buying somewhere, I think it needs to be recaptured and reorganized, and revenues put to good use so that they can be invested to a long term use of the country, in infrastructure, in fundamental human capital, in education, the skill of the people which they need to work with in the future. This is where the money should be going to.”
This charge to the administration is quite candid and vividly captures the needful as regards management of the country’s huge oil wealth. In a time when there is pervading apprehension on the part of ordinary Nigerians about how past administration managed the commonwealth that accrued from oil, mired with a recurrent fuel scarcity that takes heavy toll on the masses and the prospects of the Nigeria’s economic mainstay into the future, no time is better to confront the challenges in the oil sector than this period of transition into another dispensation.
Since the NNPC is the institution with the statutory responsibility to harness Nigeria’s crude oil resources, it is understandable that Mr. Blair, and indeed, several other well-meaning individuals and corporate interest have called for its repositioning. The NNPC had battled with credibility and accountability and any effort by the administration is one far too urgent.
Like many compatriots, this writer is of the opinion that a proper auditing of the transactions of the NNPC is imperative towards engendering a culture of sound accountability in the corporation. The PriceWaterCooper (PWC) audit instituted at the wake of former Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido’s allegation of an “unaccountable” $20 billion by the NNPC did a bit of the job but a wholesome audit of the corporations dealings is needed so Nigerians would know how much of their commonwealth was frittered away in frivolities and who should be made to refund what.
Management of petroleum resources, which has also been a herculean task for the NNPC, needs restructuring, to say the least. The NNPC’s Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) which has not met public expectations in resolving the incessant fuel scarcity that has invariably placed exorbitant burdens on Nigerians,is due for a revisit. Issues of fuel subsidy management, which have been the bane of our national economic advancement due to the tardiness at DPR, need to be discountenanced in the light of present economic realities. If Buhari’s administration can get it right on fuel subsidy, then the country would be put on the right pedestal towards economic recovery.
However, in effecting a transition towards a more accountable and effective NNPC, certain issues like continuity in effective policies and innovations need to be put in proper perspectives to ensure that the baby is not thrown away with the bathwater. Among the many deficits of NNPC, there are bright spots that need to be sustained in the interim. Though the Public Affairs Department of the NNPC has been belaboured by the piles of allegations of sharp-practices against the management of the corporation and the encumbrances encountered in having to explain to a suspicious public on why fuel cannot be readily available to Nigerians, the division has lived up to her role of winning the confidence of Nigerians.
Since President Buhari is not new to the Nigerian oil industry, having served as Petroleum Minister under the military administration of General Olusegun Obasanjo and later as chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund under General Sani Abacha, managing the transition in the oil sector viz-a-viz the NNPC is not expected to task the intellect of the amiable leader for long. Crucial issues like the revival of the comatose refineries and creating an enabling environment for private sector investment in oil prospecting in Nigeria, so as to mitigate the backlashes of global downturn in prices of crude should be implemented with the guidance of some elements within the NNPC who ordinarily know better but have been encumbered by the aggrandizement of some greedy operatives.