The lower house of the National Assembly has declared that its investigation into the country’s crude oil swap arrangement is being hampered by non-cooperation by agencies of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources despite the highly advertised reforms in the sector.
House of Representatives which is currently investigating allegations of corruption in the offshore processing arrangement (OPA) stated yesterday that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its subsidiaries are withholding information critical to the course of investigation.
Chairman of the House’s ad hoc committee, Hon. Zakari Mohammed, stated that NNPC was trying to subvert the investigation by failing to respond to letters requiring them to furnish the legislators with information necessary to progress with investigation. “These documents are in their hands and in their domain, these documents we are asking are of things done in the past, we are finding it very funny that NNPC and its agencies are finding it difficult to bring us up to speed,” he said.
The investigation followed series of allegations that the past administrations of the federal government had lost billions of dollars in crude swap arrangement in which NNPC barters crude oil meant for its refineries in exchange for refined petroleum products with refineries outside the country.
Under the arrangement, about 445,000 barrels of crude oil is allocated the NNPC for internal refining but following the moribund state of the corporation’s refineries, part of the crude oil is given out for barter deals while the rest was refined mainly by domestic refineries in Warri and Port Harcourt.
The swap arrangement was alleged to be fraught with backstage deals in which billions of dollars in crude oil were said to be lost to external parties. The allegations sparked off investigations by several agencies including the National Assembly and independent audit firms including the PriceWaterCoopers, popularly called PWC.
The new government of President Muhammadu Buhari had tried to sanitize the NNPC, appointing a new set of technocrats that replaced the top cream of the corporation’s management in a swift move to address allegations of corruption in the system.
But the House of Representatives yesterday declared that nothing has changed in the corporation where the new Group Managing Director, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, has boasted to have successfully enthroned new orientation of transparency and accountability. The ad hoc committee mandated by the House to investigate these deals said that the NNPC was trying to subvert its investigation by not making its own submission that would aid in investigation.
The House thus threatened to take action against agencies implicated in the oil swap deals covering the period from 2005 to 2015. The agencies of Petroleum Ministry indicted for non-cooperation include NNPC, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and Pipeline Products Marketing Company (PPMC). Hon. Zakari Mohammed said in Abuja that section 88 and 89 of the constitution empowers the committee to expose corruption and at the same time straighten the books.
“We are having difficulties with the NNPC, the Crude Oil division and the PPMC and you are all aware pursuant to section 88 and 89 we have been empowered to expose corruption at the same time be able to straighten the books. “But as it appears that the NNPC is trying to subvert our investigation, we have written them a letter just like every other agency those ones have responded, the NNPC hasn’t responded, the crude division and the PPMC and we wrote a remainder, they only responded passively on Tuesday saying that they need more time.
-Dyepkazah Shibayan, Abuja