Jonathan And The Ribadu Report By Reuben Abati

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It is so
unfortunate that there has been so much ignorant carping and malicious
tittle-tattling about the report of the Petroleum Revenue Task Force chaired by
Malam Nuhu Ribadu, both failings arising from a deliberate attempt to
individualize what was actually group work, a mischievous attempt to politicize
one report out of three, and to smuggle into an emergent grand web of
conspiracy, elements of blackmail, mischief and outright opportunism.

I should like to dispel the putrefacious stench of the fart that
seems to have overtaken the subject by returning all of us to certain basics
that have not changed since President Jonathan approved the setting up of
committees to inquire into different aspects of the Petroleum Sector and
particularly since the reports were presented and accepted. The facts are as
follows.

The committees in
question and the probe into the Petroleum sector were initiated by President
Goodluck Jonathan to ensure transparency and accountability in the extractive
industry; the goal was to transform the sector and raise levels of integrity
accordingly.
Every step that has been taken by this administration in this
regard has been in fulfillment of this well-stated principle. This includes the
decision to completely deregulate the downstream sector, which has now resulted
in the exposure of oily deals in that sector, with consequences for the
indicted persons.
It also includes the launch of a concerted fight against crude oil
theft and illegal payments of fuel subsidy. Zakari Mohammed of the House of
Representatives talks absent-mindedly about “lack of political will” to fight
corruption.
He certainly doesn’t know what he is talking about.  A
legislative position should not confer a right to mendacity. He should know, if
he had been reading the newspapers, that on the basis of both the report of the
House of Representatives and the Aig Aig-Imokhuede committee report on fuel
subsidy payments, persons are currently being prosecuted in the law courts by
the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The Federal Government has not done anything to stop or discourage
the prosecution of indicted persons. We have made the point, again and again,
that in this on-going fight against corruption, there will be no “cover ups”;
and no “sacred cows,” and that President Jonathan’s only interest is the
people’s interest.
This same President has demonstrated the political will to deal
with corruption in the country’s electoral process, to both local and global
acclaim. He has no reason to make compromises in other areas of national life.
Interestingly, many of those who are now talking ignorantly about
“political will” are beneficiaries of this administration’s commitment to the
rule of law and fair play.
On the specific issue of the Petroleum Revenue Task Force report,
the mischief-makers should go back to the statements made by President
Jonathan, and subsequently by the Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke,
on the occasion of the presentation of the report.
The President’s position that the work of the Ribadu Committee,
and of the two other committees that presented their reports on that occasion,
the Idika Kalu committee on Refineries and the Dotun Sulaiman Committee on
Governance is useful and enlightening has not changed.
Alison-Madueke has further echoed that position more than twice.
The three committees were set up as fact-finding and advisory bodies. That fact
was further underscored by the President’s mature response to the altercation
that the Ribadu Committee Report generated when he said that those who have
issues to raise should be free to make their own independent submissions.
This shows a determination to get every possible piece of
information and to accommodate all concerns. This shows a will to act.
President Jonathan has not dumped any input, rather he welcomes every possible
input and he has no private interest in this matter. So for anyone to say that
the Ribadu committee was “calculated to fail from the beginning”, is absolutely
uncharitable.
Indeed, for the benefit of those playing politics and doing quick
business with this matter, the truth is that President Jonathan is already
taking steps to address some of the issues raised in the various reports.
When President Jonathan sets up committees to investigate
particular issues, he does so, because he wants to address those issues.
I had, before now, drawn attention to the fact that the President
gave clear directives on the state of the refineries and that at least one
meeting had been held since the presentation of the Report on Refineries, to
act specifically on the recommendations made. President Jonathan has directed
that he wants the refineries fixed and steps are already being taken; deadlines
have been set.
That didn’t make the headlines, rather, falsehood hugged the
headlines, because these days it pays to fart all over the place, and attract attention.
To set the records straight, here is what happened. After the
presentation of the reports by the three committees; the President directed the
Minister of Petroleum Resources to take up the recommendations of the Kalu
Idika Kalu committee on refineries.
The committee recommended, in part, that the country’s refineries
should be rehabilitated without any further delay. On November 8, the Minister
and her team were at the Villa to brief the President about the state of the
refineries, their current capacities, and steps that need to be taken to get
them to function at optimum capacity.
The President made it clear that the government is committed to
getting the refineries to work, so that we would no longer have to import
refined petroleum products, which he considers shameful, and by so doing,
government would have succeeded in creating jobs and put an end to the hardship
that attends importation.
The meeting discussed the possibility of ensuring the Turn Around
Maintenance of the refineries by March 2013, and subsequently, the
rehabilitation of the facilities. The meeting ended with a directive that the
Minister and her team should return with further presentations on the technical
details of the agreed plan of action. This is one clear example of prompt
action and demonstration of commitment.
President Jonathan has no reason to embarrass anyone who served on
any of the three committees.
While receiving the
reports, these were his words: “…we have seen that the people that have been selected in these
committees are people that are known by Nigerians, people that are credible,
most especially people that are patriotic and I believe that they put all that
into consideration for the interest of the country not for the interest of any
individual.
You have submitted your reports
today. We have to thank you very sincerely and government will surely make use
of these reports… because we feel that the oil industry as it is, need to be
reformed.”
 I urge you to note
the emphasis on all the reports without exception!
Thereafter,
President Jonathan commented on the work of the individual committees. On Dotun
Sulaiman committee, he said: “…we feel that our governance and control, (in the oil and gas
sector) we need to look at it. And of course quite a number of issues raised by
the presenters link up with even the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) issues and I
believe it will even help the National Assembly robustly in terms of looking at
some aspects of the PIB. So we thank you very sincerely for that.”
On the Kalu Idika
Kalu Committee he said: “In
the case of the refineries, I really have to thank you because I was listening,
trying to see the kind of recommendations you will bring up…Maybe some of you
don’t know but those of us who are in politics, they used to “yab” us some
years back that in Nigeria we import what we have and export what we don’t
have.
They say we import what we have
because we have crude oil for God’s sake. Ordinarily if it is a country where
we placed our focus right, we should be having filling stations all over Africa
and all over the world …It is disgraceful that we are importing petroleum
products.
If in the next ten years this
country still imports petroleum products then all of us who have the
opportunity to be here, in fact when we die they should write something and put
behind us that we did not rule this country well, because we must stop the
importation of petroleum products.”
  Hence, the President held the aforementioned follow-up
meeting on refineries.
Now, on the Ribadu
Report, President Jonathan said, inter alia: “…Probably not everybody agreed
on some of the conclusions but I don’t think we need to bother…what we would
say is that any member who has one or two observations should please write it
either directly to me through the Chief of Staff or through the Minister of
Petroleum Resources…
But the issues of finance, if
it borders on corrupt practice or outright stealing, definitely it will go to
the EFCC for investigation…If there are errors of calculation or misinformation
from the relevant agencies of government that are supposed to give the correct
figures, that will be filtered out.
It will not be used against
anybody, because the interest of government to set up these committees is to
help us do what is right. It is not to help us do what is wrong. And that is
why we have to be careful and do what is right. So I plead with you.
  But
let me assure you that government has no interest in hiding anything…”
Let me cut this short, at this point, by saying that President
Goodluck Jonathan has no reason whatsoever, personal or political (since at
least one character has said that the furore over the Ribadu Report has
something  to do with 2015!) to protect wrong-doers in the land.
He took on this assignment to make Nigeria better and that is what
he is doing everyday: working hard at the Nigerian project and taking every
step to transform it for good.
The Nigerian people are enjoined to stand on the side of truth and
to reject the mischief of all hunters of fortune whose interest is their own
ambitions, for in this Ribadu Committee Report matter, personal ambitions are
beginning to becloud the facts. President Jonathan will continue to provide
leadership. Nobody should drag him into the cheap arena of opportunistic demagoguery.

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