…As Senate reverses self on NNPC unbundling
From Fred Itua and Kemi Yesufu, Abuja
MINISTER of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, yesterday said the Federal Government would need to raise between $300 million and $500 million to bring Warri, Port Harcourt and Kaduna refineries back to life.
Kachikwu, who is also the Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) made the disclosure at meeting with the joint House of Representatives’ Committee on Gas Resources, Petroleum (Downstream and Upstream) and Local Content, chaired by Victor Nwokolo, over the crisis trailing media report on unbundling of NNPC to 30 companies.
Meanwhile, barely 24 hours after the Senate openly condemned the ongoing restructuring of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) by the Presidency, the Red Chamber, yesterday made a sudden volte-face, saying that the action was in order and in the best interest of the country.
The Senate had on Wednesday announced plans to begin the probe of President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision on the matter. Senate Chief Whip, Senator Olusola Adeyeye (APC, Osun Central), who had moved the motion, had argued that the nation could not afford another industrial action as a result of the hasty decision of the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu.
But, at an emergency meeting of the joint Senate Committees on Petroleum (Upstream), Petroleum (Downstream) and Gas Resources, as well as the leadership of NNPC, lawmakers spoke eloquently in favour of the decision of the executive, contrary to their earlier stance that the action was illegal.
Before the lawmakers went into a closed door session where a compromise was struck, they had accused the NNPC boss, Kachikwu, of flouting the laws setting up the Corporation. Kachikwu was also accused of sabotaging the proposed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) by setting in motion moves to preempt the outcome of the bill.
While explaining what the country stands to gain from the restructuring of NNPC, Kachikwu tactically admitted that he erred by not carrying critical stakeholders along, including lawmakers.
But while the NNPC boss was yet to respond to the series of questions, the Chairmen of the three joint committees, namely, Petroleum (Upstream), Petroleum (Downstream) and Gas, instructed journalists and other clerical staff to leave the hearing room. The lawmakers said they needed to have a private discussion with the NNPC boss. The closed door session lasted for about 30 minutes.
Addressing journalists at the end of the executive session on behalf of other committee chairmen, Petroleum (Upstream) Chairman, Senator Tayo Alasoadura, vehemently defended the Presidency and NNPC.
He retracted the earlier positions of lawmakers. Alasoadura maintained that contrary to insinuations that the new restructuring will disrupt the proposed PIB, it was a laudable choice.
Alasoadura said: “We had a very useful interactive session with the Minister of Petroleum Resources. We wanted to know how he arrived at what he did at the NNPC, but he clarified the issue that he was not unbundling NNPC because it is an entity that was created by an Act of the National Assembly and nobody can touch it unless he comes back to the National Assembly for amendments.
“But having looked at what he did and the presentation he made to us, and having considered the welfare of its staff and those working in the subsidiaries that were affected by the reorganisation, we found out that, the staff would not be shortchanged and that no staff will be deprived of his employment “We also found out that he had not contravened the law because we were worried that he might be acting against the law, but having looked at the law with him, we found out that he did not contravene the law. We also told him that he ought to have done more consultation with the National Assembly for which he apologised and said that henceforth, more consultations would be done