Barely 24 hours after the Senate openly condemned the unbundling of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) by the presidency, the Red Chamber made a sudden U-turn, 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 process into the probe of the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari. 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 between 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 its 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.
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, he said 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 ammendments.
“But having looked at what he did and the presentation he made to us, and having considered the welfare of its staff of NNPC and those working in the subsidiaries that were affected by the reorganization, what he has done in the sector, we found out that one, the staff would not be shortchanged, 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 apologized and he said that henceforth, more consultations will be done.
“We feel that he is working in the best interest of Nigeria. We want all Nigerians to support him so that we can get out of the trouble in which we have found ourselves in this country today.
“What the minister has done is the internal reorganization of NNPC. With the gradual reorganization that the minister has been doing before, the loss of the NNPC as at last month was only N3 billion. He is already assuring us, that by July 2016, that we would have gotten to a level that NNPC will not be making any loss any longer and the only way to do it is to put all hands on the plough. Let everybody work for his pay. Let there be no fat cow that will just suck without contributing anything.”
In his similar remarks after the closed door session, Senator Jibrin Barau, chairman, Petroleum Resources (Downstream) said: “The important thing is to be sure that no law was contravened, no part of the NNPC Act was contravened in the process of bringing about this restructuring and we have been convinced that no part of that law was contravened
“But the only thing is lack of consultation between the NNPC, Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the National Assembly. We brought that to the table and he said we are going to have a new beginning when consultation will always be there when this exercise would be carried out.
“By and large, we are satisfied and we are going to report back to the leadership of the Senate and the entire Senate in plenary. The exercise according to the minister will be something good to the entity and turn from making losses and enter into the era of profitability.
“We have agreed to interface and support him. We have also assured that we are going to increase our support for him so that he can really achieve the aim and objective the agency had set for itself. It portends something good for our country and we need to give necessary support to the NNPC and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources based on the restructuring.”
Attempts by newsmen to speak with NNPC boss, Kachikwu proved abortive. He declined to respond to enquiries made by journalists on the implication of his decision.
(Fred Itua, SUN NEWS ONLINE)