20 January 2012, Sweetcrude, ABUJA – Nigeria’s Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke has dismissed calls by critics for her to step down from office to allow proper investigation into allegations of abuse in the management of petroleum subsidies.
Alison-Madueke, who spoke to journalists, Thursday, after the inauguration of the Special Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) Task Force, in Abuja, also noted that the incidence of corruption and abuse in the subsidy process occurred in past administrations prior to recent adoption of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) by her ministry.
“We live in a democratic country; everyone has the right to speak their mind both for and against any individual, particularly individuals that put themselves up for public office. And I must add that individuals that put themselves up for public office should be very open for criticism because without criticism we cannot grow,” she said.
Throwing more light on what had transpired in the Ministry since her assumption of office she said: “The PPPRA came under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources less than a year ago. Prior to that, the agency was reporting to the Presidency, and had a Chairman of Board. Once it came under the ministry, we looked at it critically and put a new management in place and reshuffled its staff. ”
She pointed out that the problem of corruption in the handling of petroleum subsidy had been existing for many years before the present administration. “It did not start in this administration. However, what we have done is to move in and attempt to put processes in place to have the place under control in the shortest possible time,” she stated.
She noted that for about eight months, after the agency was taken over by the Ministry, they looked at the performance indicators for the allocation and were concerned over what we saw and what was on ground from the performance indicator.
“On that basis and considering other issues that we heard, we appointed a new Executive Secretary to go in with the mandate to reform the place, tighten the control and look again at our regulations, and ensure that the entire system, the processes and procedure were handled in a much tighter and controlled manner.”
“And I must state that since the beginning of November when the changes occurred, we have seen remarkable progress.
“Of course, we also called in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to come in and look at the books, and to prosecute people were they are found culpable. I would assume that we had already put in the necessary processes and procedures to make sure that things are done in a proper manner.”
Speaking on the relevance of the Special Task Force, Alison-Madueke explained that the work done by the Oil and Gas Sector Reform Implementation Committee (OGIC) on the previous bill could not be said to have been in vain.
“However, after the failure of the bill to sail through the sixth National Assembly, we feel that it needs to be redefined and gingered up for a very expedient passage through the new National Assembly.
“We are also aware, as a matter of fact, that at the end of the last National Assembly, there were more than a few copies of the PIB that were floating around. Bringing together these eminent group of Nigerians and very experienced technical committee is aimed at redefining the bill, by bringing all the indices into place and looking at all the critical sections to the strategic purpose of the bill.
“Let us bear in mind that this bill has been in the making for over fifty years, but what we are saying is that no matter how long it has taken we need to get it right once and for all.”
She added that, “This bill is very critical because it is one upon which the entire oil and gas industry will stand for posterity. In a nutshell, the work of the committee is to take it further, redefine it and ensure that is passed as quickly as possible.”
According to the Minister, “We are beginning a new chapter for the Nigerian petroleum industry, as we turn a new page for a new beginning. I think that we have listened to the voice of the people over the last few weeks, as they spoke in unison asking or accelerated reform in the Nigerian oil and gas industry.
“These are reforms that we have already begun to put in place over the last few months and we want to anchor them critically upon the new Petroleum Industry Bill, which is regarded as the most important piece of legislation to have come out of the nation’s oil and gas sector in more than 50 years.”
Accordingly, she said, the government was ready to take another step towards the passage of the PIB. “Despite the challenges encountered in passing the Bill during the last National Assembly, we must now renew our collective determination to work with the seventh National Assembly.
While inaugurating the Committee she said “It is my privilege to inaugurate the PIB Special Task Force under the chairmanship of Senator Udoma Udo Udoma. Together the special task force will be working alongside a Technical Sub-Committee, which is charged with reviewing old versions of the bill and produce a draft within the next 30 working days.”
She further disclosed the terms of reference of the Special PIB Task Force which include “working with the Technical sub-committee and the Office of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the Office of the CME and the Attorney-General to produce a new copy of the Bill to be presented to the National Assembly in the shortest possible time.”
She added, “It also includes working with the new National Assembly to ensure the quick passage of the bill. We will, of course, consult with various stakeholders including industry operators, labour and civil society, and the media, to ensure that everyone is taken on board in the passage of the PIB for the development of the oil and gas industry in particular and the nation in general.”
“It goes without saying that as eminent citizens with great knowledge and experience in the operations of the legislature and the oil and gas industry , the entire country can count on your technical and legislative acumen to see to the making of this very important bill for the growth and development of the nation’s petroleum industry.”
In his own comments at the occasion, the Chairman of the Special Task Force for PIB, Senator Udoma Udoma, thanked the Minister for inaugurating the Committee, adding that whereas its own duty was that of liaising with the National Assembly in order to ensure a quick passage of the bill, it was the responsibility of the Technical Committee to draft the new legislation.
Other members of the Committee are Senators Tunde Ogbeha, M.T. Liman and Agboti. Others are former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Hon. Chibudom Nwuche and President of Trade Union Congress (TUC) Peter Esele.