Tension in PPPRA over alleged ‘waiver’ for appointment of executive secretary

29 March 2016, Abuja – The waiver allegedly obtained from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) for the appointment of Mrs. Sotonye Iyoyo as the acting Executive Secretary of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) has continued to create tension at the agency after the expiration of the one month promised by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu to resolve the issues surrounding her controversial appointment.

PPPRAIyoyo was until her appointment, the manager in charge of Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

Following the sack of the heads of 25 federal government’s agencies, including the immediate past Executive Secretary of PPPRA, Mr. Farouk Ahmed by President Muhammadu Buhari on February 15, Farouk had handed over to the most senior staff of the agency, Mr. Moses Mbaba in line with the directive of SGF.

But instead of allowing the most senior staff of PPPRA to act as the executive secretary of PPPRA as was obtained in other agencies whose heads were also sacked, the petroleum ministry allegedly claimed that it sought and got a waiver from the SGF to appoint, Iyoyo, an outsider to head the PPPRA.

Multiple sources within PPPRA told THISDAY at the weekend that the appointment of another staff of NNPC to head the agency, which regulates the corporation, was part of the old tradition of the ministry of petroleum to tidy up the books with respect to fuel importation by the corporation.

According to one of the sources, Ahmed was brought in after the kerosene subsidy controversy, when the corporation claimed that it was not being paid kerosene subsidy, while the federal government was actually paying it subsidy on kerosene.

“NNPC claimed that it was not collecting kerosene subsidy when it was actually collecting kerosene subsidy and Ahmed was brought in. Ahmed was Executive Director (Commercial) at the PPMC when the kerosene subsidy controversy erupted,” said one of the top officials of the agency.

Branch Chairman of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Mr. Victor Ononokpono had earlier requested the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other anti-graft agencies to probe the activities of the agency.

The union said it was convinced that something was amiss at the agency, hence its request on the EFCC to investigate its operations.

Another PPPRA source alleged that after the federal government sacked Ahmed on Monday, February 15, he deliberately delayed the handover till Thursday to enable the NNPC and the ministry of petroleum to perfect their plan of sending another outsider.

“Mbaba took over on Thursday and on Friday, he announced his plan to review certain approvals and decisions made by Ahmed, but he was denied access to the necessary documents until Monday when the NNPC sent Iyoyo, after they claimed that they received a waiver from the SGF. Was it not the same SGF that directed that he should hand over to the most senior?” he added.

He stated that Ahmed was jittery over SGF’s initial directive that he should handover to the most senior staff because throughout his two-year tenure as the executive Secretary, there was no love lost between him and Mbaba, who was General Manager in charge of Administration.

The source added that after Iyoyo’s appointment generated backlash with the workers shutting down the PPPRA headquarters, Kachikwu intervened and promised to resolve the matter within a month.

“He (Kachikwu) listened to us and aligned with our position that it is unethical to appoint the executive secretary of PPPRA from an organisation that is being regulated by the agency. In the minister’s words ‘it is against international best practices.’ He promised to resolve the issues within one month,” the source added.

The source further stated that there is palpable tension at the agency following the non-resolution of the issues after the expiration of the one month.

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