30 September, Sweetcrude, Abuja – Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Olisa Agbakoba Thursday urged the National Assembly to work towards the scrapping the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Delivering a goodwill message at the inauguration of the 89 standing and special committees of the House of Representatives, Agbokoba said the country was being milked dry by the secrecy of the NNPC and oil majors operating in the country.
The former NBA boss, who said over N7 trillion was lost to oil majors yearly through various means with the active connivance of the NNPC, questioned the viability of the corporation.
”NNPC is owing so much money, the question is why? Questions like, do we need an NNPC in the first place should be asked. In my view, we don’t. I will urge you to consider a law to scrap the NNPC,” he said.
He identified a major area where funds were being lost to oil majors as the 60-40 equity arrangement between the NNPC and the oil majors, which he described as a fraud.
The lawyer said no one knows what is being produced in the crude oil sector or at what cost it is being produced, adding that it is only when one knows the cost of oil (amount at which a barrel of crude is produced) that the revenue and production can be tracked.
He accused the oil majors of ripping off the country through huge legal fees to the tune of $1 billion yearly and maintained that they keep the proceeds mainly in foreign banks.
Agbakoba said the National Assembly has to operate from the point of knowledge if it is to become effective in its oversight and win the admiration of Nigerians.
But the management of the NNPC disagreed with Agbakoba, saying the corporation remains virile, strong and a veritable partner in the nation’s quest for growth and economic development.
Corporation’s spokesman Dr. Levi Ajuonuma described Agbakoba’ statement on the existing arrangements in the oil and gas industry, the supervisory role of the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS) and NNPC as totally uninformed and unwarranted bar-room comment on the nation’s premier revenue earner.
“It is pertinent to remind Mr. Agbakoba that as far as the oil and gas industry is concerned, he remains an uniformed stakeholder. He even admitted as much before making those comments. He should have known better by limiting himself to whatever areas of expertise he claims to possess”, Ajuonuma said.
“In today’s global economic climate such disparaging comment on the Nigerian National Oil Company is also tantamount to an unpatriotic comment on Nigeria,” Ajuonuma added.
He called on Agbakoba and his likes to make use of the Freedom of Information Act to acquaint themselves of facts before jumping to wild conclusion and irrelevances.
Former Clerk to the National Assembly, Mr. Yomi Ogunyomi, who delivered the main lecture titled: “Strengthening the effectiveness of committee system in the House,” said the constitution of over 80 standing committees was not an impediment to legislative workings.
Of the 85 standing committees, he said, only Appropriation met 27 times during the 2009/2010 legislative year. Majority met for just 10 times.