THE recent establishment of the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force (PRSTF) and the National Refineries Special Task Force (NRSTF) by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, has drawn condemnation from stakeholders who described the two bodies as mere platforms for political patronage.
The stakeholders, in separate interviews with The Guardian, said the mandates of the two new committees were replications of the functions already assigned to the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI); the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR); certain departments in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources; the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation; the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation; Federal Inland Revenue; the Ministry of Finance; among others.
According to the stakeholders, the functions of these relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) have systematically addressed the terms of reference assigned to both PRSTF and NRSTF as expressed in the mandates given to NEITIT and the MDAs.
A long-serving member of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and Chairman of Association of Plastic Manufacturers in Nigeria, Dr. David V.C Obi, said: “NEITI was mandated by law to promote transparency and accountability in the management of Nigeria’s oil, gas and mining revenues, which is a major component of the ongoing anti-corruption reforms in the country. Why then set up a committee, headed by Mallam Nuhu Ribadu to do the same job?”
Obi also pointed out that relevant MDAs and even some committees in the National Assembly have mandates to perform the functions for which NRSTF, headed by Dr. Idika Kalu is being saddled with.
“Based on the recent nationwide protest against fuel price hike in the country, I believe the two committees were set up to divert attention from the main issues and thereby buy time, so that the corruptive disposition of ‘business as usual’ will be sustained.
“The setting up of the committee is vexatious and an attempt to insult the intelligence of Nigerians. It is a diversionary strategy to make Nigerians forget about the rot being continually perpetrated in the oil industry. But I can tell you, Nigerians are now much wiser and can no longer be fooled,” he said.
The President of Trade Union Congress, Peter Esele, described the setting up of the special task forces as a reaction to the issues in the petroleum sector.
He said: “I see the establishment of those committees as a reaction to the problems on ground, our problem is not just setting up committees. The biggest problem we have in this country is how to enforce our laws.
“NEITI was set up to audit the reports on the oil sector in the country, and they have published several audit reports over the years. So, if what they are doing is to remedy the faults pointed out in the NEITI audit, then it is in the right direction, but if it is not, then, I consider it a motion without movement,” he said.
An auditor, who is well acquitted with NEITI operations and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the transparency body should rather be strengthened for better performance instead of setting up a task force on monitoring of oil and gas revenues.
He said: “I don’t see much commitment in all this. If there is a problem with NEITI, they should look into it and give them powers. I am aware that full autonomy was a major challenge to them, why not give them powers and strengthen the body, instead of setting up a task force to do almost the same thing.
“I learnt that the offices of the Auditor General and Accountant General of the Federation are being incorporated in PRSTF and NEITI has picked lapses in their commitment to the audit, what do you expect? This is more or less an unnecessary duplication. I think what they should have done is empowerment of NEITI and enforcement of NEITI reports.”