Employees and senior officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation on Thursday were silent on the amount spent by the corporation on chartered private jets in the past two years for the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Enquiries by our correspondent got no response as most of the workers at the corporation feigned ignorance on issues that had to do with the chartered private jets.
Although there was no information on the notice boards sighted at the corporation restricting workers from talking about the issue, it was gathered that the private jet transactions were seemingly conducted outside the knowledge of most staff.
Prior to Thursday’s visit to the corporation, our correspondent had, for the past two weeks, been seeking clarification on the issue from the NNPC’s spokesperson, Mr. Omar Ibrahim.
On several occasions, the NNPC had promised to disclose the amount spent on the jets and had claimed it was empowered by law to own or charter private jets for its operations.
It, however, did not disclose the amount spent on the jets up till the time of filing this report, even after its spokesperson was contacted on Thursday.
Although an official source stated that the corporation might not be able to present a comprehensive figure, our correspondent learnt that the corporation often flew its senior officials on chartered planes.
“What you are asking for will be tough if not impossible to get, because it is not only the minister who uses private jets,” the official said.
The House of Representatives had passed a resolution to probe an alleged spending of N10bn by Alison-Madueke to charter and maintain a jet for her personal use.
The resolution indicated that the minister spent N130m monthly to maintain the aircraft in the last two years.
Asked to state the actual amount spent by the corporation following the allegation that the minister spent N10bn in two years on private jets, Ibrahim had told our correspondent that he did not have the figure and promised to get back two weeks ago.
He had stated, “I don’t have the figure and can’t give it to you off hand. I will ask from those who should know. As soon as I get it, you will know.”
The NNPC spokesperson argued that the jets were used to achieve the corporation’s objectives.
Ibrahim said, “Chartering an aircraft is one of the facilities you consider in pursuit of your commercial objectives and there is nothing prohibiting the NNPC from owning or chartering an aircraft.”
Asked if there was a specified budget by the NNPC for the hiring of private jets for its senior officers, he said, “It comes under our operational expenses. Or where else will it come from? It is part of our operations.
“We have never chartered an aircraft for the sole purpose of the minister’s use. Whether it is our plane or a chartered plane, it is meant for work. And work is conducted by the minister, who is the chairman of the board, the group managing director and even by our chief engineers and technicians. So it is not limited to the minister. We hire it for operational purposes.”