Fuel scarcity: OrderPaper demands progress on Baru-gate probe

NNPC tower

As the Senate commenced a public hearing on the fuel scarcity which inflicted untold hardship and marred the Christmas and New Year celebrations of millions of Nigerians across the country, OrderPaper Nigeria has challenged the National Assembly to provide an update on its probe into the $25billion contracts award scandal at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

A statement signed by Oke Epia, Executive Director of OrderPaper Advocacy Initiative, stressed that Nigerians would hold the Senate to account on the Baru-gate probe it announced with much fanfare in October 2017 but on which nothing has been heard since then.

According to OrderPaper, “Nigerians are very worried that three months after the Senate sensationally announced and constituted an Ad-Hoc Committee to investigate damning allegations of breach of due process and corruption in contracts awards to the tune of 25 billion US Dollars in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), no progress has been reported by the Red Chamber,” adding that “mum has been the word as there appears to be an institutional conspiracy to sweep the matter under the proverbial carpet.”

Noting that the current fuel scarcity could have been averted if the Baru-gate probe was diligently pursued by the Senate, the statement said “Nigerians are worried that the National Assembly, which is constitutionally empowered to investigate and expose corruption and waste in government, seems to be defaulting in its responsibility in first of all providing effective oversight in the critical oil sector; and then slacking on leads on illegal, unwholesome and corrupt practices provided by useful sources.”

OrderPaper further stressed that “Nigerians will continue to hold the National Assembly, particularly the Senate, to account both on the abandoned $25 billion NNPC contracts breach investigation and the now hurriedly launched hearing on the Yuletide fuel crisis. Nigerians demand concrete changes to their lives from the gains of the country’s rich oil and gas resources.”

The statement read in part: “When the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, blew the lid in his famous leaked letter to President Muhammadu Buhari on disregard for due process and untidy deals by the Dr. Maikanti Baru-led management of the NNPC, not a few Nigerians were peeved at the sordid revelations which if properly investigated and addressed by appropriate authorities could possibly have averted the current fuel crisis.

“As the Presidency played casual over such grievous expose, it was therefore reassuring when the Senate took on the issue and expanded the scope of its probe by calling out the NNPC in the application of the Direct-Sales-Direct-Purchase arrangement to unduly favour certain companies, including Duke Oil.

“According to Senator Samuel Anyanwu who moved the motion on October 4, 2017 which was adopted by the Senate, Duke Oil was incorporated in 1989 in Panama specifically to play a dominant role in the trading of petroleum products especially crude oil in the international oil market. The Senator further affirmed that the company, compared to other major players in the sector, was still grappling with the basics of what it was registered to do in spite of massive support from the NNPC.

“He had therefore queried “the decision by the current GMD to allocate almost all products to Duke Oil in addition to its automatic inclusion in the lifting of Crude Oil, Gas, etc, which thus made Duke Oil a money spinning outfit that is accountable only to NNPC. Since NNPC owns NNPC Trading Limited and the refineries, they also shortlist companies that get allocation of products, lifting of crude oil and importation of products thus, giving undue advantage to the in-house company, even where it lacks the capacity and requisite requirements to do what it is doing today.”

“The Senate naturally hugged the headlines the next day. And then days turned to weeks with no concrete word as to when the Committee would be inaugurated. It was when tongues began to wag over the delayed take-off of the Senate probe that the Committee Chairman, Senator Aliyu Wammakko, spoke and dismissed suggestions that the investigation had met a solid brick wall.

“A statement from his office denied “intense pressure whether from the Presidency or elsewhere,” and blamed the absence of key committee members who “were out of the country to Russia with the Senate President” for delay in take-off. This was in the last week of October 2017.

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Baru-gateFuel scarcity


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