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FLASHBACK: How ‘trinity’ Obasanjo was president, petroleum minister and minister of state for petroleum
Muhammau Buhari is not the first President to name himself Petroleum Minister. That record belongs to Olusegun Obasanjo, who for six out of his eight-year tenure, did not appoint a minister to oversee the petroleum ministry.
For six of his eight years in office, from 1999 to 2005, Obasanjo was President, Petroleum Minister and Minister of State for Petroleum.
He only appointed Edmund Daukoru, the current traditional ruler of Nembe Kingdom, in Bayelsa State, as Special Adviser on Petroleum and Energy in 2003, which was the last year of his first term.
Later, in July 2005, perhaps following a lawsuit filed by a group called the Niger Delta Democratic Union (NDDU), Obasanjo named Daukoru Minister of State.
In the suit filed by Austin Ayowe and Dafe Chuks, on behalf of the NDDU, the court was asked among other things to issue “an order directing President Obasanjo to appoint a Minister of Petroleum Resources in accordance with the mandatory provisions of the Petroleum Act Cap 350 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990 as amended”.
The plaintiffs also sought “an order restraining President Obasanjo and the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Authority (PPRA) from further exercising any function or powers of a Minister of Petroleum Resources”.
But the suit was struck out by Stephen Adah, the presiding judge, who held that the applicants had no locus standi to file the suit.
According to Adah, the plaintiffs “woefully failed to show how the refusal of the President to appoint a Petroleum Minister had affected their personal interests over and above the public interest”.
“Their claim that they are from Delta state, which is an oil-producing state, is not enough to confer locus on them. They have not shown any special interest over and above others that has been affected or likely to be affected. The issue being raised is not personal to them,” Justice Adah ruled.
“For them to have locus, they must duly show that their personal interests over and above the public interest have been affected.
“Since that has not been shown, this court will not be able to assume jurisdiction and the matter is hereby struck out.”
SECRECY — HOW THE OIL SECTOR WAS MANAGED
According to reports, Obasanjo’s leadership at the Petroleum Ministry was characterised by lots of opacity and breach of due process. In fact, the genesis of the controversial Malabu oil deal can be traced to the Obasanjo regime.
In December 2007, months after he handed over power to Umar Yar’Adua, the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) petitioned the EFCC demanding that Obasanjo be probed as he no longer enjoyed constitutional immunity.
“Let us start by stating that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, during his tenure, illegally appointed himself the Minister of Petroleum Resources, contrary to section 147 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” the petition read in part.
“Secondly, his activities in the oil industry were shrouded in secrecy, as he never rendered proper accounts of the oil revenue to relevant agencies like the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
“Thirdly, it is also on record that neither Federal Executive Council nor National Assembly was ever presented memoranda or budget of the oil industry.”
Similarly, when the news broke in 2015 that Buhari was going to announce himself Petroleum Minister, Vanguard newspaper published an editorial advising against such a move.
“The nation is still at sea over the way in which former President Olusegun Obasanjo handled the same job for six years from 1999 when he assumed power,” the article read.
“A number of turnaround maintenance projects were undertaken and billions of naira sunk and yet the refineries remained comatose…
“We do not want a repeat of the nation being put in the dark about proceedings in the industry.”
Also, Ifeanyi Izeze, a columnist cum oil and gas communications expert, asked two questions in an article in March: “Who was Nigeria’s President and Petroleum Minister in 2001 when the prospecting license of oil bloc OPL 245 was revoked and ownership reverted to the federal government?
“Who was Nigeria’s President and Petroleum Minister in 2006 when, after series of negotiations, the licence was restored and ownership of the oil bloc reverted to Malabu Oil and Gas Limited?”
Perhaps the not-very-good precedent set by Obasanjo is the major reason the likes of Olisa Agbakoba want Buhari to relinquish his position as Minister of Petroleum Resources and appoint a substantive minister.