The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, has promised that it would respond to requests for the disclosure of contracts and contractors this month to demonstrate transparency and accountability in its operations.
Group Managing Director of the corporation, Mele Kyari, made this known when the management of Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, led by its Executive Secretary, Waziri Adio visited the NNPC headquarters in Abuja.
He stated that the corporation was cautious of Freedom of Information, FOI requests from people who intend to drag the corporation into politics in the guise of requests for information under the FOI Act.
“As you are aware, sometimes the requests are brazenly malicious, and they are laden with political undertones. NNPC finds it difficult to respond to such requests because it is mindful of falling into the trap of being drawn into politics or maligning others,” he said.
He said the biggest contracts in the corporation’s portfolio currently were the products supply contracts under the Direct Sales Direct Purchase scheme, adding that details of the contracts and the contractors would also be made public within the month.
Using the DSDP scheme, NNPC sells crude oil to international refiners and receives refined petroleum products in return.
From 2011 to 2014, he said the corporation had inherited a total of 65 unaudited financial statements which will be audited and updated with the current financial audits.
He promised to make the monthly financial and operations reports of the corporation more accessible by publishing the soft copies of the reports from January to May 2019.
The NNPC has a blemished record for its lack of public disclosure of its financial records and also repeatedly failing to comply with the provisions of FOI Act which was signed in 2011.
The FOI law mandates public institutions to grant access and reply to a request for public records, except those on national security, within a time limit of seven days. Any insufficient denial of such request by an institution or public official attracts a fine of N500,000 payable on conviction by a court.
In 2018, the NNPC was embroiled in a legal tussle with human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, for rejecting an FOI request on its operations and finances claiming it was not a “public institution” subject to the Act.
Also, several media outfits have also been stonewalled by the NNPC in a bid to obtain information about its financial dealings. A report by the Guardian newspaper in 2014 also reveals a general defiance posture taken by the NNPC towards journalists who intend to details of its financial transactions.
In another development, the NNPC is soliciting for the support of the military for its planned commencement of full oil exploration operations in the Chad Basin, Gongola and Benue Trough.
The NNPC spokesperson, Ndu Ughamadu, quoting Kyari said the NNPC management led by the GMD paid a visit to the Chief of Defence Staff, Gabriel Olonisakin, to ensure the protection of its workforce and high-tech equipment as it was prepared to return to business in the areas.
The support will enable us (NNPC) to carry out our mandate for national development. Your support in terms of providing full security for staff and equipment is critical to us,” he said.
He said the corporation requires the military to intensify its efforts in the protection of NNPC’s pipelines and Right of Way, RoW, across the nook and cranny of Nigeria.
In his response, Olonisakin described the NNPC as a strategic corporation that deserves to be given full military support to enable her to deliver on her mandate to the Nigerian people.
“It is imperative for the Armed Forces and the NNPC to collaborate and synergize for the benefit of the country going by their various strategic roles to the nation. The Armed Forces operations, code-named: Operation Wase and Operations Delta Safe, along with other operations, were geared towards protecting pipelines and various oil and gas facilities,” he said.
Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.