By Mofoluwake Omololu, Abuja.
Still reeling from alleged complicity in the Malabu oil deal that is rocking the nation, ENI, Italian oil giant’s subsidiary, Nigerian Agip Oil Company, NAOC, was Tuesday named on the floor of the Senate in investigations into alleged non-transparent transactions of the planned concession of the Port Harcourt Refinery.
NAOC and Oando Plc are to construct a $15billion refinery in the Niger Delta region.
The upper legislative chamber, which also ordered the stoppage of all processes on the planned concession until the Committee submitted its report, wanted to know how and why such a deal was sealed; the criteria used to select Agip/ENI and Oando Plc to maintain and operate the Port Harcourt Refinery; and the cost and time frame.of the project.
Members of the seven-man committee are Senators Abubakar Kyari (APC Borno North) –chairman; Benjamin Uwajumogwu (PDP Imo Nortrh) –vice chairman; Sabo Mohammed (APC Jigawa South), Dino Melaye (APC Kogi West), Duro Faseyi (PDP Ekiti North), Aliya Wamakko (APC Sokoto North) and Mathew Urhoghide (PDP Edo South) respectively.
Senator Sabo Mohammed, said in his lead debate that the Senate was worried about the alleged non-transparent transactions, adding that the federal government recently entered into agreement with NAOC to construct the refinery, a deal which also includes investment by Agip in a power plant with the Italian company assisting Nigeria in the repair of the Port Harcourt Refinery.
He pointed out that major stakeholder like the Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE empowered by law to conduct such exercise and the labour unions were not aware of the deal that is supposed to be signed officially by July this year.
According to him, “the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources stated that the agreement was part of a broader federal government plan to increase capacity for local production and consumption of petroleum products with the aim of ending fuel importation in Nigeria”.
“While the resolve by the federal government to increase local refining capacity is laudable and should be applauded by all Nigerians, the observance of corporate governance principles and the country’s extant laws must be followed to the letter”.
“It is not yet clear if the new arrangement is a concession agreement or an agreement to build a new refinery, the confusion became obvious following the disclosure on May 11, 2017 by the Chief Executive Officer of Oando Plc on the floor of the Nigeria Stock Exchange that the group had received approval of federal government to repair, operate and maintain the Port Harcourt Refinery Company with their partner, Agip”, he added.
Mohammed noted that the development would have been a good one “because it would mean an end to importation of refined products by the year 2020”, but expressed concern that the concessions “without recourse to due process is illegal and a clear attempt at ridiculing Nigerians and would definitely create a big hole that would be hard to fill in the anti-corruption crusade of the present administration”.
The lawmaker said “in such transactions, the best practice is to select partners through open and competitive bids, that is, prepare the business for sale, market the business, buyers’ selection and close the transaction”.
He added that “any exclusive that does not follow the above procedure hatched in the dark without the knowledge and participationof relevant stakeholders tend to lead to sub-optimal outcomes for the seller (in this case the federal government)”.