THE House of Representatives Committee on Privatisation, Wednesday, stopped the proposed sale of the nation’s three refineries by Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC. They are Port-Hacourt, Kaduna and Warri refineries. The committee made the pronouncement after engaging officials of the NNPC and the Bureau of Public Enterprises,BPE, on the exercise and declared that NNPC violated the provisions of BPE Act Section 11 of 2009 During the interactive session, members of the committee accused the NNPC of acting unilaterally by going ahead with the exercise without involving other stakeholders as contained in the Act.
Before making the declaration, chairman of the committee, Ahmed Yerima, said there was an exchange of words between the Group Executive Director of the NNPC in charge of refineries, Mr Anibor Kragba, and the members of the committee which led to abrupt adjournment of the sitting. Prior to the sitting, members of the committee were not particularly happy when informed that the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, who is also Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, was being represented by the Group Executive Director, Anibor Kragba. Most members of the committee kicked against the arrangement, insisting that the Minister of State should appear personally at a later date to explain why the NNPC was planning to sell the refineries without following due process. The lawmakers said their action was based on past experience with the corporation when its chief executives failed to honour invitations extended to the organisation. However, after assurances from the corporation’s Group Executive Director that he had the mandate of the minister to represent him and was competent to handle the matter in question, he was allowed to represent Kachikwu.
Kragba was then allowed to make his presentation along side Acting BPE Director General, Mr Vincent Akpotarie, during which he denied that the corporation was out to privatise the refineries. According to him, the NNPC is only sourcing for core investors to invest in the refineries, since their rehabilitation was capital intensive. The committee demanded to know who authorised the corporation to embark on such an exercise without the knowledge of the National Assembly and the BPE. Kragba, however, said he needed to clarify the information, stressing that he was just appointed. This did not go down well with the lawmakers, who challenged him on his earlier claim that he was competent to handle the matter to their satisfaction.
Kragba interjected, saying: “With due respect to this Honourable Committee, I was appointed into office by Mr President, who believed in my competence.” Reps call off sitting This statement irked all the members, who went wild because of his choice of words considered to be derogatory on them and resolved to call off the sitting immediately. Chairman of the committee, Yerima, ruled that the NNPC should stop the exercise immediately for gross violation of the BPE Act. He cautioned Kragba to be careful with his choice of words before the parliament. He said: “I’m sure if Mr President reads this BPE Act, he will not be happy with what you are doing. We are preaching change, change in our ways of doing things for the betterment of the country and yet we the leaders are doing things the other way round. Impunity is still rampant, I’m a member of All Progressives Congress, APC, and promised the people of real change before they gave us their votes.” Acting Director-General of the BPE, Mr Akpotaire, had earlier raised some fundamental issues on the privatisation that needed to be sorted out before it could be done in the interest of the nation, saying BPE was not part of the whole process.