The Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Petroleum Revenue, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu
By Chineme Okafor
The Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Petroleum Revenue and former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, has passed a vote of no confidence on the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), saying the agency has failed in its regulation of Nigeria’s downstream petroleum sector.
Ribadu, in his assessment of the administration of funds earmarked for subsidy on petrol under the Petroleum Support Fund (PSF), which is statutorily managed by PPPRA, stated that the agency could not have claimed ignorance of the underhand dealings in the scheme.
He stated that officials of PPPRA could not lay claims to being innocent of the sustained corruption in the administration of funds under the PSF scheme, adding that the agency should be held responsible for the high-profile financial mess within its domain.
Speaking at the July edition of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) ‘Distinguished Guest Conference’ in Abuja Tuesday, Ribadu said: “Nobody can take a penny from the government unless the government allows it.
“If I were to head the panel on fuel subsidy, I will catch everybody in PPPRA because nobody can steal such amounts of money if the PPPRA did not allow it.
“They have all the documents to detect any form of anomalies; bills of laden and what have you, but they never made use of these and they expect to be declared innocent of such dealings within their domain.”
Buttressing his claim of PPPRA’s guilt in the misadministration of the subsidy scheme, Ribadu added, “I am yet to submit the report of my taskforce, even though it has nothing to do with the issues in the fuel subsidy scheme that is ongoing now.
“But it has a direct correlation with responsibilities of regulatory agencies, particularly the downstream oil sector that I mentioned earlier, which is also a failure of regulation.
“Regulatory failure is directly responsible because it is government money and when it goes out, it has to go through somebody who is a government employee and given the responsibility to protect it and make sure that we get value for it.
“So it must be under some conspiracy that such monies could get missing. Therefore, one would easily and comfortably come to the conclusion that it was a failure of those with such responsibility and we would want to see justice done for those who allowed our money to get out.”
Asked to comment on the seeming slow pace by the EFCC to conclude its investigation on those indicted for fuel subsidy fraud, Ribadu stated that investigative briefs of this nature are not hastily concluded, and must be handled with care to avoid any misunderstanding of the details in the process.
According to him, “I know the EFCC is working so hard on the report and they are capable of doing a good job of it but I would want us to give them time to do a thorough job that will withstand the course of prosecution.
“They must work in a way that they will be able to assemble evidence that will go through successful prosecution because it is an issue of law enforcement and recovery.”
He also expressed confidence in the ability of the current crop of officials within the EFCC to do a thorough job on the subsidy report saying, “I am absolutely confident that the EFCC in its present formation will do a good job.
“The officials of EFCC are about the best you can get for such job in Nigeria now and don’t forget this same EFCC went through a horrendous period, it was almost brought down to its knees, literally destroyed.
“And it is always easy to destroy but difficult to fix, so it will be a big challenge for it to get back on track and I will appeal to Nigerians to understand that and give them a chance for such repair works to be completed.”
Advising NERC on the need for its emergence as a credible regulator in Nigeria’s evolving power sector, Ribadu noted that a regulator without integrity and independence would ultimately fail in its responsibilities, adding that NERC must strive to get it right at all times if it must succeed in its regulatory role.
He said: “My belief is that when you go for reform, you must go with integrity. My thought is that when a regulator is credible, thoughtful, resourceful and honest, the results will be great.
“But when the regulator becomes an operator in the system, then it is compromised and NERC must be careful not to fall into such temptation or else you will mess up the whole reform in the sector.”