â€¢ Petroleum ministry receives knocks over alleged abuse of FoI Act
Ejiofor Alike in Lagos and Chineme Okafor in Abuja With agency reports
The price of the global benchmark, Brent crude oil fell yesterday as investors prepared for an extra one million barrels per day (bpd) in output to hit the markets after the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other producers agreed to raise production.
This is coming as the Ministry of Petroleum Resources was yesterday placed on the â€˜FoI Hall of Shameâ€™ of a civil society organisation (CSO), theÂ Media Rights Agenda (MRA).
Despite the increase, which is intended to stop the gap between global supply and demand from becoming too wide, analysts said global oil markets would likely remain relatively tight this year.
Brent crude futures fell $1.15 to $74.40 per barrel, while US light crude rose 20 cents to $68.78 a barrel, supported in part by a Canadian supply outage.
Prices initially jumped after an OPEC deal to increase output was announced late last week, as it was not seen boosting supply by as much as some had expected.
OPEC and non-OPEC partners including Russia have since 2017 cut output by 1.8 million bpd to tighten the market and prop up prices.
In another development, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources was yesterday placed on the â€˜FoI Hall of Shameâ€™ of a civil society organisation (CSO), theÂ Media Rights Agenda (MRA) for allegedly failing toÂ comply with its duties and obligations under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act 2011.
This is coming as another CSO in the countryâ€™s extractive industries, the Publish What You Pay (PWYP) Nigeria Office, has said it would be disappointing for President Muhammadu Buhari to withhold his assent to the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB).
MRA launched the initiative in July 2017, to highlight public officials and institutions that are undermining the effectiveness of the FoI Act through their actions, inactions, utterances, and decisions.
However, it said in a statement yesterday, that the petroleum ministry had from 2011 allegedly violated all aspects of the FoI Act, hence its induction into the hall of shame, which also has a couple of the federal governmentâ€™s ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) in it.
â€œThe Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources has violated virtually all its obligations under the FoI Act since the law was enacted seven years ago.Â We are at a loss as to how the ministry hopes to perform its function of ensuring compliance with all applicable laws and regulations in the oil and gas sector when it is itself not complying with a major law of the land.Â It cannot possibly have the moral authority to insist on compliance by other entities with laws when it is not complying with other laws that apply to it,â€Â MRAâ€™s Legal Officer, Ms. Chioma Nwaodike, said in the statement.
Nwaodike explained that the ministry clearly recognised its principal mandate to ensure that Nigeriaâ€™s oil sector is well-managed, but does not recognise the need to be transparent to Nigerians.
According to her: â€œIt is ironic that although the ministry appreciates that its main function is to ensure that Nigeriaâ€™s major revenue earner is managed for the benefit of the country and its people, it does not appear to recognise the need for it to be transparent and accountable to the people of Nigeria and is clearly unwilling to make the effort.â€
â€œThis cult-like secrecy has prevented the ministry from proactively disclosing information that can contribute toÂ informedÂ public debates about the management of the countryâ€™s natural resources and better policies on the issue which will in turn promote good governance,â€ she explained.
She also accused the ministry of non-compliance with Section 29 of the Act, which makes it mandatory for it, like all other public institutions, to submit annual reports to the Attorney-General of the Federation on its implementation of the Act and make such reports publicly available.
According to her, the ministry had not submitted any report to the Attorney-General of the Federation since the Act was passed in 2011 and has not published any such report to the public, when it should have submitted and publicly published seven such reports as at February 1, 2018.
She said such serial disobedience of a valid law was unacceptable and an egregious act of impunity, which should lead to the disengagement of its headship.
The ministry, she noted, has also not designated an appropriate officer to whom requests for information from members of the public should be sent nor has it proactively published the title and address of such an officer either on its website or anywhere else, as required by Section 2(3)(f) of the Act and the FoI implementation guidelines issued by the Attorney-General of the Federation.
Meanwhile, PWYP Nigeria Office, has urged President Buhari to sign the PIGB, sayingÂ Â it would be disappointing for Buhari to withhold his assent to the reform bill.
Â Speaking at a press briefing to update reporters on the status of the PIGB and three other bills – the Petroleum Industry Host Communities Bill; Petroleum Industry Fiscal Bill; and Petroleum Industry Administration Bill, which were created from the omnibus Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), the National Coordinator of PWYP, Mr. Peter Egbule, said Buhari had the right to withhold assent on the bill, but that such decision would not be in the interest of Nigeria.
According to Egbule, both Buhari and the National Assembly can get the PIGB and three other bills passed into law before the tenure of the current administration ends in 2019, if they really want to.