*Former top NNPC staff fingers lack of merit in appointments for headwinds
Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
A former Director of the Department of State Service (DSS), Mr Mike Ejiofor, yesterday posited that all major stakeholders , including oil companies, security personnel, among others, were involved in the massive theft of Nigeria’s oil.
Speaking on Arise Television, THISDAY’s broadcast arm, Ejiofor described oil theft as a ‘franchise’ arguing that the reason it has become a big deal is because the thieves are producing more of the resource than the government of the day.
He narrated that when he was in service, several reports were prepared by him and submitted to the authorities, but lamented that the so-called ‘authorities’ who will read the report , were heavily involved in illegal oil bunkering.
Ejiofor also recalled his meeting with Government Ekpemupolo, also known as Tompolo, in the heat of the Niger Delta crisis, explaining that despite his report following the detailed interview with the former warlord, no action was taken.
“He (Tompolo) told me that he’s not involved into bunkering and that all he was asking for was resource control and royalty for the communities where these oil companies are operating.
“I said, Okay, do I have evidence of this. He gave me videos, write-ups, of how these things are organised. And I made my report to the headquarters. If you ask whether there was intelligence, the intelligence was available.
“But the problem is, what do the authorities make of this intelligence that was produced? Now my service will process the report to the appropriate authorities, and who is in charge of the authorities, the same people who are involved in the bunkering.
“So ever since then, there has been bunkering. That’s why I’m surprised that people just came up with the information that it was nine years. How did you determine that it was nine years, the pipe that was punctured,” he maintained.
Stressing that there is no way a pipeline belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) would be vandalised without the national oil company knowing, Ejiofor explained that there was heavy connivance from top to bottom.
“This is a simple operation. In the oil industry, in the central control room or the data room, where export is recorded, if there’s a puncture on the pipeline, the pressure drops to show there is a damage.
“So this is a deliberate act by a syndicate of both the oil companies, the military, and all the stakeholders who are involved and not necessarily the communities that are available. This is over 40 years. But why it has become a challenge now is that it has become a franchise.
“The thief should not have more than the owner, but now, the ‘bunkerers’ are having a greater share of Nigeria’s wealth than Nigeria itself and that’s worrisome. It’s mindboggling,” he posited.
To buttress his point, Ejiofor cited an instance in about 2004, when he and a military officer, after getting reports about oil bunkerers and security officials planned to unravel their activities, but said that before action was taken, the information was leaked.
He added that it was thereafter that he received a call from Tompolo, about the botched invasion, wondering how the information became public knowledge.
Ejiofor said the oil theft was draining the country as revenue that should be used to develop Nigeria is going into private pockets, depriving most citizens of a good life.
Meanwhile, a former Group Executive Director Refining at the NNPC, Dennis Agulu, has blamed the lack of merit in appointments and recruitment into the NNPC as being responsible for the current downturn in the organisation.
Describing the current challenges as a ‘ fully integrated problem’, he noted that the gradual decline in the adherence to merit could be blamed for the situation.
“So the aggregate and the outcome of that is what we are seeing today, that we’re not producing. It’s a very complex thing, to in one very simple language present and then give us solutions to that kind of problem.
“The critical ingredient in these things is the human being. If the human being has more of the destructive impulse playing out, we’re likely to have that. If we have the creative impulse playing out, then, of course, the impact results in outcomes that nobody likes to see, which is what we’re seeing today.
“We need to look at ourselves again. We need to look at the things we derive value from. Where has merit gone in our country. Do we have a culture of merit? Or do we have a of culture of patting failure on the back and saying okay, good.
“So the challenge I have here is that…the people we met in the system, were very erudite people in the oil industry. I may not go into naming them, but they were good,” he argued.