Steve Oronsaye’s reply.
Thank you very much. Drama so to speak. A report was presented, I hadn’t seen the report because the methodology that we agreed as a committee should be followed if the report has to be reviewed. It was not followed. We had agreed that the draft report should be circulated to members five clear days before any meeting.
These were the templates we agreed on. And the last meeting we had was in July. July to October 31, there was no meeting. October 31, a circular or a notice came out at 5pm, to hold a meeting on the next day, November 1, at 12:00pm That was on a Thursday, to discuss the final report. Obviously, to give me few hours to discuss a report of over a hundred pages, meant that was not feasible. And I was not going to be part of such a process. Since we had already agreed on the process anyway, I thought that process should be complied with. I took a view that no matter how good a report maybe, you may have put in a lot of effort, but if the process leading to it is flawed, that report would not stand the test of time. So, that was the only thing I said.
And then, the other one had to do with the signature page. There is no signature page. The chairman and the secretary were to sign on behalf of members. How do you sign on my behalf? Supposed there are things that I do not agree with when I am also, already saying that the process was flawed? That was all I said.
Did you put it across to Mallam Ribadu, some of these your complains, your observations and all that?
Indeed, the meeting we had in July, was where I raised my concerns about the draft report that we had just reviewed to consider at that meeting. There were basically about five issues that I raised. One of them, he said the draft transmitter letter was that we had concluded our assignment in accordance with the terms of reference. Reading the draft report, it was well beyond our terms of reference. I remember my comment then was yes, if we are saying this, we need to modify. But if we are also going beyond, provided this will add value, yes. That was what I said but we could also have gotten an amendment to the TOR. Really, if it is to add value, I don’t see any reason why. I also talked about the language. I said we could re-couch. I didn’t say we should change the content of the substance.
What was wrong with the language?
Very subjective. Very subjective and we could do better. Three, the figures that I saw, I asked a question: have they been reconciled? Have they been verified? I asked that question because of what had transpired in a previous meeting where it came to light that the figures that were being interrogated have not been reconciled and it turned out that many of them had not been verified. At that point, I said if these figures are not verified, it will be difficult for me to append my signature to such a report. Four, the figures that were also stated were as of December 2011. And I asked a question: what has happened between then and July when we were discussing. I said it will be necessary to have an update. I think those were really the main concerns that I raised at that time.
At the meeting?
Yes. The July meeting.
Were they addressed?
You see, what really happened in Council on Friday, had actually happened in one of our meetings when I raised this. That was when he talked about ‘you have just joined us’ and all of that. I said yes. The truth of the matter was that I was busy somewhere else. I couldn’t have been in two locations at the same time. And everyone knew that I had another assignment and that was why I couldn’t have been with them before that day. But in the wisdom of the committee, they thought that my suggestions were valid and then decided to have a group to review…
A committee within the committee?
Yes. Even though there is a sub-committee on report writing. So, they were to go back to write, bring back the report to the sub-committee on report writing after which it will then be circularized to the members. That was in July. Until the notice of October 31, that report was never seen. So, you had July, August, September and October. End of October, you are now saying come to a meeting the following day to discuss a final report. And in my view, that is not in consonance with the methodology that we have. It is in writing, in my mail to all of them that five clear days should be given if you want us to discuss any In fact, that was done. That was how that first draft was done because my first letter actually said we have fixed a meeting to discuss a report on a particular date. The secretary said I will transmit the report to you people by this date. I called Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Obviously, it was not transmitted, meaning it was not ready. So, on a Monday, I did a mail to chairman and members saying, today is, I can’t remember the date now but if I look into my system, I will clarify that. I said today is…; we still have not received the draft report that you said you would send. I presume you are still busy, I know it is a lot of hardwork but when you do finish, please circularize and give a new date or give us five clear days. It is in writing. In fact, he just said noted but in reality, that was done because notice was given and a new date was given. So, we had our five days. That became a template but after that, no other meeting took place until the presentation. And he said sorry, it cannot be so.
Ribadu said on national television that you were compromised and in the newspapers, he is saying you stood in on behalf of a petroleum company. Did you compromise? What is your relationship with the said company?
That statement, in my view, is unfortunate coming from him. Those who know me, know that I can never be compromised. But in any case, who compromised me? Adax? I don’t even know where the office of Adax is. I do not even know who the chief executive is and I could not have been representing any oil company. I recalled he said in Council that I came in where they were about to start collecting recovery. Again, that is a lie and it is unfortunate. I recall that my very first meeting was when they were presenting a report on the forum they had just concluded. The second meeting was when some groups of people were meeting with some oil operators. I didn’t even know who they were but I sat in that meeting. But I do know that I asked a sub-chair of the committee: who are these people? He said they were the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) personnel. After listening for a while, I said, they should please get the operator they were interrogating to step aside. And I had to ask questions: why is EFCC officials interrogating? And he said our terms of reference included debt collection. But in my view, I said yes, debt collection but it is only after we have established. If we submit our report, government will decide on what do. The truth is, EFCC officials are innocent because they were invited. So, I am not blaming the EFCC officials because if they were not invited, they would not have come. I recall the officer then asking a question: does it mean we should go? I said it is not for me to tell you whether you should go or not but it will not be right for the EFCC to be driving this process. In fact, the officials of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) were also present. I said why is DPR not driving the process? It was at that point that I asked a question: the figures that you are even asking them questions on, are they reconciled figures? It was at that point the DPR said no. So, at that point, I knew there was a problem. The sub-chairman, that is Subairu and I, agreed DPR and all the operators, should go and reconcile and then bring figures to us. As I speak to you now, I don’t know whether that was done. So, to say that I represented Adax is unfortunate. I don’t know them. But I am just reading in the newspapers today, I don’t know whether such is even in the report but I know this was not said in the Council chambers but because I have read it in the papers, whatever action I am going to take, that is left to me.
It is defamatory because a reputation that I have built over the years, somebody will just come over and just in a jiffy, just make careless statements.
And all of you were in Obasanjo’s economic team and all that. Is there a personal disagreement between you and the chairman?
Well, the truth is, Nuhu and I have always had differences from day one and I think that is what is playing out today. But even if it is playing out, anyone who listened to me, would realize that I did not talk about persons, I talked about issues and I talked about process. I did not even talked about the content of the report. I am saying process has not been followed. Due process has not been followed. And the reason why very often, when you go to court and you lose your case, is because the foundation, very often, is faulty. All of these is what I am trying to protect.
I don’t even know who is indicted in the report. I don’t even know. I don’t even know.
Today, I have been given a copy. Just today. But, as of yesterday, I didn’t look at my mail, I didn’t want to look at it. So, I really don’t know those who are indicted or who you know. And it doesn’t really interest me. If we follow due process…
Let me just say this: for example, this report is already in a public domain. Company A,B, C. If you say for example that I am owing $2 billon and I am to have a relationship with company D who wants to look at my rating to give me business and on the basis of this report, the fellow says ah, I cannot deal with you, what do you think will happen?
That many of the data in there have not been independently verified.
So, what then are you presenting if they have not been verified?
And he also talked about conflict of interest…
Between who and who?
That you are a member of the Board of Directors of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and he also mentioned the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)
Let me say this: in fact, I really should not be talking about it because the President himself, pronounced on this in Chambers and I am very satisfied with what the President said. In the other committees, there are refinery staff, there are NNPC staff in the other committees.
He said the thing you should have done was to resign.
It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense. That is because he does not understand. You see, leadership is one thing that you need, integrity you build over the years. If you are focused, you know what you want to be remembered for. It does not matter what position you are in. The position you are in should not be what should determine the position you take on a matter. You should be objective at all times. So, it does not matter. In any case, he said I worked my way. Like I said, I was appointed to the board without my knowing. And I am not even an executive person. Non -executive.
So, what then happens? Since it is marred in controversy so to say?
Let me say this: the report has been submitted. All I am saying is the process that led to that report. I have not talked about content. I have not read it. I have not read it at all and if I have not talked about content but I have talked about the process. If the process is flawed, then what are you talking about? Because you are looking at the legal ramifications of all of these things. Let me say something. Let me say something. If for example an aggrieved person goes to court, I am just saying, and picks a page and says, look at that figure, $2 billion. A judge would probably ask you: what figure is that and you would say so. And then, he would say: is it your figure? You would say it is my figure. And then, turn to page one and he says, go to paragraph four, what do you read there? Due to time frame of the assignment, some of the data used could not be independently verified and the task force recommends that the government should conduct such necessary verification and reconciliations. What does that mean?
It nullifies the report. This was precisely what I said in July. But in any case, it is for the Federal Government to decide what to do.
How was the conduct of this meeting? Was it everybody contributing?
Yes, yes. Everybody contributed.
Was it the chairman taking a decision or it was democratic…
No, no. Everybody could talk. Everybody could talk. You see, I am really saddened because as a systems person, a process person, no matter what you want to do, you should still follow due process. You will still get the right result. But if you do not follow due process and you come to have an outcome, in fact, that outcome, if there is litigation, you are likely not to succeed. That is really what I tried to do all through my interaction at the committee. I am not interested in who is indicted or who is not indicted. I don’t even know them and I don’t want to know them. And therefore, we should refrain from making sweeping statements. I was in the private sector. I rose to become a partner in KPMG. I didn’t dent my image. Is it at this twilight when I should be thinking of how I would spend my life in eternity that I would now soil my name? No. That cannot happen. God forbid.
Finally, he said you were an absentee member more or less. What do you have to say on that?
Again, it is unfortunate and it is contradictory. Here in one breath, he said I had come to represent some oil companies or one oil company and that I never came for one day. He should reconcile that. But I want to tell you that there were at least three meetings that I remember but I also want to tell you that I did not attend at the beginning, is not because I was idle. I am sure Nigerians are aware that I was engaged in another committee, the one on rationalization of parastatals. So, it was only when I finished and I had put finishing touches that I joined. And I explained to him. That is the truth. And I was also told that before my intervention, some members had talked about the need to follow procedure. So, that is really what is lacking in all of these. The truth is, I challenge the person making this allegation to prove. But like I said, I have just read one in the newspapers but I want to say the oil companyI do not know. But I recall one discussion after they came back. Indeed, if I was representing their interest…
In fact, I would narrate this story now. It had to do with the percentage they should apply to their production in respect to the royalty payable. If you look at the PAYE law, usually, remuneration is graduated. We say the first days, X percent and the next. So, in the royalty regime, it is also graduated but production at a particular rate. They thought that if they produced lets say 20,000 barrels, if there is a rate for the first five, they will use that. I said sorry, you cannot use that sort of ratio unless of course you have a definite approval that says you could. But from this legislation, because I was in practice, accounting practice, I said if you produce 20,000, it is the rate in the table that you will apply.
When did you tell them this one?
At the meeting.
When they appeared?
When we called them back. You know I said we excused them. EFCC officials were there. It was against their position. And it was open. So, it is just unfortunate. It is just a sweeping statement that no thought process went through.