By Adewale Sanyaolu

The Minister of State Petroleum Resources (Oil), Mr. Heineken Lokpobiri, has denied allegations by the immediate past Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Mr. Simbi Wabote, that he demanded the agency’s budget to be inflated by N30 billion.

Lokpobiri, in a statement by his media aide, Nneamaka Okafor, explained that he has never been part of any budgeting process of any parastatal under the ministry, saying the media is welcome to visit these agencies to verify the claims.

Lokpobiri added that his office is run with a budget supervised by the permanent secretary and is surprised that Wabote will claim that he will ask another entity to make provisions for the budget of his office.

Firing back at the Minister in a statement made available to Daily Sun, Wabote alleged that Lokpobiri, while speaking at an event organised by the Petroleum Club in Lagos recently engaged in character assassination and treachery against his person.

Wabote described as false, recent claims by the minister that 90 per cent of the Board’s intervention fund managed by the Bank of Industry (Bol) is not performing as well as other false remarks on the activities of NCDMB.

The ex-NCDMB boss said his problem started with the minister in December 2023, when he turned down a request through one of the minister’s aide named Blackson, to increase the agency’s budget by N30 billion, a claim that has been denied by Lokpobiri, who said: “Our position is that he who alleges must prove same. So, if Mr. Wabote has proof of such conversation, he should provide it.

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“Also, the minister has no aide called Blackson. All his aides were duly selected in line with extant laws and have documents to that effect. In his capacity as chairman of the Governing Council, he stands by his statement at the Petroleum Club’s quarterly event in Lagos

“The said Atlantic refinery was supposed to be built in Mr. Wabote’s home town, so, he should show Nigerians where that refinery is. Also, the Brass refinery was paid for and you are welcome to  visit the site to verify the facts for yourself. Investigations are ongoing and monies belonging to Nigerians will be recovered for Nigerians.’’

The erstwhile NCDMB Executive Secretary said it is false for  Lokpobiri to assert that 90 per cent of the NC intervention fund managed by BoI is not performing.

‘‘He was fully briefed that it is because NCDMB is not a bank that made us partner with BoI as a foremost development bank in the country to manage the intervention fund for the oil and gas industry with each loan secured by Bank guarantee,” Wabote said.

He added that as at December 2023, the NC intervention funds managed by BoI helped cushion the effects of the COVID-19 and that the fund has yielded millions from the low interest rates with the principal fully secured.

‘‘The fund was intact when I left office as can be verified from BoI. If the fund is now being declared as ‘wasted’, by the Minister, he should be asked what he has done, or intends to do with the fund, to make such declaration. Industry watchers must not allow the secured funds to be diverted under any pretext.’’