Former Head of Service of the Federation and Deputy Chairman of the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force (PRSTF), Mr. Steve Oronsaye, has explained why he raised certain observations at the presentation of the committee's report to President Goodluck Jonathan.
Oronsaye’s clarification coincided with the establishment of three committees by President Goodluck Jonathan Thursday to prepare draft White Papers on the reports of the PRSTF, National Refineries Special Task Force and the Governance and Controls Special Task Force. The presidency has also made it clear that it has absolutely no intention of dumping the report of the PRSTF, as speculated by some sections of the public.
Oronsaye, during the presentation of the report recently, had faulted the process and procedure adopted by the committee, chaired by former Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, in carrying out its work and requested that the report should not be submitted at that time.
Explaining why he raised his voice at the venue of the presentation, Oronsaye, in an interview with THISDAY, said: “There was the consensus in the meeting that they held on the 1st of November where it was agreed that whoever was presenting the report would make reference to the caveat or this disclaimer in the report talking about the fact that due to the timeframe, some of the data could not be independently verified or reconciled.
“I understand that there was also consensus that a statement would also be made to the effect that the report that was out there was not the one that came from the committee because the committee had not met to consider the report.”
He said because these two key issues, which were agreed upon, were not mentioned at the presentation, he had to raise them publicly by requesting that the report should not be accepted at this time because it was still work-in-progress. “Had those two things been brought out, of course I would not have reacted. I would have kept quiet because you would have told the world that some of the data have not been verified,” he said.
On why he did not write a minority report instead of opting for the kind of drama that took place at the presentation, Oronsaye said: “There was no way I would have written a minority report when the consensus was that two key things would be said at the presentation and once they were not said, that triggered what I said.”
Oronsaye also emphasised that his comment was not about the content of the report but about a flawed process, adding, “What I said was that the process was flawed and we needed more time, and at best, it should be taken as work in progress.”
Further clarifying his observations on the report, Oronsaye said: “I want to emphasise that today and even before now, I have not disagreed with the content of this report and I have not made any comment whether it is right or wrong.
“Yes, there is corruption in the industry but that is not the reason why, at my age, I will see what is wrong and I will not stand up to speak… What I did was really standing out on the balcony to speak the truth against those who would have been ridiculed when they have not been given fair-hearing.”
Noting that the report may not be able to stand the test of rigorous cross-examination in a court of law because of the caveat in the attached letter where it was stated that some of the data used could not be independently verified, he said: “You don't let people pick holes in your report. Since the president had said that we should come and submit the report, we should have been courageous to go back to him and say, ‘Mr. President, can you please give us more time?’”
On the perception that the activities of the committee and the drama that ensued during the presentation of the report may have been influenced by past rivalry between him and Ribadu, he said: “The relationship is not an issue here. “What is important is that we do what is right in accordance with the terms of reference given to us.”
Oronsaye also provided the attendance page of some meetings of the committee to debunk the allegation by Ribadu that he did not attend sittings, arguing that while people may be entitled to their opinion, facts would always remain facts.
While rejecting the conclusions reached by some sections of the public that he was put on the panel to frustrate the committee's work, the former head of service said: “Now, when people say he (Oronsaye) was deliberately put there, put there by who? At my age? I am over 60. It is how I will serve humanity and live my life in eternity that is paramount. I fear no human being, I respect people, but I fear God.”
He said people who had served in various positions in the past and those who are still in service were put on the various task forces by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, in order for the committees to be able to access informed data and informed information.
Disclosing that some other members also had issues with the process, Oronsaye provided a letter dated October 30, 2012, which was written by another committee member where the writer had stated: “The committee's (work) assignment is factually yet to be definitively concluded, consequently a final report, which would be the culmination of the processes and procedures agreed and adopted by the committee cannot exist; especially not in the format being circulated by the media both social and print.”
He wondered why such a major observation was disregarded and the report submitted just three days after. He also recalled the last meeting of the committee of the whole held on July 31, where he had raised some observations about the activities of the panel.
He said: “It was at that meeting that I said A, B, C, D, in my view, were my observations on the draft report. One, figures have not been verified. Two, the figures were as of December 2011. And I asked what had happened between then and now? “I also said the language should be modified. I didn’t say change the substance. I did not say so. I also said that if a hole is picked in our report, all the efforts that had been put into the exercise would come to naught.
“It was then agreed that a small group would come together to look at the report again and then give it to the subcommittee on report writing before circulating to the committee of the whole. A committee was set up, but we never received that reviewed report. What followed was that a report was leaked, I don't know how or by who to Reuters.”
However, in a statement yesterday by the president’s Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, the presidency announced the setting up of three committees to prepare draft White Papers on the three special task forces on the oil and gas sector that had submitted their reports to him two week ago.
The statement said that their establishment was in furtherance of the president’s declared commitment to doing all within his powers to ensure greater accountability, probity and transparency in the country’s oil and gas industry. “The committees are to study the reports, review the issues raised, and prepare draft White Papers for the consideration of the Federal Executive Council within two weeks.
“The White Paper Committee on the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force Report will be chaired by the Minister of Labour, Chief Emeka Wogu, with the Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro, Minister of State, FCT, Oloye Jumoke Akinjide, and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs II, Dr. Nurudeen Mohammed as members.
“The White Paper Committee on the report of the Governance and Controls Special Task Force will be chaired by the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Ms. Ama Pepple. Other members of the committee are Minister of State, Defence, Erelu Olusola Obada, Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, and Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mallam Bukar Tijani.
“The White Paper Committee on the report of the National Refineries Special Task Force has Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc. Mohammed Sada as Chairman, and Hon. Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, Minister of State for Health, Dr. Muhammad Pate and Minister of State for Education, Mr. Ezenwo Nyeson Wike, as members.”
Abati said that the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation will provide the secretariat for the committees. The presidency has also said that it did not intend to dump the Ribadu report as being speculated by some people.
Speaking on the issue, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, said government would take a good look at the recommendations and comprehensively verify all data.
According to him, since the committee, in the report, said government should conduct the necessary verification and reconciliation before taking action on the report, it would be wrong for the government to do otherwise.
He also clarified that there was no time either him or any government official suggested that the report should be dumped because even though the data was yet to be verified, there were several issues raised by the committee that would never be swept under the carpet by the Jonathan administration.