PTDF Inquest: Spilling the Beans and the Unanswered Questions
Thursday, December, 28, 2006
Nigerians are beginning to know how public monies are being wasted by the people put in trust to manage them for the common good. For example, in addition to the daily looting of the public financial resources going on at the States and Federal government levels by our supposedly elected leaders, a lot of haemorrhage of the public treasury is going on simultaneously and is being perpetrated by our bureaucratic and technocratic elites in the public service. That is to say, corruption, corruption and corruption everywhere and the ordinary Nigerians are wallowing in abject poverty, insecurity and hopelessness in the midst of plenty.
Although the phenomena of theft, graft, looting and wasteful application of public resources are very well known to the average Nigerian, it is the recent revelations at the ongoing public hearing on the activities of the embattled Petroleum Technology development Fund (PTDF) that is beginning to once again, awake our attention and consciousness to these entrenched national maladies of corruption, kleptomania and abuse of public office by Nigerian politicians, bureaucratic and technocratic elites.
The ongoing allegations and counter-allegations between President Obasanjo and his estranged Vice President Atiku Abubakar regarding the use and abuse of PTDF monies is just one typical examples of the sordid manner in which Nigeria’s scarce financial resources are being plundered, illegally appropriated and squandered. Why PTDF? That is a very excellent question.
The enabling Act that established the PTDF in 1973 has specifically outlined its statutory duties and responsibilities. For instance, the PTDF Act of 1973, places the supervisory function of the agency under the office of the Minister of Petroleum Resources. We all know that since 1999 President Obasanjo happens to double as the de factor Hon. Minister of Petroleum Resources. However, between 2000 and 2004, President Obasanjo delegated the supervisory function of the PTDF to the office of the Vice President Atiku Abubakar. But President Obasanjo has recently accused Vice President Atiku Abubakar of abusing his office by way of mismanaging the finances of the PDTF over the period between 2000 and 2004 for private gains against public interest and trust.
In order to nail Vice President Atiku Abubakar, President Obasanjo initiated an investigation into the financial affairs of the PTDF under the leadership of Vice President Atiku Abubakar using the instrumentality of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The EFCC completed its investigation of the financial affairs of the PTDF and submitted its Report to President Obasanjo. Immediately the EFCC Report was tabled before the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for adoption and Ratification. Vice president Atiku Abubakar was excused from sitting at the FEC meeting that considered, adopted and ratified the EFCC Report.
Based on the outcome of the EFCC Report, President Obasanjo instituted and inaugurated an Administrative Panel headed by Chief Bayo Ojo, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Hon. Minister of Justice to recommend sanctions against the persons found wanting by the EFCC Report. Soon after, Chief Bayo Ojo submitted its recommendations to President Obasanjo indicting Vice President Atiku Abubakar and others of financial mismanagement and abuse of public office and trust. To that extent, President Obasanjo accepted the recommendations and ordered the official gazetting of the EFCC and Administrative Panel Reports respectively and forwarded same to the two legislative chambers of the National Assembly for information.
On his own side, the Vice president Atiku Abubakar has staunchly denied all the charges against him. He went to the law courts to exonerate him from all the allegations labelled against him by the EFCC and the Federal Attorney-General’s Administrative Panel Reports, which were accepted, approved and gazetted by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) sometime ago.
The Senate has already initiated and inaugurated an Ad-hoc Committee under the distinguished leadership of Senator Ndoma-Egba (SAN) and xxx others to investigate the allegations contained in the two reports (and probably the House of Representatives will also do the same). So far, in addition to the deluge of written memoranda from interested parties submitted to the Senator Ndoma-Egba Committee, public hearing on the matter is presently ongoing.
It is the revelations coming out of the public hearing of this Ad-hoc Committee by the major players in this affair that are the subject of analysis here. For example, since the commencement of the Senate Ad-hoc Committee public hearing, the public have been inundated with scandalous revelations of the dirty dealings and financial haemorrhage that have been taking place at the PTDF and by logical extension, the Presidency. These revelations have hitherto been unheard and unknown to the general public.
Before the Senate went for the Christmas and New Year break, so much has been revealed by the dramatis personae involved in the management and control of the huge financial resources at the disposal of the PTDF. For example, the leading parties involved in this saga have made public appearances before the Committee. The EFCC, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Office of the Accounted-General of the Federation, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who is principal accused and indicted person all have made appearances before the Committee. Also, the Management of the PTDF together with its immediate former Executive Secretary, in the person of Alhaji Adamu Maina Waziri appeared before the Committee.
These revelations coming from these public appearances by the principal actors involved in this sordid affair are very interesting. A lot of beans have been spilled so far. The Nigerian public is being informed about what they never knew before and will not have known without the courtesy of this very important legislative opening – the public hearing. For example, Adamu Waziri’s testimonies before the Committee revealed a lot of his incompetence, corruption and abuse of his office while at the helms of affairs of the PTDF as the Executive Secretary of the agency. For example, here are some of the most bizarre revelations he made before the Senate Committee as the immediate past Executive Secretary of the PTDF:
On “gold-plating” PTDF Headquarters and Executive Secretary’s Penthouse Office:
Adamu Waziri told the Committee that he made the office of the Executive Secretary of PTDF the most fashionable in the country. I quote him here: “I am a very fashionable person, I have a very high standard of living, I have very high taste because God has endowed me with comfort…I don’t agree that just because I am working for this government I will work in a non conducive environment, I don’t agree...Today, the office of the Executive Secretary is one of the best offices in Nigeria”. He was able to accomplish this feat by wasting the sum of N48 million to gold-plate the three storey office complex acquired brand new by his predecessor, Alhaji Yusuf Hamisu Abubakar in 2000. The pertinent question to ask is who authorised and or approved these lavish and outlandish extravagant spending of PTDF money by Adamu Maina Waziri? Also, are these spending within the mandate of the PTDF? The Senate Committee need to look into to these abuses of office by an unapologetic and arrogant public servant.
On Presidential Waiver of PTDF interest income:
Another of Alhaji Waziri’s fashionable and flamboyancy in public service that he revealed before the Committee was that he secured a presidential waiver to forfeit accruing interest for PTDF funds from one of the recently consolidated privately owned commercial banks which was at the brink of collapse. The bank, according to Waziri, used PTDF funds to achieve its consolidation programme. The question is, who then is abusing his public office in the regard? Is it the Vice President Atiku Abubakar whose allege crime was that he gave approval for PTDF funds to be placed in some banks owned by his friends or Adamu Waziri and President Obasanjo who waived substantial accrued interest payments belonging to the PTDF? The Senate Committee need to look into this issue very well.
On payment for President Obasanjo’s portraits/photographs:
Hear Adamu Waziri again at the public hearing: “I paid N5 million for 1000 copies of the President’s photograph, which are to be kept in his Presidential Library. We paid the money directly to the photographer and not to Mrs. Remi Oyo. I take responsibility for the payment.’’ One may ask a question here again, what connection has the PTDF mandate with payment of personal photographs of President Obasanjo for his private presidential library? The Senate Committee should request for a full refund of the amount with accrued interest.
On incorporation of Galaxy Backbone Plc:
On the vexed allegation of payment of the sum of N250 million to the law firm belonging to President Obasanjo’s friend and personal lawyer as “legal fees in respect of the registration of Galaxy Backbone Plc with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) as well as the signing of agreement with the foreign partner of the company.’’ The pertinent questions to raise this respect are:
1) Who owns this company in the first place?
2) Why is this company being formed by the federal government, given the fact that under this reformed-minded and privatization crazy administration, all federal government-owned companies are to be privatized as the philosophy of the government is that government has no business in doing commercial business.
3) Was the proposal for the formation of this company ever tabled before the FEC and gotten its approval?
4) Did PTDF followed the Due Process mechanism and open competitive tendering system in the selection of the legal firm that incorporated this said company?
5) How reasonably is the payment of the sum of N250 million to Chief Babalola/Emmanuel Chambers with respect to the stated services they provided to the PDTF in relation to the company incorporation contract?
6) What is the relationship between the newly incorporated Galaxy Backbone Plc with Galaxy Information Technology Inc owned by Governor Saminu Turaki of Jigawa State?
On the N10 billion Renovation Project of the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI), Warri
Adamu Waziri stated that that N10 billion was withdrawn from the PTDF accounts to execute the rehabilitation of the Warri-based Petroleum Training Institute (PTI). Adamu Waziri further informed the Committee that he presented a proposal to President Obasanjo to the tune of N20 billion which was later pruned down to N10 billion. According to Adamu Waziri, “it was not until about two months ago that the President released the fund for the rehabilitation of the oil workers training institute.” The questions to raise here are:
1). How was this mind boggling amount for the rehabilitation of the PTI arrived at?
2) Does the PTDF have in-house capacity to conceive, plan, design, evaluate, cost, review and package the so-called rehabilitation projects for PTI? If yes, who are these experts? If no, who are the project Consultants and how were they selected?
3) Did the PTDF presented the PTI rehabilitation project before the FEC for vetting and obtained the necessary approvals?
4) Did PTDF submit the PTI rehabilitation projects for the mandatory Due Process mechanism?
5) Who are the PTI project contractors and were they selected under open competitive tendering process? The Nigerian public deserve answers to these questions.
On the use of the recovered looted PTDF money:
“When I came to the PTDF I found that the PTDF was purchased sometime in 2000 and not once that the PTDF was there, there was no rehabilitation, no work was done on the office…“I ran into Mallam Nuhu Ribadu in the villa and said that you have done a good job of recovering money from my two predecessors, this is not EFCC money, it is PTDF money, please return this money to me, and he said go and apply and I applied. So, he returned N200 million being money recovered from my predecessor, Yusuf Mirago and another N25 million he recovered from my immediate predecessor, Jalo.’’ He said that it was from this money which he described as a windfall to rehabilitate the office…“Today, the office of the Executive Secretary is one of the best offices in Nigeria.’’ According to him the total amount of money that was spent was about N48 million. The issues to raise here are:
1) The PTDF Headquarters as the time of arrival of Adamu Maina Waziri does not require any major rehabilitation work to the tune of N48 million. As a matter of fact, the PTDF offices have always being known to be the best maintained public building among federal government own parastatals. It is only the BPE headquarters, purchased under the then leadership of Mallam Nasir El-Ruffai that can be said to be more tastefully furnished than the PTDF! One can even say with out fair of contradiction that PTDF borrowed the example from the BPE management!!!
2) The Senate Committee should endeavour to pay a visit and see what job was done for the amount so spent. The Committee should investigate how the contracts for the rehabilitation work were awarded and to whom the jobs were awarded and find out if Due process procedures were adhered to in the ward of those contracts.
3) The Committee should determine if the entire frivolous projects being proposed for the Abuja Headquarters of the PTDF are necessary or are just conduits to siphon public resources to fund political campaign of some individuals.
On Staff salaries and remuneration of the Executive Secretary of the PTDF:
On staff salaries and condition of service at the PTDF, Adamu Waziri revealed that the lucrative salaries of staff of the agency, which he told the Senators was far better than what obtained in the National Assembly, he said: “I was earning four times the salary of a minister as executive secretary of the PTDF because we were practitioners in the oil and gas industry, highly paid.’’ The Senate Committee should look into this abnormal situation with a view to correcting it.
From the foregoing so far, it looks as the PTDF has been turned upside down by the Presidency and the inept and corrupt management put in place whose only job is to push papers around at the whims and caprice of the power that be.