Senate Probes Kachikwu, DPR Over Oil Lease Renewal
The Senate has resolved to investigate Nigeria’s imminent loss of $10bn to illegal discounts and rebates granted by Federal Government officials in the process of oil and gas lease renewal.
Adopting a motion moved at the plenary on Wednesday titled: ‘Irregularities in the Ongoing Oil and Gas Lease Renewal and Massive Loss of Government Revenue’, the lawmakers fingered the Presidency; Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu; and the Department of Petroleum Resources for the alleged revenue loss.
The motion was moved by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Upstream), Senator Omotayo Alasoadura, and co-sponsored by Senators Baba Garbai, James Manager and Gershom Bassey.
The Senate unanimously resolved to mandate the Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream) “to investigate all issues relating to the ongoing lease renewal being undertaken by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and the Department of Petroleum Resources, and to report to the Senate the anomalies in the ongoing lease renewal process and identify appropriate measures to correct the said anomalies.”
Seconding the motion, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim urged the lawmakers to extend the probe to the Presidency as the final approvals for the lease contracts were from there.
Ibrahim said, “The only observation I have on this motion is that for the fact that Mr President is the Minister of Petroleum Resources, maybe that is why this motion is not mentioning the Minister of Petroleum Resources. But we are aware that the minister of state ordinarily does not have the final approval for this type of case.
“There is a board of the NNPC, the ministry and it is out there – though it has yet to be substantiated – that the Chief of Staff to the President is a member of the board and is literally in charge of the board and the ministry.
“I will just want the prayer to expand those to be called in the investigation. It is in the rumour mill that the Chief of Staff is in charge of the NNPC and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, so that the minister cannot just come and say he is not the one in charge. In our law, there is no space for minister of state; so, a minister of state cannot give a final approval.”
Senator Shehu Sani said an investigation of the matter might lead the lawmakers into unravelling more irregularities in the petroleum sector.
Alasoadura pointed out that under the provision of extant laws, failure to pay royalties was a ground for revocation of leases and a legal barrier to renewal of applicable leases.
He said there was a subsisting legal framework and due process mandated by extant laws for the renewal of leases that were due for renewal.
The lawmaker added, “The Senate is concerned that the irregularities being perpetrated by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and the Department of Petroleum Resources in the ongoing lease renewal process is capable of denying government revenue in excess of $10bn as a result of illegal discounts and rebates in the process of lease renewal.
“The Senate is concerned that the Department of Petroleum Resources has wilfully and deliberately refused to provide the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream) with relevant information and data related to the ongoing lease renewal.”
In his remarks, Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the session, called for a transparent probe, stating that the country’s major problems could be linked to enforcement and regulation.
According to him, the country has sufficient rules to guide Nigerians in almost all sectors.