Remittance of Royalty will no Longer be Dead
Akin Fatokun is the Manager, Public & Government Affairs, Mobil Oil Nigeria plc, an ExxonMobil Subsidiary. In this interview he reveals how years of job experience has built the IOC’s. GLADYS JOHNSON Reports
Q: What is your advice to the federal government concerning NNPC?
The government will have to reengineer the NNPC and all the other institutions in terms of putting the right people there who have the credibility, the integrity and the knowledge. For too long, appointments in the key position of that sector have been more political than professional. I’m not saying this for reason of professional chauvinism because the Minister of State who supervises that sector now was a lawyer first before he became the giant of the oil industry. But just listening to him you will know that this person knows the industry inside out. That’s the kind of person the management would require if we are going to do anything meaningful in the face of this challenges that we are facing.
Q: How do you think the journalist can investigate the system to bring about the desired change using the laws available to effect change?
First journalists who are reporting this sector has to be familiar with even the laws that regulates this sector. That will be the basic tool they will need. And the policies that will make them understand what they are investigating. For example, if a given conduct is not deemed by you an investigator, the journalist to be an infraction, you may overlook it thinking that that’s normal. But when you have the knowledge you will understand that that thing we are about overlooking is an infraction. You focus on that area. So, they need to have that training.
The media institutions have to be very supportive professional journalist that are reporting the oil and gas sector and investigating in fractions and supportive in the sense that the world over, investigation of big crimes, and institutions sitting over billions of dollars don’t come cheap. It’s like the broadcast media developing content you have to spend money. So, if it is the print media, you have to empower the journalist to travel in terms of remuneration and giving them the way withal to carry out the job. So as to help the media discharge its reasonability section 22 of the constitution this is to hold the government accountable.
Individual journalist must have a nose for stories that warrant being investigated not take thing on face value. This is a personal attribute that one has to develop. The moment you overlook so many things the public will be the loser for it, I think on a personal level journalist must continue to develop their personal interests. Things that happen in the sector which an ordinary eye may want to overlook, a trained mind will hesitate and ponder over it which may lead to a blockbuster of a story.
When laws are not enforced, what happens? Impunity and anarchy takes over. Everybody will just be doing whatever he likes. We need to know this. First as a country and then while focusing on the oil and gas sector that the difference between a well regulated country where law is enforced and the one where law is not enforced is not difference of human being. An average American is more morally sound than average Nigerian. As a matter of fact on some things, talking about morality, there are things that a Nigerian will not do that an average American does it every day like Shooting, killing people and gay right which is an issue here. It is not about we are bad, they are better or they are decent we are indecent. This is about regulation and law enforcement. The reason why an average American will hesitate before committing a crime is because if does, he is likely to be apprehended and punished while an average Nigerian can intentionally commit a crime because he can get away with it.
Take it down to the oil and gas sector, if the regulating authorities are working, if our law enforcement agencies are working in that sector, signature bonuses will no longer disappear. Remittances of royalties will no longer be dead as we had in the gas sector when the money which later became a bailout. The money was there but it was held back. More than that our law enforcement and our anti-corruption agencies, need to be freed the control of the executive such that they become more and more independent. And then they are capable without looking at the president or the minister of petroleum resources to do things without taking clearance from them. They need to be more independent to be able to carry out their assignments.
Q: Why is it so difficult?
It’s not likely that a corrupt person who is in charge of the country will selectively and hypocritically promote sectorial rectitude. It’s like a disabling factor. Except you have no conscience. You are not likely to be a thief and want to be chasing other thieves around. So, you are disabled to that extent. If the leadership of the country is not involved in corrupt practices, and a leader somewhere is stealing millions, I will take it personal and deal with them. But if the reverse is the case, I will not have the will power to fight against corruption. The leadership must hate and shun corruption.
We will need to strengthen our institutions across board. Our judicial and legislative institutions and enforcement of the law are in the domain of the executive below. If we go by the principle of the checks and balances under the doctrine of separation of power, that principle is anchored in the realization that an executive arm of government may not be able to check itself. That’s why the duty of checking that arm lies in the hand of the next arm of the government. That’s the principle of checks and balances. Then you have the judiciary that interprets the law and then those adjudication. The oil and gas sector in Nigeria does not operate in a vacuum. There is an environment. And if that environment is not conducive to corruption, it will not thrive. We need intrinsic reconfiguration of the system.
We are coming from a sordid past, and I think the present administration would want to experiment on so many things. I guess that along the line, they will need to appoint a substantive GMD now that Kachikwu has become a minister of petroleum resources. I think for now they want clear the mess of the past. Nigerians should exercise patients to enable turn things around and as long as they are doing that with credibility and honesty of purpose. We are talking of reorganization. The government was thinking of unbundling NNPC and makes them independent of one another. They are doing this because of what NNPC has become in Nigeria, being a domain of corruption. I think that this government is more at home with technocrats. Running the show with technocrats is different from running everywhere with politicians.
The problem of NNPC has to do with the issue of corruption perpetrated by their bureaucracy including past GMDs. We need to give this administration the chance to turn things around.