The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) yesterday raised the alarm over the continuous rise in the smuggling of petroleum products, despite the establishment of the ‘Operation White’ initiative by the federal government to check smuggling.
The Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mallam Mele Kyari, in a presentation yesterday at the hearing of the Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, in Abuja, said the smuggling of petroleum products had become a national challenge that must be addressed urgently to stem the huge loss to the nation.
The hearing was to assess the level of implementation of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy by government agencies and parastatals.
Kyari, in a statement by the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division of NNPC, Dr Kennie Obateru, also said the corporation, in collaboration with securitly agencies, had reduced pipeline vandalism to four per cent nationwide.
In an effort to tackle the smuggling of petroleum products and end the attendant losses to the country, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, in October 2019, had established what it termed as “Operation White’, with a monitoring team drawn from five agencies of government.
Operation White, according to the ministry, was a transparency initiative aimed at tracking importation and distribution of petroleum products in and out of the country to check smuggling and diversion of products and to stop economic loss to the nation arising from such illicit movements of white products.
THISDAY had reported that the project was launched separately in Abuja and Lagos at the time and members of the monitoring team were drawn from the NNPC, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF), Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Authority (PPPRA) and the Department of State Security (DSS).
The ministry mandated NNPC to drive the project.
But nearly two years after the inauguration of Operation White, nothing has been heard about the initiative.
NNPC’s alarm yesterday raises the question as to whether the initiative is actually working or had collapsed after the launch.
THISDAY had made efforts to get reactions from the NNPC, DPR, and the PPPRA on the progress made so far but they declined to comment.
Kyari also said at yesterday’s hearing that the corporation was championing the fight against corruption in the oil and gas industry by emplacing measures to curb graft across its various business portfolios and by enlisting as a partner company of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).
According to him, the corporation, as part of its commitment to the war against corruption has set up processes and structures that are irreversible, to ensure transparency and accountability.
He said: “We have created an anti-corruption desk in NNPC that engages the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other anti-corruption agencies on a regular basis.
“The desk ensures that in all our operations, every staff complies to the code of conduct procedures with consequence management. We have established regulatory compliant governance charter and transparency policy, this is a mark of our compliance to the anti-corruption strategy.”
Kyari stated that the corporation has automated its business operations thereby reducing opportunities for discretion to the barest minimum as part of measures to promote an institutional framework for entrenching the culture of transparency in its operations.
He added that the corporation, on its own, has reported several infractions such as products diversion and crude oil theft to the police, the EFCC and other investigating agencies of the federal government to stem corruption in the oil and gas industry.
For the first time in 43 years, NNPC, as a part of the evolving culture of transparency and accountability, published its Audited Financial Statements for 2018 and 2019. We are going to publish that of 2020.
“The AFS is the only document that tells how a company does its transaction. We are happy that by the time the 2020 AFS will be published, Nigerians will see the dividends of our accountability. Mr. Chairman, no national oil company does what we are doing today,” Kyari said.
The statement said the Senate commended the NNPC for its efforts towards entrenching transparency and stamping out corruption from its system.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, Senator Suleiman Abdu Kwari, said it was heartwarming to learn that the NNPC was making great strides towards profitability and urged the corporation to sustain the gains.