There are strong indications that the committee set up by the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Baru, to evaluate the roles played by some of the corporation’s officials in the illegal product evacuation from Capital Oil & Gas Limited may have recommended the compulsory retirement of four top management staff for their alleged complicity in the expropriated petroleum products.
The affected staff, it was learnt, include the Managing Director of the NNPC Retail, Mrs. Esther Nnamdi-Ogbue; General Manager (Operations) of NNPC Retail, Mr. Mamza Gwadabe; another official of NNPC Retail, Mr. Ibrahim Bello, and an unnamed official.
However, the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division of NNPC, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, told THISDAY on Monday that the committee was yet to conclude its assignment.
Ughamadu said he was not aware that the committee had submitted its report and if the report had been considered for a final decision to be taken on the matter.
Following the alleged disappearance of 130 million litres of petrol stored in the depots of MRS Limited and Capital Oil under a throughput arrangement, the corporation had announced measures to recover the products.
Baru had set up two committees, one of which was to evaluate the roles played by some NNPC staff in the illegal products diversion with a view to applying appropriate sanctions to serve as a deterrent.
The second committee was asked to review the corporation’s entire throughput policy in order to prevent product-diversion in future.
THISDAY gathered that one of the committees has recommended the retirement of the four affected officials.
All efforts to speak with one of the officials, Nnamdi-Ogbue, proved abortive, as she did not respond to phone calls or text messages.
But Ughamadu stated that the committees were still working on their assignments.
“As you are aware, NNPC had issues with MRS Oil and Capital Oil. MRS Oil has fully settled with the NNPC.
“In line with administrative procedures, the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru, instituted a committee to ascertain what really happened. The committee is still on its assignments.
“The procedure is that when the committee submits its report, the report will be deliberated. I am not aware that these procedures have been concluded,” he explained.
NNPC’s Chief Operating Officer, Downstream, Mr. Henry Ikem-Obih, had reportedly alleged that the infraction was discovered earlier in the year when the corporation wanted to access over 100 million litres of petrol stored at Capital Oil and more than 30 million litres at MRS’ depot.
He disclosed that the corporation alerted the Department of State Services (DSS), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as well as the relevant committees of the National Assembly with oversight functions of the corporation’s downstream operations to help recover the assets.
Ikem-Obih, however, added that MRS fully complied by returning the 30 million litres of petrol that it expropriated while the corporation had not achieved much progress with Capital Oil, which was yet to return 82 million litres of petrol valued at N11 billion, out of the over 100 million litres which it took.
Though the DSS invited the Managing Director of Capital Oil, Mr. Ifeanyi Ubah, who was asked to report daily at the DSS headquarters, the company had insisted that the NNPC was indebted to it and called for the reconciliation of its account with the corporation.
MRS Oil also described as false, malicious and unfounded, the allegation that it expropriated NNPC’s products kept at its terminal under a throughput arrangement.
According to the company, the allegation was a misrepresentation of the workings and processes of the downstream operations.
Meanwhile, the price of oil almost hit $56 a barrel on Monday, supported by another shutdown at Libya’s largest oilfield over the weekend and geopolitical tensions following last week’s U.S. missile strike on Syria.
Reuters reported that Libya’s Sharara oilfield was shut on Sunday after a group blocked a pipeline linking it to an oil terminal.
The field had only just returned to production, after a week-long stoppage ending in early April.
The outage added fuel to a rally that started late last week after the U.S. fired missiles at a Syrian government air base.
While analysts point out that Syria produces only small volumes of oil, the Middle East is home to more than a quarter of the world’s oil output.
Following the shutdown of the Libyan field and the attacks on Syria, Brent crude, the global benchmark, rose 65 cents to $55.89, not far from the one-month high of $56.08 reached on Friday.
U.S. crude, West Texas Intermediate (WTI), was up 73 cents at $52.97 per barrel.
Oil prices have also been supported by a deal led by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to cut output by 1.8 million barrels per day for the first six months of 2017, to get rid of excess supply.
Libya and fellow OPEC member, Nigeria are exempt from cuts.
In a sign of OPEC’s confidence that the deal is working, Kuwait’s oil minister said he expected producers’ adherence in March to their supply cut pledges to “be higher than the previous couple of months”.
The minister, Essam al-Marzouq, also said he saw “positive indications” in the decline of global oil stocks.
However, the price rally has also encouraged production in other countries such as the U.S., filling some of the gap left by OPEC-led cuts.
U.S. crude inventories touched record highs both at the U.S. storage hub of Cushing, Oklahoma, and in the U.S. Gulf Coast in recent weeks, according to U.S. government data.