By Akinwale Akintunde
A coalition of civil society/anti-corruption groups based in Lagos have given the federal government a 48-hour ultimatum to cancel or reverse the planned concession of the Port-Harcourt Refinery or face a legal action.
The group comprising 20 civil society organisations, including Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, Campaign for Democracy, Centre for Change, Nigerians Unite Against Corruption and Grassroots Democratic Initiative, noted that the planned concession to Agip and OANDO Plc amounts to giving away another national asset to few individuals because it did not follow any due process.
Addressing a press conference in Lagos Monday, the coalition noted that the deal is patently illegal, morally bankrupt and economically disadvantageous to Nigeria as a country.
It stated that it had briefed its lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, to start preparing court papers should the federal government refused to cancel the planned concession which it described as fraud.
The group in its statement presented by Mr. Debo Adeniran, Chairman of Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, stated that apart from suing the federal government, it would also mobilise Nigerians for street protest if it decides to proceed with the fraudulent transaction.
According to the groups, if the planned concession is allowed to scale through, the Muhammadu Buhari-led government would also fall into the same abyss of corruption in the petroleum sector for which it is prosecuting officials and friends of the past government.
“We are gathered here today because of our grave concern that, if care is not taken, this government is about to fall into the same abyss of corruption in the petroleum sector for which it is prosecuting officials and friends of the past government. It is ironic that this government is about to be afflicted with the same ailment it promised to cure in the petroleum sector upon coming to power. That singular ailment is impunity.
“We are concerned that despite the queries it raised, the Senate has even opened a small window of possibility to legitimise this apparently fraudulent concession of a national asset. We are concerned that the Senate, with all due respect, may just want to position itself to be part of the bargain to the detriment of Nigerians. As we shall show shortly, the Senate probe is needless as there is nothing to probe.
“The deal is patently illegal, morally bankrupt and economically disadvantageous to Nigeria as a country.
The Senate should have just adopted a motion to stop it outrightly. Hence, we have decided to form this coalition to fight this illegality until the federal government retraces it steps,” the group stated.
The coalition noted that the concession of any asset or infrastructure of the federal government, by whatever name called, must be in strict compliance with the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (Establishment, ETC) Act, 2005.
“In this case, there was no advertisement or invitation to bid to which only AGIP/ENI and Oando responded. What we are about to witness is the brazen direct handover of a national asset like the Port-Harcourt refinery to private concerns, without advertisement, without competitive bidding and in gross violation of the law. This is nothing but an economic crime committed by a government against its own people.
“We make bold to say that the strict compliance with our laws cannot be sacrificed for some subjective patriotic motives.
“This is not the first attempt by government to privatise or concession our refineries. Even before the enactment of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission Act, the federal government proceeded on the basis of international best practices in the process of privatising the refineries. To adopt another standard this time around is morally reprehensible,” the group stated.