Femi Falana, human rights lawyer, has criticised the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for rejecting a request to provide information on the amount of money spent on petrol subsidy and turnaround maintenance of refineries.
The human rights lawyer had last month banking on the Freedom of Information (FOI) act asked the commission to disclose the revenue realised from the sale of the daily allocation of 445,000 barrels of crude oil from June 1, 2015 to December 31, 2017, and the amount utilised as subsidy and the amount remitted to the federation account from revenue realised from the crude oil sales.
However, in a letter dated March 1, the NNPC said it is not a public institution that could be compelled to provide the information.
But the lawyer tackled NNPC in a paper titled ‘Advancing the anti-corruption fight: the role of lawyers’, delivered at the “Say No Campaign” launched in Abuja on Saturday.
He said the erroneous submission that the NNPC is not a public institution was embarrassing in that their counsel did not advert her mind to section 2(7) of the freedom of information act which has defined public institutions to include the NNPC.
“Contrary to the untenable contention of the counsel the NNPC is a public institution as the federal government has a controlling interest in it and it is utilising public funds to provide public services. Indeed, because the NNPC is a public institution its budget is appropriated by the national assembly while its accounts are audited by auditors appointed by the auditor-general of the federation in line with section 85 of the constitution.”
“Under the FOI Act, public institutions mean all authorities whether executive, legislative or judicial agencies, ministries and extra-ministerial departments of government, together with all corporations established by law and all companies in which government has a controlling interest, and private companies utilizing public funds, providing public services or performing public functions.
“In exercise of my right under the freedom of information act, I have had cause to request the NNPC to provide information on the fuel importation scam. As it has no answer to the questions which I raised the NNPC claimed that it is not a public institution. In justifying the rejection of our request for information with respect to the disgraceful importation of fuel by Nigeria, a leading oil producing nation the NNPC Counsel claimed that the corporation is not bound by the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. With respect, the misleading submission of the counsel does not represent the position of the management of the NNPC.”
Falana wondered why the corporation made public details of the cost of fuel importation yet rejected his own request. He said the action of the agency contradicts Buhari’s position of transparency in the oil firm.