The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has declined to give information on its own revenue, subsidy payments and other remittances made since the advent of the current administration, saying the Freedom of Information Act does not apply to it as an organisation.
The corporation made this known this in its response to an FOI request filed by Femi Falana, an activist, and lawyer
According to the corporation’s response contained in a letter addressed to Falana & Falana Chambers seen by Premium Times, the national oil firm refused to give out details of its finances because it is not a public institution within the meaning of section 31 of the FOIA.
Falana & Falana Chambers had on January 8 and February 20 written an FOI request to the NNPC demanding details of revenue realised from the sales of the daily allocation of 445,000 barrels of crude oil between June 2015 and December 2017.
Similarly, the legal firm also requested details of the amount utilised as subsidy and amount remitted to the Federation Account as revenue within the same period; the quantity of crude oil refined locally; the amount spent on Turn-Around Maintenance of local refineries; and the quantity of crude oil refined in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, by the NNPC, all between the period of June 2015 and December 2017.
But the NNPC in its reaction dated March 1, said it was not in a position to provide the details because the request is “incongruous with, unsupported by and/or outside the scope and purview of the Freedom of Information Act.”
Quoting Section 31 of the act, it argued that the FOIA is not applicable to the NNPC because according to the section, the law states that ‘public institution’ means any legislative, executive, judicial, administrative or advisory body of the government.
“The NNPC thus is neither a legislative, executive, judicial, administrative nor an advisory body of government; it is a statutory corporation established for the sole purpose of managing Nigeria’s commercial interest in oil and gas sector and conducting trade in that respect,” the NNPC stated in its response signed by Sarah Ndukwu, its general manager litigation, arbitration, and property law department.
Ndukwu cited two cases struck out by the court in December 2013 containing similar request.
“Be also informed that even if the FOIA applies to NNPC, (which is strongly denied in view of Section 31 and recent judicial authorities), the information sought in your letter is expressly excluded from the purview of the Act by virtue of Section 15(a)-(c) thereof,” the letter reads in part.
“The requested information is in the nature of Commercial, Financial and Trade and Secrets information, which obviously are either subject to Non-Disclosure Agreement or whose disclosure could reasonably interfere with NNPC’s contractual or harm third party interest. In fact, by the use of the word ‘Shall’ in the Section, NNPC is obligated, in the absence of any prior consent by relevant third parties, to deny your request.”
“Be further informed that your request will not serve any public interest to public health, public safety or the protection of the environment as to bring it within the items exempted for disclosure under Section 15(4).”
The NNPC thereafter affirmed that although it is a law-abiding institution of government, it would not disclose the information sought by the law firm.
The national oil corporation has over the years been criticised for its opaque operational policy as it has been the subject of various corrupt allegations.
When President Muhammadu Buhari took over power in 2015, the administration promised to fix Nigeria’s refineries and address all key issues in the oil industry, a development analysts believed prompted the president to appoint himself oil minister.
But more than two years after the administration got to power, the corporation has had little, if any, improvement in its transparency.