May 30, 2024

Heineken Lokpobiri demanded N30bn budget padding from NCDMB, Wabote alleged

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Ilenre Irele

Engr. Simbi Wabote, the immediate-past Executive Secretary, ES, of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board, NCDMB, has openly said that Heineken Lokpobiri, the Minister of State for Petroleum (Oil), HMSPR-Oil, demanded N30 billion budget padding for his office, adding that this was when his ordeal started. He said the allegation was true, while dismissing
the Minister of State’s bid at character assassination as an act of recklessness and treachery.

The former NCDMB helmsman dismissed as false narratives, recent claims by the minister that 90% of the Board’s Intervention Fund managed by the Bank of Industry, BOI, was not performing, as well as other falsely presented remarks on the activities of the NCDMB.

“My problem as ES started with Lokpobiri in December 2023 when he sent one of his undocumented aides within his ministry to my office in Yenagoa (Blackson) requesting me to increase NCDMB budget by N30 billion for the office of the Minister and I said it had never been done before. I served two ministers and none of them have ever made such request to NCDMB, that we only make provision for the office of the Chairman of the council which covers his travel expenses.

“I said to him that the maximum NCDMB budget has ever gotten to in the past is circa N80 billion for all our activities, adding N30 billion will be too much for his office and I was not going to do it”, Wabote claimed in a press statement.

Wabote’s reaction, titled: “FALSE NARRATIVES BY THE HON MINISTER OF STATE FOR PETROLEUM RESOURCES – MR HEINEKEN LOKPOBIRI AT THE PETROLEUM CLUB, LAGOS”, said that the remarks were reckless and bundles of lies unbecoming of a Minister of State of the Federal Republic.

The press statement read: “…Only recently he tried to throw NNPCL under the bus as he stated that Nigeria is losing 400kb of oil because of not signing the Seplat deal thus trying to indict NNPC, a parastatal under his supervision. As a Minister and a representative of the substantive minister, are you not supposed to canvass government position or represent your principal correctly? Rather he chose to act like a militant activist.

“My problem as ES started with Lokpobiri in December 2023 when he sent one of his undocumented aids within his Ministry to my office in Yenagoa (Blackson) requesting me to increase NCDMB budget by N30billion for the office of the Minister and I said it had never been done before. I served two Ministers and none of them have ever made such request to NCDMB, that we only make provision for the office of the Chairman of the council which covers his travel expenses.

“I said to him that the maximum NCDMB budget has ever gotten to in the past is circa N80 billion for all our activities, adding N30 billion will be too much for his office and I was not going to do it. I ask stakeholders to review NCDMB budget from 2016 to 2023 and also look at what got approved in 2024.

It continued: “In August 2023, I had led the management of NCDMB to provide full briefing of the Board’s activities to Mr Lokpobiri and the Hon Minister of State for Petroleum – Gas (HMSPR-Gas) Hon Ekperikpe Ekpo. The presentation, in more than 250-page slides provided information on the status of Board’s projects, partnerships, interventions funds, TSA account balances, HCD programs, Forensic Audits, and other strategic initiatives under the NCDMB 10-year Strategic Roadmap.

“The presentation was followed up with invitation to the Hon Ministers of State to embark on familiarisation visits the Boards headquarters and other project sites located across the country.

“It is on record that the HMSPR-Oil visited the following sites between September and November 2023: Nigerian Content Tower (NCT) – the Board’s headquarters in Yenagoa; NCDMB Fire Station in NCT; -204-room NCDMB Conference Hotel under construction; NCDMB Creche; NCDMB NOGAPS Industrial Park, Emeyal-1, near Otueke, Bayelsa State; Waltersmith Refinery, Ibigwe, Imo State and NCDMB Interventions within the PTDF Skills Centre in Omagwa, PHC

“Familiarisation visits to other sites were lined up before my unceremonious removal from office right after our flagship event, Practical Nigerian Content (PNC) Forum in December 2023.

“While I have moved on from the unsavoury incident, I never knew that the HMSPR-Oil lacks of the brief I had given to him complete with necessary facts and figures or prefers to broadcast mischief to industry stakeholders.

“We had told Mr Lokpobiri that our projects, interventions, and partnerships were driven by the enabling provisions contained in the NOGICD Act and extant government policies on modular refineries, Decade of Gas, jobs creation, and poverty eradication.

“It is, therefore, shocking that the HMSPR-Oil chose to present false narratives before the Petroleum Club in his foray into character assassination, treachery and ‘waste’ agenda.

“It is FALSE for the HMSPR-Oil to assert that 90% of the NC Intervention Fund managed by BOI is not performing. He was fully briefed that it is because NCDMB is not a bank that made us partner with BOI as a foremost development bank in the country to manage the intervention fund for the oil and gas industry with each loan secured by Bank guarantee.

“As at Dec 2023, it is on record that the NC intervention funds managed by BOI helped cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the industry and that the fund has yielded millions from the low interest rates with the principal fully secured with BG. The fund was intact when I left office as can be verified from BOI. If the fund is now being declared as ‘wasted’, by the HMSPR-Oil, he should be asked what he has done, or intends to do with the fund, to make such declaration. Industry watchers must not allow the secured funds to be diverted under any pretext.

“Our presentation and briefing notes to the HMSPR-Oil on Brass Fertiliser clearly informed him that the partnership arrangement with NNPC and DSV Engineering is for the establishment of 10,000TPD Methanol plant. It is therefore FALSE that the partnership was for ‘fertiliser factory’.

“Perhaps, Mr Lokpobiri should have checked with the Hon Ekperikpe Ekpo, the Hon Min of State for Petroleum Resources (Gas) and NNPCL for details of the project and the latest developments rather than the false accusations to castigate NCDMB.

“For the records, the initial investments by NNPC and NCDMB are pre-FID equity injection for the estimated $3.2billion project. The Board’s additional investment is tied to achievement of financial close which has not been achieved by the project promoters.

The status of the fifteen (15) Board’s partnerships can be grouped into five as follows:

*One (1) commissioned and operational (Waltersmith)

  • Five (5) ready for commissioning (Nedo, BetterGas, Bunorr, Butane(Kaduna), and Duport)
  • Four (4) under construction (Azikel, Triansel, Eraskon, and LadolPower

*Four (4) in search of debt financing (Brass Fertiliser (Methanol), Rungas Prime, Rungas Alfa, and SPL Utorogu).

*One (1) under divestment considerations (Atlantic Refinery)

“The HMSPR-Oil is implored to visit the construction sites to avail himself of facts on ground. He should also check the MPR archives of the stategic plan to diversify oil and gas development clusters in the Niger Delta using Bonny Island, Brass Island, Onne, Ogidigben, Ibom, etc. Perhaps, this will cure his aversion to any developmental initiative in Brass Island and the Niger Delta in general.

“Apart from his undiplomatic language as a Cabinet member implying that China is an undemocratic nation that sends its citizens to jail without fair hearing, it is important to draw the attention of the HMSPRO to the international dimension of his false statements on the image of Nigeria. His self-serving outburst in the face verifiable facts is a dent on the enviable heights attained by Nigeria in local content practice as attested to by several countries within the continent and beyond.

“The HMSPR-Oil should learn to separate the requirements of the office he currently occupies from his political ambition. He should look for another individual and agency of government to demonise in his quest to remain relevant. I am also aware that he is fighting a proxy war with his one-time principal (former MSPR) and only using me as a decor.

“I strongly recommend that HMSPR-Oil channels his energy to position himself as the Guest of Honour and allow the Board to commission the following partnership projects as part of the first-year anniversary of President Bola Tinubu:

– Nedo Gas Processing Plant complete with 300MMscf gas gathering hub in, Kwale, Delta State

– Better Gas 500MT LPG Storage and distribution infrastructure at Dikko near Abuja

– 48,000Liter per day Bunnor Base Oil Production at Omagwa, PHC

– Butane LPG Plant Kaduna (2nd plant after the Katsina Plant commissioned in December 2021)

– Duport Modular Refinery, Egbokor (Legal squabbles permitting)

“Per the plan in place before my exit from office, another set would be ready for commissioning by the 2nd year anniversary of Mr. President if the HMSPR-Oil will allow the Board to function without all the lethargy of woes he has brought to NCDMB since December 2023.”

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