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Oil Industry: How Lawyers Aid Corruption

Oil Industry: How Lawyers Aid CorruptionA senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and one of the lead discussants at a special session at the recent 55th Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Lucius Nwosu has disclosed that Nigerian lawyers are guilty of aiding corrupt practices that denigrate the country’s oil and gas sector.

Nwosu, who spoke in the session, ‘Legal and Regulatory Framework of the Petroleum Industry Bill in Nigeria’ ‘accused some of his colleagues in the legal profession of helping operators in the country’s oil and gas sector to defraud Nigeria and perpetrate corruption.

He spoke alongside the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Ibe Kachikwu; former company secretary of the NNPC, Prof. Yinka Omorogbe and President of the International Institute for Petroleum Energy Law and Fiscal Policy (IIPELP), Prof. Niyi Ayoola-Daniels, amongst others.

Their discussion centered on the yet- to -be enacted PIB, which has been touted as the much needed legal piece to restructure Nigeria’s petroleum sector.

According to Nwosu, who illustrated his point by citing suit no: PHC/1956/2007; Appeal No: CA/PH/581m/2008; Appeal No: SC/251/2011: The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd (SPDC) v Dagogo William Brown & Ors; lawyers have been found to aid in the regression of the country.

He said in a communique of proceedings at the session that: “Some Nigerian lawyers are largely pre-occupied with manipulating the legal practice for a fee from multinationals who perpetrate policies in the petroleum industry retrogressive to national development.

“In-house lawyers in the oil industries are willing tools in the service of their employers in making anti-national interest contracts, oppressive corporate policies, and obtaining dubious arbitral awards against the nation.”

Also at the session, the immediate past president of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) and one-time president of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Peter Esele re-emphasised the need to formalise the tenure and process of relieving occupants of the office of the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the NNPC.

Esele explained that as parts of measures to revive the NNPC to act out its statutory responsibilities, the country should strive to ensure some level of certainty in the office of the GMD.

He noted that unlike the current practice of the president of the country hiring and firing occupants of the office at will, the country should make efforts to establish procedures to engage and disengage any NNPC’s GMD, adding that such efforts could guarantee some level of progress at the state oil company.

“For NNPC to make progress, the GMD should have a fixed tenure and the procedure for his removal should be laid out as is the case with the Central Bank of Nigeria, as this will create an atmosphere of stability and increased efficiency,” Esele said in a summary of the his position at the session.

He further stated that: “The minister as chairman of the NNPC does not create good breeding ground for transparency and the duties of government officials should be limited as is the case in other countries” According to him, the minister ought to be strictly driving policies.

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